Today is usually a day for sharing candies, truffles, wine, and other indulgences.
But today is also a good day to be aware of your heart health and to take steps to prevent heart disease.
- Get out, get active! Being active, even a 30-minute walk, has great heart benefits. There are lots of other active ways to spend some quality time with your significant other while you’re both getting your heart rates up. Check out these 8 ideas for active dates!
- Skip the fancy restaurant and get gourmet at home. This allows you to have control over the ingredients in your food, including the fat & salt content. Remember to increase the amount of veggies on your plate, and make smart substitutions, like olive oil in place of butter, to limit your trans fat.
- Cook with an aphrodisiac! Although whether they really get your mojo flowing is debatable, there are plenty of claimed aphrodisiacs out there that are easy to toss into a home-cooked meal: from almonds and arugula, to figs, ginger, mushrooms, nutmeg, and oysters. Of course, fish such as salmon or tuna are notably heart-healthy. Added bonus: assuming aphrodisiacs really work, you may get some added post-dinner exercise!
- Have a fruitier dessert, lighter in calories, that offers other health benefits. Try any one of these recipes here.
- If you decide that you can’t beat chocolate for dessert, try dark chocolate, which is richer in antioxidants, not to mention flavor.
- Go see a funny movie, or get a massage. Stress can be hard on your heart, but there are lots of ways to relax on a Valentine’s Day date. Laughing out loud is a great way to beat back stress. Massage therapy can help too; a couple’s massage to de-stress with your sweetie could be a fun date idea.
In almost every workout there is a hump. That apex point at which you consider ending the workout there or pushing onward until the end you originally set. Or perhaps, rather than ending the workout, you consider taking the intensity level down a few notches. Skipping the last set of reps on that dead lift, going from an 8 minute mile to a 9:30, or taking an extra long break in the middle of your century bike ride. I say almost every workout because there are those times that you are just on. You drive that workout into the ground because you own it, the pre-run runners high effect. Those are our invincible days and yea, they rock.
But the rest of the time there’s that nagging hump. Unless you’re dealing with an injury, this hump is all in your head. So much of workouts are mental and this hump demonstrates your mental power on that particular day and at that particular time. When you mentally start to negotiate with yourself about your ability to finish or your need to slow down, there are ways to win this fight. At the moment midrun that you are thinking to yourself, “I can stop here and still feel like I did something today,” or the moment midlift when you are thinking “I can only do 2 and a half sets today”, there is another voice to be heard. It says, “but you know you can run for another 15 minutes” or maybe it just calls you a wus. Either way it is the truth factor, that part of the brain that reminds you if you stopped now, you’d be doing less than you truly can. Sometimes this voices loses because its not the most polite voice. But it’s there and listening to it means getting over the hump.
I’ve found the best way to listen to that truth factor is to change what it is saying. Rather than calling yourself a wus for even considering backing down from your original goal, shift your thought process to something more positive. When you hear the truth factor, remember that it is trying to tell you how much you really can do. Call yourself a champion, picture yourself as Rocky, or Michael Johnson, or your athletic hero of choice. If there were ever a time to puff up your ego, now is it. Or even something as simple as concentrating on your breathing or the tick, tick, tick of the water bottle on the machine next to you gives you that steady comfort of a pattern that you don’t want to disrupt.
In my pilates classes there are sometimes moments when I think, if I lift my head, neck, and shoulders off the mat one more time I might get stuck like that. It’s at this time that I focus on the flow of the controlled breathing and think about controlling my muscles with my robot mind (the robot is invincible!). Last night I was in a pilates session when my legs were feeling like cement logs right when the instructor hit me with the truth factor. In her Finnish accent she exclaimed, “Isn’t it great that we only have two legs! Could you imagine doing this four time!” All of a sudden I was over that hump, the side leg series became that much easier, and yes it is great that we only have two legs!
So in your next workout, don’t succumb to the hump. Take hold of that truth factor and make it yours!
If you have a pair of Nikes and you run or walk, I highly recommend getting yourself a Nike+ sport kit. I just got one and am using it to track my runs. It’s got a little transmitter that lives in your shoe. The transmitter sends your running info to a little receiver that can be plugged into just about any iPod (or if you’ve got an iPhone, it syncs right to it!)
After your run, you plug your device into the computer and it shows your whole run! All your data is kept on your own personal space on Nike’s website, where you can keep a little running diary. The run-tracker shows your pace and distance as well as your slowest and fastest points. Today I took it for a test run and I ran 30 minutes and 4.3 miles (yes folks that’s a 7:05/mi. pace).
My favorite thing about this is that it takes the memory guessing-game out of my runs. I like to run several times a week but by the time I get home I don’t really feel like writing down exactly how far I ran in exactly how much time. This will make it much easier to keep track of my progress. The site offers a lot more that I’m still in the process of checking out (maps, challenges, goal setting, running coaches etc…) But after today’s test-run, I give Nike plus the thumbs up!
I’m finally back in a regular running routine after a crazy & busy first half of the year. I am reconnecting with the inimitable runner’s high and am finding my rhythm again on the treadmill (city pavement is too harsh for these old lady joints!). But, wow, holy aching calves! I’ve always had tight calves and running definitely doesn’t help. Normally I skip the post-workout stretch because I’m on a schedule in the a.m. and feel like I am wasting time sitting around stretching. But I’m always amazed at what a difference a good stretch makes the next day.
A few weeks ago, I got some great tips for stretching out my calves from a massage therapist at my favorite massage/physical therapy place in San Francisco: Psoas Massage + Bodywork. He made sure I had a stretch for both the gastrocnemius (upper calf) and the soleus (lower calf).
- Stretching the upper calf is as simple as pushing your bodyweight up against a wall with one foot behind, leg straight, and the front foot/leg bent. Holding for 15-20 seconds will restore your calf to its original length and holding longer will really help you stretch it out. Switch legs once you’ve stretched the first one out. My massage therapist said it’s ok to spend a little more time on one leg than the other if it feels tighter.
- To stretch the lower calf, my total weakness, from the same gastrocnemius stretch position, bend the back leg as well as the front slightly – you’ll be in a bit of a lunge position. Bend the back leg while holding onto that wall until you feel a stretch above your heel. Hold until you’re stretched out and then switch.
Easy as pie and it only takes 2 minutes!
Up until about a year ago I was a HUGE fan of soda… Coke Zero to be precise. L-o-v-e-d it. Partly because it was so sweet and bubbly and delicious, partly because it kept me up in the afternoons (and probably, partly because mom & dad never let us have it growing up!). But after drinking it I always felt kinda gross and a little unsatisfied. And I kept hearing that all of that fake sugar, aspartame, that was in there could lead to cancer. So, I decided to kick the coke to the curb, and haven’t had soda in about a year.
You may be on the edge of your seat wondering how I manage to stay awake in the afternoons and what I drink instead. Water water water, first and foremost.
But, I also have found a new friend: Kombucha.
Kombucha is a “raw food” drink made from cultures that grow in water. If you are not disgusted at this point, read on…
Seriously, the whole “raw” thing is enough to turn a lot of people off. But, I kept an open mind and gave it a shot, and loved it! Kombucha is a refreshing and natural drink that is low in calories and has the potential to be really good for you!
Kombucha comes in lots of different flavors and comes both in “raw” form as well as in a line of “synergy” drinks that seem to be combined with a little bit of juice to give it a little more flavor. The synergy drinks are probably a good way to get introduced to Kombucha. My favorite flavor is the raw Gingerade, though.
Kombucha is served cold and is so refreshing. It sometimes has zingy, zesty little bubbles that helps perk me up for the afternoon. A whole bottle of Kombucha is only 60 calories and is great to sip on throughout the afternoon to fight off the snack-attacks. It also claims to have a lot of health benefits. Although I’m a bit skeptical of all of the things it claims to do for you, I generally feel better on days when I drink Kombucha.
Kombucha contains probiotics and antioxidants, which is good by me. It is supposed to help normalize the acidity or pH in your liver, help balance your metabolism, and help you “detox”. Some folks swear by it as something that helped them get through chemotherapy (the guy who developed the brand of Kombucha I drink was actually inspired by his mom, who drank Kombucha while going through a battle with breast cancer). Not all of these claims have been evaluated by the FDA. So, I take this all with a grain of salt and enjoy my daily drink of delicious Kombucha. I hope you try it too!
I mean get Naked Juice! Whenever I workout I try to have one of these afterwards. As you may (or may not) know, after you exercise your body is sugar deprived. It is in an catabolic state and needs to be rebalanced. Getting immediate sugar replacements after your workout is one of the best ways to get your muscles and tissues to rebuild since you just spent all that energy and sweat breaking them down. Ideally, if you’re lifting, you make sure there is protein with this sugar replacement. So you could do the smoothies that some gyms offer, or you could down some Gatorade or maybe a protein shake. But my favorite way to get back to an anabolic state is with these Naked Juices. I LOVE the protein zone (I opt for the original, though they have berry or mango protein drinks too). Let’s say you’re planning a big steak dinner though and have tuna for lunch, you’re pretty well set with protein. But after that 40 minute treadmill session your legs feel a little wobbly. In this case, just go for the sugar! The Green Machine Superfood is another favorite of mine for this occasion. I have to say, the best part about these juices is that they are all natural. There are not preservatives or additives. Each bottle tells you on the side what is in it, and how much – like the Blue Machine has 27 blueberries, 3 black berries, 3 1/4 apples, and 1 banana inside. And that’s it. It actually is cost effective (surprisingly) to get this bottle rather than buying the apples, blueberries, black berries, and banana and making it yourself! Anyway, in addition to being great to have at the most optimal time to consume sugar during your day, these just plain taste great. So, as I said before, get Naked!
So, I have running partner! After 2 years of logging miles on the treadmill and always starting/stopping around the same time as a fellow runner, this guy asked me if I’d like to join him on his “hill practice” runs. I agreed to give it a shot!
We run up this hill.
All of it.
I die every time.
But it’s neat to have a running partner to keep you going!
Anyone else have any good running partner stories?
It is officially “flu season” so I thought I’d share a few tidbits of knowledge I’ve picked up about one of the best ways to prevent infection and protecting yourself from germies: washing those hands!
In a recent study conducted by Joint Bank Group/Fund Health Services Department, scientists found there is no difference in bacteria levels on people who washed their hands in hot water versus those who washed in cold. Really! Nope, you don’t need to scald yourself to get those germs to scram.
The scientists recommended tepid water for hand washing because it’s gentler on the skin and it’s better for the environment. This is an adjustment for me!
What is most important, the experts say, is that you do these two things:
1) use soap (it doesn’t matter if it is anti-bacterial) and
2) scrub for at least 30 seconds.
It is the soap and the scrubbing combined that is the key to ridding yourself of germs. Also, 30 seconds seems to be the magic number, according to the Mayo Clinic. I like to sing the alphabet in my head (though it would be funny to do outloud, particularly at the office) as a way to make sure I get in the full recommended thirty.
Happy scrubbing, and stay healthy, folks!
Here is an exercise I do to workout my triceps.
This is called the tricep zipup. You can do it with or without the calf raises. You begin with your hands interlaced (I use a weight) at hip level and pull up to the top of your chest. Keep your shoulders level with your shoulder blades pulled back. When your hands are at the top of your chest you don’t want to have your shoulders by your ears or feel like you’re shrugging. Then you push the weight back down – don’t let your arms go limp, keep a steady speed for both the up and down motions. This should be done close to your body just like you’re zipping a jacket. I usually do this with a ten pound weight like this one:
this way your hands stay close together during the exercise. It can also be done with light dumbells (2-3lbs). This video is a great 10 minute pilates arm workout that includes the zip-up.