What I Learned: Third Annual 30 for 30

April has come to a close and May is officially here.  Events such as weddings, horse racing (Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes) and graduations are taking over the calendar, which makes me happy that I blocked out the month of April to dedicate to my fitness and health. Health is a journey, not a destination and this year, there were a few lessons I learned.

Healthy Living

1) Stay hydrated.  This is especially important as the weather warms up and the humidity soars.  Water is needed by every metabolic and cellular function in your body, and when you are dehydrated — even slightly — your body has to extract fluid from your food and hold onto it, creating a supply reserve, to ensure your cells have enough to work properly.  This energy is used to take water from your foods rather than repair your body.  Dehydration also causes fatigue and mimics feelings of hunger. To make sure you are properly hydrated, divide your weight in pounds in half and drink that number in fluid ounces every day).

Water

2) Schedule workouts.  I have to put workouts on my calender and schedule them one week out.  If I don’t take the time to plan, workouts get pushed to the back burner and work, coffee dates and dinners take priority.

calendar

3) I have a hard time trying new “things” and in this case, workouts.  I’ve said for months (possibly years) that I’m going to take a Zumba class.  Guess what? This year’s 30 for 30 came and went, with nary a Zumba class in sight.  Or a barre class.  Or paddleboarding.  You get the point.  I stick to what I know: running, biking, swimming, yoga, strength work.  Exercise should be fun, and the above workouts are, but I often “forget” that hiking, hip hop class or kayaking count towards my daily activity.

4) Fitness is more than a number on a scale.  While I didn’t lose the 5 pounds I had hoped (I lost 3), I did notice that clothes fit better, which ultimately means a more toned body. I felt better from day to day, there was a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.  Working out until it breaks me or severely limiting my calories won’t provide any of those effects.

Thank you, dear reader and 30 for 30 warriors, for joining me on this leg of the journey.  But, as I said, this path continues and we continue to walk it together.  I LOVED reading all of your experiences and am grateful for all of the wonderful (and constructive) feedback.  Tomorrow, I will announce the winner of the Giveaway, which includes a Springy Danielle Nicole handbag and items (including nutrition bars!) from Vega.

Keep plugging along; update me on your progress and remember to enjoy the journey…

Until tomorrow (or next year for the challenge)…

slow and steady

Five Fats that Won’t Make you Fat

With all the fad diets and studies, it can be confusing on what to eat, what to avoid and what to stock in your pantry.  But what is 100% fact, is that fats play an important role in a healthy diet and are needed for many of our bodies processes. In order to burn unhealthy fat, we must eat healthy fats. Discover five incredible dietary fats that are nutrient rich and great for your waist line too!

1. Coconut Oil

Coconut products offer an array of health benefits, and coconut oil is a great oil to use for cooking, or it can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, and other dishes.


Coconut oil offers antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-cancer properties. It improves digestion, nutrient absorption and intestinal health. It provides cardiovascular benefits and helps manage Type 2 Diabetes. Coconut oil promotes kidney and liver health and supports the immune system. It also benefits metabolism, energy, and weight management. Coconut oil had a bad reputation for a while primarily because it is composed of saturated fat, which we are told to stay away from. However, the saturated fat in coconut oil is different from that in animal products. The fatty acids in coconut oil are medium-chain triglycerides, which are easily metabolized and used as energy by the body. Research suggests that these fatty acids may boost your metabolism, promote weight loss, and increase HDL, the good, protective cholesterol in your body.

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Six Simple Steps to Age Healthfully

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People have a wide variety of wish lists for improving their health, but we all share one goal: Everyone wants to age well.

Of course, aging is somewhat unfair, because a few lucky people will breeze easily through eight or nine decades without even trying — due to their good genes — while the rest of us have to put in some effort just to get that far.

But not necessarily a lot of effort. Aging well — or, at least, aging better — doesn’t have to be that hard. After talking to many aging experts and looking at the latest findings on aging from around the world, it’s clear that people can improve the way they will age.

To start with, you need to know what makes you age, and that means you have to pay attention to what happens inside your cells, where aging begins. Scientists are finding that most of the cellular processes that cause the body to gradually decline with age are affected by diet, lifestyle, exercise, stress and other outside influences.

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11 Ways to Increase Energy

It usually happens in the winter months, but there are times when everyone finds that they are in a slump.  Need some quick energy? Take a look at these 11 ways to naturally increase energy!

1. Tap Your Thymus

“Your thymus is located at center top of your chest, below the collar bone, between your breasts. When tapped it triggers the production of T-cells, boosts energy, relieves stress, and increases strength and vitality,” says Marian Buck-Murray, a nutrition coach and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) practitioner in Maplewood, New Jersey.

For an instant boost of energy, Buck-Murray recommends tapping your thymus with your fingertips for 20 seconds, while slowly and deeply breathing in and out.

2. Get Some Sun

It’s not surprising you feel tired when you’re stuck inside a cold or stuffy office with fluorescent lighting. Sneak outside to soak up some sunshine for 15 to 20 minutes.

“Sunlight energizes and elevates mood,” says Dr. Lorraine Maita, a board certified internist and author of Vibrance for Life: How to Live Younger and Healthier in Short Hills, New Jersey.

3. Sip Some Green Tea

If coffee is your go-to solution for the afternoon slump, try swapping out your cup of Joe for green tea. “Green tea has small amounts of caffeine, and there are many noted studies that demonstrate that EGCG, the active compound in green tea, facilitates weight loss,” says Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, who specializes in integrative medicine in Miami Beach, Florida.

4. Stand Up

Are you reading this slumped over your computer, feeling tired at the moment? Perk up by standing up, says Moshe Lewis M.D., chief of the department of physical medicine and rehab at the California Pacific Medical Center, St. Luke’s Campus, in Redwood City, California.

“Never sit too long. Vessels have a natural tendency to constrict during periods of inactivity, zapping you of energy and making you feel tired — even if you are not sleep deprived.”

Standing up and walking around even just for a few minutes is enough to jump start your heart and muscles. Plus, it can help you be more productive once you sit down at your desk again, Dr. Lewis says.

5. Give Your Brain A Mini-Vacation

Next time you’re fighting off the urge to doze off at your desk, try blinking more often, suggests Dr. Douglas N. Graham, author of The 80/10/10 Diet. “When reading, watching television, viewing the computer, or otherwise engaged, blink 10 to 20 times per minute, rather than staring at the screen or page without blinking at all. Your brain takes a mini-vacation with each blink.”

6. Drink A Green Monster

Think you can’t live without your morning coffee? Trade it for this nutrient-packed drink once and you’ll change your mind. “I usually have [this] for breakfast and then don’t need to have coffee,” says Joanna Chodorowska, a nutrition and triathlon coach in North Whales, Pennsylvania.

Here’s how to make it: In a juicer, combine 2-4 leaves of kale, 2-4 leaves of romaine lettuce, 1 inch ginger root, half a lemon (with the seeds removed), one apple (cored), and a clove of garlic (optional for cleansing and boosting immune system).

Chodorowska says you can use this as a base and add other dark greens, carrots, celery, beets, or even an orange or pear instead of the apple to make your own signature energy drink.

Don’t have a juicer? This creamy blend is just as effective at boosting energy (and tastes like an indulgent dessert!) and only requires a blender.

7. Socialize With High-Energy Friends

Surround yourself with people who help motivate and uplift you to revitalize your body and mind. “Associate with high-energy friends. Their energy and enthusiasm will soon enough rub off on you,” Dr. Graham says.

8. Breathe Deeply

“Learning how to inhale completely and how to exhale completely is one of the best energizers,” says Dr. Laurel Clark, president of the School of Metaphysics in Windyville, Missouri.

Next time you need a quick pick-me-up, try this simple exercise from Dr. Clark: Sit with your spine straight, eyes closed. Focus your attention on your breath, and slowly inhale to a count of 6. Hold your breath to a count of 3 and tense all of the muscles in your body. Exhale for a count of 6, completely releasing all of the breath, relaxing the muscles as you do so. Hold the breath out to a count of 3. Repeat this slow rhythmic count–inhaling, hold and tense, exhaling and relax, hold the breath out.

“After a while, you can cease tensing and relaxing the muscles and just focus on the slow rhythmic breath,” Dr. Clark says.

9. Sit Up Straight

“Shifting your posture can immediately give you more energy,” says Dana Davis, a certified yoga teacher and Balance Posture Method instructor at Sonoma Body Balance, in Petaluma, California. We typically sit or stand with our shoulders, neck, and head shifted forward, which can affect the arteries that bring blood to our brain, Davis says.

“When [the arteries] are bent out of shape, that can restrict the blood flow to the brain. Our misaligned posture also wastes a lot of energy, as the muscles have to take over work that the bones would normally do in a healthy person.”

Davis recommends a healthy, naturally aligned posture to help reduce long-term fatigue and stress. For help finding the most energizing posture.

10. Eat An Apple

It’s tempting to turn to sugar (Um, yea!) when your energy dips, but eating high-sugar foods will make your fatigue worse in the long run. Make a habit of keeping apples on hand–at home and at work.

“A simple apple is a great energy-boosting, mid-afternoon snack. Full of vitamin C, fiber, and complex carbohydrates, an apple can deliver a boost of energy and stabilize blood sugar,” says Peggy Kotsopoulos, a registered holistic nutritionist and author of Must Have Been Something I Ate.

What’s more, new research from Florida State University says apple antioxidants and pectin (the sticky part of fruit used to make all-fruit jams and jellies) can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol (think L is for lousy) and fight inflammation, a known trigger of premature aging and disease.

11. Drink Some Water

“The most common cause of fatigue is dehydration,” Kotsopoulos says. Why? “If there is not enough fluid in your body, blood volume can drop; as a result, your body (and heart) must work harder in order to supply your cells with oxygen and nutrients.”

Dehydration can cause everything from mental fogginess, impaired short-term memory, dizziness, and fatigue, she says. Be sure to hydrate all day long but especially when you start to feel fatigue coming on to help combat low energy.

 

*adapted from Shape.com and Huffington Post

The Eating Deadline

I’ve stopped eating after 7pm.  Then, I stopped eating carbs at 7pm.  I’ve tried only eating fruit in the evenings, as an evening snack. I’ve read that eating any less than 3 hours from bedtime creates belly bulge, eating before you go to sleep permits the food to just sit in your stomach when your metobolic rate is null, but also read that eating healthy food before bed helps you body to absorb the vitamins and minerals from the food, allowing it to repair itself. Which is right? Logically, a calorie equals a calorie, no matter what time of day, right?

Most testing up to this date had been done on animals, and found that a calorie in is indeed a calorie, no matter what time of day or night one consumes the food. However, a recent study on men and women found that eating late does in fact have an impact on ones waistline and body mass index number.  Most participants were also lacking sleep, which is another contributer to weight gain, but scientists determined that one shouldn’t eat past a certain hour and there is an eating dealine: 8pm.

Think there will be a run in restaurant reservations for 6pm? Enjoy your weekend… eat early!

And the results are in…

I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday… 

The end of 30 for 30 has come and gone… The days flew, my body ached and here we are in May.  But what a great 30 days it was! What did I learn?

  1. To run the mile I’m in.  Wishing for the workout to be over before it even began wasn’t going to get me anywhere.  I took each literal and metaphorical step as it came, with each piece of a workout and with the month as a whole.
  2. Nothing is as hard as taking the first step.  Deciding to do something is the first step, but actually doing it is the toughest.
  3. When I workout, food becomes fuel and I want the fuel to be the best possible. I cut back on sugar and cut out artificial sweeteners entirely.  Why? Because when I’m moving my body and working out, I want healthy fuel and don’t crave the “junk.” Being a huge sweets lover, this is huge!
  4. It’s not just about burning the calories, it’s about changing your metabolic rate.  Through consistent workouts, one actually changes their metabolic rate, which is the speed at which your body processes food, takes what it needs to sustain itself and repair muscles and then gets rid of the rest.  This means that unused food is not just sitting in your body.
  5. Morning workouts were the best for me.
Now, the real results!
  1. My legs are more toned after just 30 days of various workouts.
  2. The “dimples” on my thighs have greatly diminished.
  3. I lost 4.5 pounds (not quite 5) but gained visible muscle.
  4. I’ve noticed an improvement not only in my physical appearance, but also in my emotional well-being.  Endorphins are legitimate and I found that I got cranky if I didn’t work out.
  5. I slept better, my first thought out of bed in the morning wasn’t “need coffee now” and it jump-started a healthy lifestyle that I’d been slacking on for a few months.
Most importantly, this program has really connected me with many of my readers, who shared with me their daily workout struggles and challenges.  That, my friends, has been the most valuable attribute of this experience.  You all kept me honest with this challenge, as I knew I had to “report” everyday on my activities.  I hope you’ll each continue your journeys and are as inspired by this challenge, as I am by all of you…
Oh, and I fit in the dress!

Last Day in 30 for 30

I love this quote… In my “younger days” I had an idea of what my life would look like, and now, when I take a look around me, it’s way better than what I imagined.  Life is funny like that, if we choose to look at it with a positive pair of eyes and with a “glass half full” type mentality.  Side note complete… onto the workouts!

Wow.  Last workout in the 30 for 30,  but definitely not my last workout, period.

This stretch of workouts has taught me discipline, and renewed my fitness drive.  Stay tuned for a full summary of how the month panned out and whether I met my goal of feeling 30% better and losing 5 pounds!

Today, to end the 30 day program, I have my longest run to date.  First, I’m headed north for a friend’s baby shower, for which I made a special gift.  Stay tuned for more info on that … I was really excited to see how great they turned out! After returning from the baby shower, I’ll take the run and then get ready for our event tonight.  The dress fits like a glove and I couldn’t be happier!

What fun plans do you have for today? Whatever it is you have on tap, do it with a smile! Until tomorrow…

Last two workouts…

After tomorrow, it’s back to incorporating more food, fashion and femininity posts here on Genuine Joy.  It’s been quite the month for fitness, and I can feel it.  Today, I woke up sore from the lunges and leg work that I cranked out yesterday, but have to say that it feels good.

Sidebar: At the moment, I am captivated by the Royal Wedding… what a historic moment in our lives and a life-changing moment in theirs. Kate looking incredible in her dress, designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, where dress workers washed their hands every 30 minutes to keep the lace pristine and refreshed their needles every three hours to keep them fresh.  Her flats were handmade, also by Sarah Burton.  What a day for the English designer! I’m honored to watch this ceremony and love the pomp and circumstance, that the British do so well.  I am seriously inspired by all of the hats… might have to write more about hat later! They are incredible!

Photo from People.com

Ok, back to fitness. I’m headed to the pool shortly for a swim workout, which I haven’t done t since Ironman training. It’ll feel great to get in the water and swim a few miles.  My shoulder has been really tight (it’s where I carry tension), and I’m hoping the swimming will loosen it up a bit. Come on Freestyle, don’t let me down!

Enjoy your Friday… Be a princess! Until tomorrow…

And then there were three…

Only three workouts left in the 30 for 30… how quickly the time flies!

Yesterday, I ran the same route as the day before, during the first part of a long cardio workout.  I ran outside and then came inside to jump on the bike trainer. My legs are sore and heavy, and I’m convinced it’s because I’m getting stronger.  It’s all a process.

I decided to take the route yesterday that has the 1.4 mile climb back towards home.  I have a love/hate relationship with that hill.  I dread it the whole time, but then see it as a personal challenge that I revisit as often as possible.  My first thought in my mind, after the climb, is always “It wasn’t that bad.  I will do faster next time!”

The course that I chose was the first course that Doug and I ran together in the winter of 2009.  When I was running yesterday, I was thinking of all of the tips I’ve learned and picked up that make my running more efficient, such as how to best run up hills, how to best run down hills, the positioning of my body.   Such small tricks, make huge differences!

Today is cardio and strength and tomorrow is a swim workout.  After spending nearly half of my life in a pool, I often have no desire to climb back in, but I know that I feel strong after the workout and I know that it’s great exercise.

Until tomorrow….

On the 26th day…

Yesterday’s one workout turned into two, as I “paid the piper” for my Easter indulgences. My morning workout consisted of running 1.5 miles to the gym, doing cardio, plyometrics, and then running the 1.5 miles home.  I felt so good on the run that I almost altered my workout to fit the feeling.  But, I stayed the course and continued with the workout that I had planned.

That was a lesson that I learned while doing Ironman training, stay the course and don’t alter your goals.  My goal when I began training was to finish the race and complete my first Ironman.  Then, as I started down the path and started feeling good in my workouts, I wanted to do a certain time.  I forgot the reason I signed up for the race in the first place, and that was to reach my goal of finishing an Ironman.  Next time, I’ll make a plan to achieve a time or a certain place in the race.

Later in the afternoon, I jumped on the bike trainer for an hour.  My legs were heavy after the morning strength work and my body was tired, so I rode a consistent pace and was drenched with sweat by the end.  I was pretty wiped out and falling asleep last night by 9pm!

I’m in a place where I like the long, consistent workouts.  I would prefer to run for an hour or more, or get on the elliptical machine and zone out, so any workout that has intervals or a track workout is not one of which I am a fan… but, they have to be done in order to get me where I want to go.

I woke up tired and lethargic, half from the workouts and half from the sugar consumption of Sunday.  I have been eating better and putting healthy nutrition into my body.  I’ve cut out artificial sweeteners (such as saccharin and Splenda, which are found in diet drinks, some yogurt and diet foods) and have been eating more whole foods, which I sweeten with agave.  It’s all a process, and not something that happens overnight, but sometimes, I want to feel better yesterday!  Anyone else feel the same?

Today’s workout is an endurance & intensity workout, which means a steady run to the track, some timed repeats and then a long, consistent and steady run after the repeats.

I love all of the emails you have been sending… as encouraging as you claim I am for you, my friends, you are equally as motivating for me… Until tomorrow…