Reflection Before Resolution

December 29, 2014

   I'm thinking about the New Year and wondering what new goals to set or changes to make in 2015. I used to imagine making huge changes but I've gotten wiser, thankfully. By investing in a small lifestyle change in the coming year you can end up with a new good habit that can help you improve your health, fitness, productivity, relationships and happiness. It’s all about sticking with these small changes for the long run and steadily improving over time. Small shifts now can end up being profound down the road.

   For me, growing and expanding my work and home life has been both a challenge and reward. I love what I do for people with personal training – sharing my passion and teaching others how they, too, can be stronger, healthier and incorporate small changes to make a better quality of life for themselves. Sharing my home with another person after a few years of living alone has allowed me to grow personally and emotionally. It's reminded me that relationships are just like working out: you have to give them regular attention to be successful.

   So, pick a moment or thing you did that you're proud of in the recent past. It doesn't matter what it was or how long it took. Did the change make you a better and, more importantly, a happier person? Ahh success! What about something you did for others that made a difference in their life. How did that make you feel? Another success. Is exercise now a part of your daily routine? Did you volunteer to help others for a worthy cause? Did you make your relationships and time with your partner or children a priority? Did you honor your own needs and make you a priority, too?

   As we mature our priorities shift and change. Acknowledging those changes is just a part of growing no matter how old we are. Maybe you used to run marathons but worn out hips and bad knees prevent you from doing it now. Well, what about a 5k power walk? Or, maybe traditional aerobics is too stressful on those joints. What about trying chair aerobics or cycling? These are small ways you can still accomplish something while understanding that the body just ain't what it used to be.

   Volunteering is another highly satisfying activity. It can mean spending lots of time organizing, planning and helping. But, babysitting or helping a school age child with their homework or driving the senior bus can be just as rewarding, too. In my small town of Cambria there is always room for more volunteers.

   My process of reflection goes something like this. I first try to get clarity. You must understand exactly what you want and what matters most to you – what you’ll give up something for. I give myself time. It generally doesn't emerge right away. Sometimes it requires peeling away the layers to understand what is meaningful both personally and specifically.

   Once I know what I want, I have to be strong enough to establish boundaries and by that I mean, to keep myself disciplined to stay on my path, honor my priorities, and communicate what’s necessary to succeed and grow in whatever it is I want to do.

   Perhaps the most important ingredient is reliability. We all know that being reliable is a key to being successful in school, at work and in relationships. And then there's being reliable to oneself. That's called commitment. It takes believing that you can create positive movement in your life be it work or home. It doesn’t mean that you should continue on your course blindly, crashing into the rocks without modifying your course. It's great to have a plan but neurotic to cling to a plan that needs adjusting or changing.

   When you need help, ask for it before it’s too late. If something's not working take a time out and examine it. You commit yourself to your goals without doubt, without reservation, and do what’s required, while at the same time learning to be flexible knowing the outcome sometime isn't what you expected.

   Create new friendships with those who are like-minded or who are learning a new skill. My most successful changes in habits around things like aerobics or cycling came when I was able to do these activities in a group. It wasn't just a group but a support system that helped me achieve my goals. Even the bit of socializing before or after a workout was a way to share experiences and reinforce my commitment to just show up.

   At one point you’ll look back and be amazed at how big of an impact these small changes have made.

Do something now that will make the person you’ll be tomorrow proud. 
                                                                                     ~Author unknown

Why Core Conditioning is so important for everybody

December 22, 2014

   Core exercises are a big part of a well-rounded exercise program.

   The core is made up of 29 pairs of muscles encompassing the abdomen, hips, back and chest. It's the link between the lower and upper body, transferring power and forces between the two.

    The abdominal muscles, such as transverse abdominals and your obliques, make up the front. The muscles that support the spine, called paraspinal muscles, are extremely important for core function and strength. The core also includes the diaphragm, the muscles in the pelvic floor, the muscles around the hips, and the gluteus muscle. The core is at its strongest when the connection between the upper and lower body is strong and solid. If not, there will be strain on the limbs, muscles and tendons which can result in injuries.

   About 60 to 80 percent of American adults have lower back pain according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It's the second most common reason people go to the doctor. It's also the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old. Lower back problems affect the spine's flexibility, stability, and strength, which in turn can cause pain and stiffness. Hence a strong core can alleviate lower back pain.

   So, one purpose of our core is to stabilize the body's center during movement. Everyday movements like tying shoes, picking up packages or laundry, operating a vacuum cleaner or similar machinery, as well as sitting, standing, rotating, reaching overhead and dressing are all activities where the core is used. On-the-job tasks such as sitting for long periods of time, typing, twisting, bending and reaching for the phone all involve engaging the core in less obvious ways.

   What about sports? Golf, tennis, pickle ball, table tennis, cycling, running, swimming, baseball, volleyball, kayaking, rowing and many other athletic activities are powered by a strong core—and less often mentioned are sexual activities, which call for core power and flexibility, too.

   Because your core is essential in keeping the body balanced, stability is affected when your core is not strong. When older folks fall a contributing factor is usually a weak core. Balance not only requires equilibrium, but also good stability of the core muscles and the joints, particularly the hip, knee, and ankle.

    A strong core helps to keep your spine erect and your hip bones in a neutral position. This in turn helps to keep your posture erect. It lessens wear and tear on the spine and allows you sit and stand up straighter as well as take in deeper breaths. Good posture helps you gain full benefits from the effort you put into exercising, too.

  Core conditioning involves a lot more than just doing crunches. To activate it you must work multiple muscles groups at the same time. Planks, bridges, squats, lunges, overhead pulldowns, standing rows and back extensions are all exercises that can contribute to a stronger core. Simple yoga poses, such as the tree pose, can help improve balance and stability. When practicing balance positions, remember to change the direction you're looking. This will increase the challenge of balance.
   The bottom line is the core is our foundation to all the bodies movements. Keeping the "powerhouse" strong helps to keeps the entire body moving.

Ways you can make your fitness habit stick during the holidays

December 15, 2014

   The hustle and bustle of the holidays can be disruptive whether it's because of travel, full households, the abundance of rich foods and alcohol, or changes of schedule. Something's gotta give and that something is often our exercise routine.

   But you don't have to take a break from fitness nor should you. Take a long hard look at your calendar. Schedule first your workout, run, walk... whatever you do to stay in shape. It might mean moving something else off the agenda, but in the end it will be worth it. Here are some ideas to inspire you to accomplish it all without too much sacrifice.

Shorten your workout

It's an easy belief to hold that if we can't go through our whole fitness routine then it's not worth doing at all. Oh, but it is. Shortening your workout time will insure you get one in and will keep you in practice. If you like to do a 30 minute run or walk in the park or on a trail, change it to 15 minutes. Or if the issue is the time spent in preparation, drop the ritual and do your run/walk around your neighborhood. Or cut your gym time from an hour to 30 minutes. Get in some cardio with your warm-up and cut your sets down to two instead of three.

Exercise in the morning

Some of us seem to be wired to exercise at a certain time of day. So, it can be a challenge to switch from afternoon or evening to the morning. Remember, it's only temporary. Set your alarm early and get a workout in before your busy day begins. You're more likely to do it in the morning before your to-do list becomes all consuming.

Make an appointment with yourself or a friend 

Some people have trained themselves to follow through on whatever they've entered into their calendar on their laptop or smartphone. Set reminders so your exercise date won’t slip your mind even on your busiest days. When exercise times pop up just tell yourself and your holiday companions you have a hard-start that can't be changed. Lock it in even more by working out with a friend. It can help you both stay accountable and stick with your daily fitness regimen. Carve out at least 20 minutes for cardio-conditioning or core-strengthening exercise a few days of the week. 

Add interval training - it’s short and effective

Walking outdoors is the simplest way to do interval training, but you can also do intervals indoors when the weather is bad. Try them on the treadmill, elliptical, or a stationary bike. Other options are interval jumping jacks or running in place in your living room. You can also take your interval workout to the mall. This can be a shortened version of your regular workout.

Don't forget your core

This is good on days when you’re not doing interval training, weight lifting or other cardio exercise, especially when the weather is bad. Do core strengthening exercises that target the muscles in your back, abdomen, pelvis, and hips. These muscles are critical for posture, flexibility, balance, and stability. When you have a strong core, you’ll find that day-to-day activities like lifting those heavy holiday grocery bags or your luggage into the overhead become easier. Here’s a quickie core strengthener that will get you off the couch. Lie on the floor with your butt against the couch and your legs at a 90-degree angle on the cushions. With your hands behind your head, crunch up toward the couch. Perform 2 to 3 sets of 15 or more repetitions.

Turn chores into an exercise opportunity

When it’s time to get the house in shape for the holidays, set a timer on the oven or your cell phone for 10 minutes, and then see how much of your house you can declutter before the buzzer goes off. You'll be dashing from room to room or upstairs and down. This will bring a real sweat to your brow. Or, while you’re waiting for the water to boil or doing the dishes try 10 leg raises to each side and 10 to the rear. Or my favorite: counter-top pushups. Stand back, put your hands on the edge of the counter, and do some half push-ups. Start with 5 and work up from there. Another option is to watch your favorite fitness video while you wait for the pies to bake. 

Give yourself time, space and silence

Enjoy some quiet time or treat yourself to a day at the salon or spa. Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn says to think of it this way: for optimum spiritual and emotional health—and in order to be effective in the world—time out for rest, relaxation, contemplation, meditation or quiet sitting, disengaged from all potential distractions, should be a part of everyone's day. A 15 minute break can do wonders for your well being.

During this season of giving remember to save something for yourself!

Stimulating Your Lymphatic System

December 8, 2014

   A body cleanse inside and out is such a wonderful thing whether it's a fasting program or a weekend spa treatment. Some cost thousands of dollars and others can supposedly be purchased in a bottle of vitamins for $19.99.

   But the body actually has it's own cleansing system that's at work 24/7. Your cardiovascular circulatory system and lymphatic circulatory system are central to the process. And there are some simple but effective ways to cleanse your cleansing system.

The Lymphatic System

   Your lymph system affects every cell and organ in your body, and its importance in preventative health care can't be understated. The lymphatic system is an extensive drainage network that helps keep bodily fluid levels in balance and defends the body against infections. It's made up of a network of lymphatic vessels that carry lymph—a clear, watery fluid containing protein molecules, salts, glucose, urea, and other substances—throughout the body. 

   The largest organ in your lymph system is your spleen. It's  like a big lymph node, except that it filters your blood rather than your lymph fluid. The spleen holds a concentrated amount of immune cells and is designed to bring lymphocytes into contact with the blood, making it a major player in your ability to ward off blood-borne diseases and antigens. The spleen also removes worn out red and white blood cells, platelets, and any other hazardous blood-borne debris.

 How it Flows

  You have about three times more lymphatic fluid than blood. Blood gets pushed around the body with the heart. But here’s the catch for lymphatic fluid: there’s no pump. Muscle contractions in your body encourage the lymphatic fluid to circulate through a series of one-way valves. The more you move your body, the more you move your lymphatic fluid. Movement is what fosters your skin, the largest detoxification organ, to cleanse. When you exercise vigorously enough to raise your body temperature you sweat, expelling toxins out through your skin.

   Every day we are bombarded with toxins in our environment and in our food, which is why expelling those chemicals is so very important to your body. If the detox process is hindered, toxins will build up, eventually causing acidity and toxemia. These are the root causes of nearly all disease.

Keeping A Healthy Lymphatic System

 Drink plenty of water

   Circulation is vital to all of the body's functions, and water makes up a large part of blood volume in the body. By making sure you drink plenty of purified or filtered water every day and not allowing yourself to get dehydrated you can prevent undue stress on your circulatory system. Remember, 8-10 glasses.

 Clean up your diet

   A healthy diet produces less waste for your lymph system to clean up, reducing your chances of congestion. Avoid foods that are difficult to digest, including fatty foods, excessive animal protein, simple sugars and simple carbohydrates. Avoid foods you are allergic to. Sweet foods and the “whites,” which include white rice, white bread, white pasta and any white-flour products, result in rapid blood-sugar fluctuations and require enormous amounts of energy to handle. A cleaner diet saves your body the stress of having to use extra energy to cleanse your lymph system. 

 Exercise regularly, with both cardio and strength training

   High intensity aerobic exercises will get your blood pumping and get you sweating. Try aerobic bouncing, which is anything you can do without a lot of space: jumping jacks, jumping rope, twisting, running in place, bouncing on one leg at a time, dancing, and any other crazy maneuvers you can think of. Rebounding or jumping on a trampoline appears to be especially effective at improving lymph system circulation. 
   "The repetitive rhythmic motion of bouncing on a mini trampoline provides a simple, zero-impact exercise method with long-term mental and physical health benefits,” writes Dr. Tina Wellman. She's a psychoneuroendocrinologist and author of books on blending exercise, nutrition and detoxification to achieve wellness.
   Resistance training builds muscles mass which in turn increases the efficiency of both cardiovascular and lymph circulation. Bands, balls, weights and even your own body can provide enough resistance to adequately build muscle mass.

Get a massage

   Massage stimulates the blood and lymph vessels by applying pressure to the body. It helps to keep the fluids moving. It also enhances well being.  

Practice Deep Breathing

   Breathing deeply from the diaphragm, not shallowly from the chest, and through the nose rather than the mouth, is one of the best ways to move lymph fluid through your body.

   Your organs and body systems work together to function efficiently and effectively. By taking the time to honor and support your lesser known systems you will have long term life enhancing effects. By focusing on purifying and loosening the flows within, you will find you feel better and stay healthier too.

It's Thanksgiving... Now What?

November 24, 2014

   Those daily chores aren't so hard anymore. You're seeing the benefits of additional walking and workouts. You've been working hard at watching what you eat with all those fruits, vegetables whole grains and healthy carbs. You have more energy, you've lost some weight and you just feel better over all.

   Now it's time for Thanksgiving!!!

   I love this time of year especially because it's an opportunity to get together with family and friends. But there's also the risk that all the food and sitting around, starting at Thanksgiving and culminating after New Year's, can sending us back to where we started in terms of fitness and diet.

   But, can the holidays also include the blessing of health and wellness? Of course! So how do you get through it without sabotaging all the hard work you've already done? 

Affirmations and Goals

   Let's say you're walking 10,000 steps everyday. How many are you going to take on Thanksgiving Day? Christmas Day? New Year's Day? First and foremost take time for yourself. Your workout is well deserved. It replenishes your reserve and helps give you the energy to do those additional things that are needed for the holidays. Go for a long walk and invite your company to come along or go alone. Reflect on how far you've come:

- You have set a goal and are working toward achieving that goal every day. 
- You have found personal weaknesses and overcome it. 
- You have found personal strengths and admired them. 
- You have  been making your health, fitness and mind the priority! Part of celebrating life is giving yourself the best things possible.

   Here are 4 dietary goals that are very doable for Thanksgiving that would benefit anyone.

- Eat at least one vegetable a day
- Eat at least one fruit a day 
- Eat breakfast every day 
- You get to splurge on Thursday but stay within your calorie range all other days

Appreciate the Time Together

   Yes, Thanksgiving can throw a curve ball when it comes to exercise and fitness. But it can also be a challenge in the mental department, too. I'm not sharing anything you don't know but this is just a reminder to truly give thanks. 

   Gratitude is all about appreciating the things you have, everyday. Thanksgiving is but one of those days, coming together over a special meal and sharing conversation, stories and connections about family with the next generation. It's about spending time with loved ones appreciating and accepting them completely, no matter what their quirks are. We so often take people for granted only to miss them as soon as they have left. Many times loved ones leave and we wish we’d told them how much they mean to us. These connections to friends and family make us feel loved and connected. After all we are human and those connections are a necessary part of our healthy self. 

Be Grateful

    I am grateful that I have a healthy body, an active mind and an understanding that this is truly a temporary state. As we age these things we take for granted change dramatically. Our bodies don't work like they use to. We have aches and pains in places we never used to. Our digestive systems don't allow us the freedom of eating anything we want. Cleaning the house or mowing the lawn isn't as easy as it used to be. 

   The wonderful smell of the ocean air as I walk on Fiscalini Ranch or the blowing wind as I ride my bike along the coastline are to be enjoyed for this moment. There will come a time when I can no longer walk the two miles across the ranch or lift my leg to hop on my bicycle for a Sunday morning ride. It's about being grateful for what I have. Being mindful that there are many who have less. It's about appreciating those who hold a special place in my life and making sure that they know it. 

   By taking care of yourself emotionally and physically you are giving your family a real gift. These changes you've made are now a lifestyle, so share that lifestyle with those you love. Who knows they just might join you in your commitment to a healthier holiday.

   Happy Thanksgiving!

Numb Toes and Aching Soles

November 17, 2014

   After a long conversation with my sister about her recently diagnosed peripheral neuropathy I started thinking about how it might relate to genetics, careers or diseases. After all she is only 56, healthy, active and youthful. She owned a hair salon for 30 years and was on her feet 8 to 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, using all kinds of chemicals. Was this consistent use of hair salon chemicals a contributing factor? Or could it be diabetes which runs in our family?


   It’s 6 o'clock in the evening and the front door slams. My sister flops down in a chair and groans, “Oh, God, my feet are killing me!” She flings off her shoe. She sits down and rubs her feet and 10 minutes later the terrible pain has disappeared. It could be a sign of motor nerve damage.

   Other signs might be having difficulty walking or running. The old effortless way you bounded up stairs no longer exists. Sometimes you even stumble and become unbalanced for no apparent reason or nighttime cramping becomes a regular occurrence. The arms can be affected, too. You come home from the grocery store and drop the first bag you carry. Soon you're dropping things on a regular basis or having difficulty turning door knobs, opening jars or buttoning buttons. 

   Neuropathy can be the source of a loss of blood pressure, causing dizziness when standing up and it can affect digestion leading to constipation or diarrhea. You may notice you bruise more easily and it takes longer for cuts to heal and forget those comfortable days at the beach on a warm sunny day... you find you can no longer tolerate the heat.

   I realize reading these symptoms may be uncomfortable to take in, but I'm reminded of some of the things my sister has gone through the past several years without knowing what it was. So what it peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral Neuropathy

   Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder of the peripheral nerves that leaves a person feeling numbness, pain or weakness in the hands or feet, although it can be felt anywhere. It starts in the longest nerves, which are the ones that reach to your toes. It can come and go, progress slowly over time, or can be severe and debilitating.

   Twenty million Americans suffer from this illness and it can occur at any age although it's more prevalent in older people. About 30 percent of cases are of an unknown cause. Another 30 percent are caused by diabetes but other reasons can be autoimmune disorders, tumors, heredity, nutritional imbalances, infections or toxins. If it's found early it can be controlled.

   I believe knowledge is power. So pay attention to your body. Are you having any of these symptoms on a somewhat regular basis? Or like my sister, something just didn't seem right.

  If you are experiencing some of these symptoms you should contact your physician. By keeping a log of the occurrences you can help give your physician accurate information about your symptoms. Down the road physical and occupational therapists can help with physical exercises that can help you maintain your physical abilities. The pain and discomforts you have will effect your daily life. But making adjustments that help you with those weaknesses will make the quality of your life even better.

Using Technology to Get Fit and Stay Fit

November 10, 2014

   We all know exercise is good for us. The recommended daily amount is 30 minutes of brisk walking 5 times a week. People who exercise regularly have much lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and other diseases as well as lower rates of several types of cancer. No medicine ever invented can protect you against disease as effectively as regular exercise. 


   Fitbits are designed to inspire and motivate you by tracking your activities and measuring these activities like the number of steps you walked or how long you slept. It's a wristband that collects your personal data and wirelessly connects to your smartphone, tablet or computer where you are then able to analyze it.

   The FitBit was introduced in 2008 by co-founders Eric Friedman and James Park in San Francisco. The first of these was the Fitbit Tracker. It was one of the first activity tracking devices and could record how far you walked, how many calories you burned, how many floors you climbed, as well as the duration and intensity.

   The FitBit's default goal for users is to do 10,000 steps a day. Most of us take about 6,000 to 7,000 steps daily, which is just shy of that recommended amount. The American Heart Association supports these devices and uses the 10,000 steps as a guideline to follow for improving health and decreasing heart attack risks. The FitBit does not track gym workout activity or miles and calories burned when cycling.

   One of the most popular FitBit devices is the Flex, pictured below. It's a tracker than can be taken into water.

   The latest version is the Surge, which is a smartwatch and will have even more capabilities. It comes out next year.

   To be clear, I am not recommending the FitBit over any of the other many fitness trackers out on the market. I haven't tried them but when I do I would be happy to report on them as objectively as I can. 

   The reason for talking about the device is because recently I had two clients tell me they had purchased a FitBit and were thrilled with the way they were working. It helped them get closer to reaching their goals. Neither client was actually training for an event. They both wanted to step up their activity level without a lot of extra effort.

Susie, The Fitness Lover

   Susie, who is a former aerobics instructor, loves a challenge. Her incentive is the competition with her kids who also have FitBits. “At the end of each day, our total steps are calculated into weekly totals for all of us to see. I really love it when I'm near the top of the heap with the younger set” she says.

   “It keeps me honest about my workouts. I may think I walked a lot, but it tells me at the end of the day exactly how many steps I have taken, and when I was most active. That's important because not all steps are equal."

   Susie says her usual 45-minute morning walk with her husband and dogs is about 3,500 steps, but only about 30 minutes are somewhat active. That walk includes stops they make so the dogs can, well, you know. Her goal is at least 10,000 steps in a day, and the device I lets her know she has to do a lot more walking to be more active to improve her fitness. 

   "House work that includes scrubbing floors is good," she shared with me. "So is gardening if I spend time with the wheelbarrow going back and forth to the compost pile.”  Although she has always walked a lot, having a FitBit increases her commitment to exercise because she says it takes the guesswork out of how far she really is going and it inspires her to do just a little bit more. "I'm glad my son Brian talked me into trying it.” 

Debby, The Technophile

   Debby is a gaget lover. She is willing to try anything that will help her do a little more exercise in a day. She uses her FitBit Flex by counting steps. She likes that it gives her recommended daily steps of 10,000 (about 5 miles) and tells her how many calories she has burned. Debby says, “Seeing the numbers motivates me to do more when I am slacking. I enjoy the lights, vibrations and alarms when I have reached my 10,000 step goal, and it’s easy to use.  I have had trackers in the past that were too complicated. “

   How would you use this gadget?

   Start by establishing a base line of your daily activity. Then you can set a short term goal for adding more exercise to your daily routine. Your 30 minutes doesn’t have to be all at the same time, either. You can break it up into 10 minute or 15 minute increments. From there a long term goal and finally a weekly regime can be achieved to staying healthy and fit.  

The bottom line is it doesn’t matter how you take more steps, it's a matter of taking those additional steps to meeting your next goal.

Emotions and Health, A Crucial Connection

November 3, 2014

   There are five emotions that are shared by all cultures: love, hate, joy, sorrow, and fear. 

   These emotions are natural and over the course of our lifetimes we experience them countless times. Our emotions involve how we experience and react to things, how we think and act. Can our emotions help us to be healthier, stronger and more fit? 

Emotions and Motivation

   When faced with a new challenge like changing dietary habits, taking a new class or training to run a half marathon, anxiety will be involved especially if you're unsure about how well you will do or how hard it will be. Sometimes this anxiety can be your motivating factor to do better or try harder to improve your chances for success. Even elite athletes who've played in numerous championships will say they have butterflies in their stomach just before the game starts. It's a bit like stage fright. In these cases, the solution is not to quit – that will just complicate the emotions. The solution is get the game on. I realize this can sound a bit trite, but I like to think of these kinds of anxieties as a sign that I'm on the right path. Try to think positive and be optimistic that you will do well in your new class or run stronger today or keep those edible temptations away. Every day is a different day and every opportunity a new one. 

Emotions and Decision Making

   Our emotions have a major influence on the decisions we make, from what we decide to have for breakfast to which candidates we choose to vote for in political elections. Even in situations where we believe our decisions are guided purely by logic and rationality, emotions play a key role. 

   In the 1980s, psychologist Susan Jeffers wrote a runaway bestseller about how one emotion, fear, can dictate our decision making. It was entitled Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. One key insight she gave us is that fear is natural in a growing healthy person. The only way to never feel fear is to never grow, never try something new, never leave the house... just become paralyzed. A healthy growing person always feels some kind of fear but they don't let it get in the way of their decisions.

   Our emotions have the capacity to limit our sense of control but we have the strength to change our behaviors – to do what we know needs doing anyway. We can dramatically change our lives for the better and accomplish more than we believe possible for ourselves. With persistence and belief in oneself anything is truly possible.

Form Follows Function

   The idea that a building should be designed, no matter how wacky the architect imagines it, around it's function, is a good lesson in emotions. There are many great insights from wise people across every discipline and every culture on what our function is. At its core I believe our function comes down to two things that go hand in hand: to love and be loved, and to physically move our bodies. Movement and a good diet is what makes us fit and that in turn helps us feel good. It's no minor idea. If form follows function, then fitness is a core element in the design of a life.

   When function follows form – when what you think dictates your health – it can break down. As I’ve said before, constant negative thoughts can weaken your body's immune system, making you more likely to get colds and other infections during emotionally difficult times. When you are feeling stressed, anxious or upset, you may not take care of your health as you should. 

   You may not feel like exercising, eating nutritious foods or taking medicine that are prescribed by your doctor. A person’s emotional state plays a significant role in his or her recovery from surgery, suggests Berton Moed, MD, chair of the department of orthopedic surgery at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. When an active person is suddenly confined to the bed or to limited activity feelings of powerlessness and depression often emerge. 

   Imbalances in the body's energy can lead to the breakdown of the physical body as well. For most people, the energized body becomes imbalanced years or even decades before the physical body begins to have problems. It’s just like a car or any other machine that requires maintenance – keep the energized body tuned up and balanced, and your physical body will be able to give you a longer, healthier, happier life.

   By participating in sports, especially ones that require complex movements like skating, you can improve brain function through the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Another benefit is the release of neurotransmitters like endorphins which elevate your mood and reinforce the desire to exercise again. Other benefits include weight loss and muscle gain. These benefits can help us to feel better and look better, improving our self perception. 

Here are a few well known facts….

Fear, anxiety and anger are linked to:

-- heart disease

--mental illness 

--panic attacks

--rheumatoid arthritis

--heart disease

--high blood pressure



Happiness and joy are linked to:

--increased flexibility

--stronger muscles

--weight loss



Ultimately, it's in our own hands what we do with our emotional energy to create the healthy person we want to be, and to choose to be fit to experience healthy emotions.

Fitness is Your Own Lifelong Journey

October 27, 2014

   I was one of those kids who hated gym class. I'd rather sit with a book. All that reading and sitting (and eating) made me a bit chubby. My gym class had little effect on my attitudes toward exercise, so by the time I was in high school I was in involved in new activities, had new friends as well as the possibility of a boyfriend, and plenty of school work — the situation, for me, became overwhelming. 

   A family friend suggested I take up tennis. It would keep me focused and give me a new skill. But the main thing tennis did was open my eyes to exercise. Wow, did I feel better!

   I was hooked immediately and the bonus was a positive way to deal with life's bumps in the road. Those good feelings translated into good decisions in starting my family, raising my kids, and teaching them to be healthy. I won't bore you with all the studies that show exercise to benefit how we think and feel -- I was a case study. I had discovered the inner meaning of fitness and to this day, when I go for a run on Fiscalini Ranch, it's about clearing my head from the stresses of the day as much as it is just exercise.

Lara's Story

   When it comes down to it, reasons to stay fit throughout one's life are personal. Some people played sports in their youth and have never stopped working out. Others, as adults, chose to start exercising for health reasons. 

  My friend Lara, a high school chemistry teacher, ran track when she was a youngster. As an adult she participated in fun runs, which she always thought were enough for her. But early in 2013 she started to sense that running wasn't helping to improve her fitness or manage her weight. What she didn't know is that getting serious about exercise would be so fulfilling.

   "I knew I needed to add strength training to my fitness routine," she says, "but I had always been reluctant and felt intimidated." That's such a common sentiment women feel about the competitive energy often found in gymnasiums and fitness clubs. Lara set her fears aside and tried the MaxFit class at the Paso Robles Sports Club. 

   "MaxFit is high intensity, small group functional training," Lara says. "It’s a performance based training program using proven methods aimed at pushing your body to its limits, both physically and mentally. I loved it from the first day, but I have never been so sore in my life!"

  Like me with my tennis, Lara was hooked. She went to MaxFit 2 to 4 days each week and soon began to feel stronger and leaner. And she noticed her running pace was getting faster, too. Lara also started with the Olympic weightlifting classes which met 2 to 3 days each week. That was quite challenging as she started doing the same routines you see weightlifters do on TV during the actual Olympics -- deadlifts, squats, clean & jerks, etc. "I love the feeling of strength and the accomplishment with improving my lifts and technique."

   Lara also cleaned up her diet, avoiding processed foods and foods with added sugar. "At almost 46 years old I have never felt better!" she says. 

  "I still love to run competitively, but adding other activities such as CrossFit competitions and weightlifting competitions have made it even more enjoyable. I have two CrossFit competitions coming up, and my second Olympic weightlifting competition in November. I owe my love of strength training and CrossFit to my coach, as he has taught me proper technique, motivated and encouraged me, and pushed me in ways I had never imagined. It truly has been life-changing."

   Aside from her career as a teacher, Lara is a wife and a mother of two. She has a daughter who swims competitively in high school and son in grade school who's dream is to play soccer.

   "I love that I am still learning new things," she tells me. "I love being a role model for my kids to lead an active life and never be afraid to try something different. You will never know the thrill of something if you don’t try it!"

Can the Absence of Trees Effect Our Health?

October 20, 2014 

   Yesterday, a friend I was visiting lamented about the trees on the lots next to her. She was not happy that they were being removed. 

   It got me thinking about their purpose. These trees looked dry, overgrown and messy. Are trees just supposed to just look pretty or do they play a role in the environment and our well being? 

   Will the removal of them effect anything, I wondered? I love going for walks through the forest down to marine terrace and out to the ocean. Listening to the critters in the forest, birds in the trees and the sounds of the trees bowing in the wind make me feel like a kid. Nothing I have to do. I can wonder and daydream for as long as I like. Clearing my head with every deep breathe of refreshing ocean air and the smell of pine. I have fond memories of childhood campouts in beautiful forests, exploring new areas with my dad and sister as if we were the first to find these trails, ending with a fire in the pit for warmth and s'mores in our bellies.

What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another. 

-- Mahatma Gandhi

Trees and Well Being

   Trees add beauty to our environment and are beneficial to our mental and emotional health. Seeing them and being among them can create feelings of relaxation and well being. They serve as a barrier from a harsh environment creating sense of privacy, solitude and security. Researchers Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, who teach psychology at the University of Michigan, found that nature and trees gave office workers a lift even if all they could do was see it through a window.

   The beautiful colors, shapes and textures give us a wonderful feeling of being alive. Changes in the color of the leaves in many parts of the world designate a change in season. Different fruits that ripen and the flowers that bloom add enticing smells and flavors to the new season. These happy feelings contributes to decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisole.

Trees and Clean Air

   Trees remove gaseous pollutants by absorbing them through the pores in the leaf surface. Particulates are trapped and filtered by leaves, stems and twigs, and washed to the ground by rainfall. The carbon is stored in their roots and trunk. According to a single tree can absorb 10 pounds of air pollutants a year and produce nearly 260 pounds of oxygen which is enough to support two people.

   A study by Dave Nowak and Eric Greenfield of the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station, and Satoshi Hirabayashi and Allison Bodine of the Davey Institute directly links the removal of air pollution with human health. U.S. Forest Service scientists and collaborators calculated that trees are saving more than 850 human lives a year and preventing 670,000 incidents of acute respiratory symptoms.

   According to Mark Loeb of Infectious Disease Division at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, exposure to air pollution may increase a person's susceptibility to pneumonia by interfering with immune defenses designed to protect the lung from pathogens. The value researchers placed on the human health effects of the reduced air pollution is nearly $7 billion every year. 

Trees and Clean Water

   Trees also do an incredible job at filtering water. Where we live on the California central coast, with riparian forests of oak and other hardwoods, trees anchor what would be otherwise loose soils. Instead of rain water running off in eroded watersheds, trees foster the absorbtion of it to recharge aquifers. And trees help prevent erosion and flooding when rains are overabundant.

Trees and Climate Change

   Scientists are very concerned about deforestation of large amounts of trees in places like the Amazon River system and the islands of Indonesia. Trees are vital to slowing down the greenhouse effect, the result of excess gases in the atmosphere like carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other gases, which magnify the heat of the sun on the surface of the earth.

   Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced by 26,000 miles of driving a  car.

Some did-you-knows: one year an acre of mature trees can provide oxygen for 18 people? operative stays are shortened when patients are placed in rooms with a view of trees and open spaces?

...long-term exposure to traffic pollution independently increased the risk of hospitalization for pneumonia and doubled the risk of hospitalization in seniors ages 65 and older?

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I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

-- Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)