Mid-life Without the Crisis

It really isn't the destination, but the journey. May be cliche, but it's true.

Monday, January 31, 2011

January Is Over???

Can you believe January is already over?  It seems like just yesterday we were writing our New Year's Resolutions, hanging up our 2011 calendars, and making plans for the brand new year.  And here it is one month gone.

So how are your resolutions going?  Honestly, mine are not going so well.  Between aches, pains and the weather, I'm getting nowhere fast.  I'm hoping February will be a little kinder so I can make some progress.

I did want to point out a few good links for those who are still reaching toward keeping a resolution or looking to check something off the bucket list.  I hope you find these helpful as we move into another month.
  1. Fitness.  Not everyone likes to get outside to work out and many people can't afford a monthly gym membership.  Did you know you can access workouts online for free (or nearly free)?  There's a whole website devoted to exercise called Exercise TV.  You can find mini workouts, full-length routines, and even fitness plans.  (Thanks for the info, Carrie!)  Or if you are a Netflix subscriber, you can access hundreds of workout videos.  Some can only be obtained in disc format sent to you, but there are some you can stream to your computer. 
  2. Healthy food.  It's not always easy to eat right.  Especially with birthday parties, Super Bowl parties, Valentine's Day, or just a normal weekend get-together with friends and family.  All these activities can really tax our efforts to stay on track.  But here are a couple of sites that can help you get back on the wagon, or keep you on it.  First up is Cooking Light's site.  The site focuses on great tasting food without all the fat and calories.  They currently have up lots of great ideas on how to trim down those Super Bowl favorites.  Another site I really like is Jamie Oliver's.  You may not know Jamie, but he is a chef (first known in the US as The Naked Chef because he strips recipes down to their basics.  Get it?) who is dedicated to helping people eat healthfully and encouraging schools to feed kids better.  He is all about good food made from fresh, preferably local, ingredients so you know nothing artificial or unhealthy is going into the finished product.  He has a great newsletter.  (I think if you sign up right now you can get a voucher for Naked Wines, a group of winegrowers with similar passions to Jamie's.)  Definitely check out his great site.
  3. Languages.  I know lots of people have "Learn a language" on their bucket list.  Okay, first of all, you need to pick a language.  Some people think they need to have a reason to learn a specific language, like for work or family.  But actually, it's perfectly fine to pick one just because.  Got your language in mind?  Swahili?  Gaelic?  Lithuanian?  Okay, now head over to Live Mocha and get started.  This is a free website for learning languages.  They use the same principles found in expensive programs, but it's all online and it's free.  They do have some courses you can buy, but for the general interest learner, there is no charge.  In addition, it is a cooperative community where you are graded by speakers of the language you are learning and, in turn, you help those who are learning English.  It's a lot of fun and so easy to use.  I've already completed Swedish 101 and am going to start 102 soon.
  4. Learn something new.  Studies have shown that learning helps keep our brains resilient and less prone to Alzheimer's and other debilitating brain disorders.  So consider learning something new.  A quick glance at my local community college's website shows 3 continuing education courses this week:  quilting, floral arrangement and digital photography.  Check with your local college or university to see what continuing education courses they have.  These are usually short, free or inexpensive courses that teach you the basics of a skill, craft or art.  Or maybe you want to take something more academic, but don't want to actually attend school.  Consider taking free online courses like those listed here.  You can download courses to your mp3 player or computer.  How neat!  I may download Ancient Greek History.  Or if you want a short, informative lecture, check out my favorite learning site TED.com.  The site is full or short lectures on everything from politics to music to art to humor.  It's an amazing site.
So there you have it.  A list of lots of great places to go to get started on your resolutions and/or bucket lists.  And all from the comfort of your computer chair.  What sites do you use to help you reach your goals?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting Back on Track

Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do - or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so.  ~Stanley Crawford

School started back up for me last week, then was quickly canceled later in the week due to snow.  I spent the weekend with a headache, and just generally felt rotten.  Needless to say, I didn't get much exercising done, only a little yoga.

So this is going to be a good week to get back into the swing of things.  Temps won't be quite as low, no snow (fingers crossed), lesson planning is caught up, and I woke up headache-free this morning!  So no excuses for me.  I think I'm going to start on some upper-body strength routines, add in some miles at the park, and keep up the yoga.

What nice thing are you going to do for yourself this week?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Related Rant

You know what I really hate?  I hate those commercials where the person says that it's so easy to lose weight on the so-and-so system.  NO, IT'S NOT!!!

Sleeping late is easy.  Sitting on the couch is easy.  Watching TV is easy.  Snacking on ice cream and cake is easy.  Driving from one store to another across the road is easy.  Taking a nap rather than doing yoga is easy.  Easy gets us what we've already got.  Easy gets us a belly and big hips.  Easy gets us high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  Easy gets us blocked arteries and heart disease.  Easy gets us diabetes.

Losing weight is HARD.  It's hard to change your lifestyle.  It's hard to eat healthy, nutritious foods every day.  It's hard to get up early to get in a workout before work.  It's hard to put down the remote, turn off the computer, and go outside for a run.  It's hard to make the changes in our lives that are necessary to lose weight, get healthy, and stay that way.

So stop lying to us, stupid commercial ladies.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Big One

As I mentioned yesterday, losing weight or achieving a specific athletic goal is the number one New Year's Resolution each and every year.  It's probably on many of your lists this year, as it has been on mine in the past.  The thing is, there are tons of misconceptions about losing weight.

Put simply, in order to lose weight, one must take in fewer calories than one expends.  It takes a deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound.  That deficit can be created by eating/drinking less, exercising more, or some combination of both.  Let's begin by looking at the intake side of things.

Ask any doctor how to lose weight and you will be told, "diet and exercise."  The problem is with that word "diet."  The word comes from several old words, including the Greek word diaita, meaning "way of life," and the Latin word dieta, "daily food allowance."  In the 14th century, the word began to take on a meaning of restriction of food, and in 1650, diet took on the additional meaning "regulate one's food intake against fatness."

Today, a diet is that awful way of starving yourself half to death, making yourself and everyone around you miserable, only to lose 2 pounds.  And when you stop dieting, you gain it all back.

What we need to do is to take back the ancient definition of diet.  Your diet is your "way of life."  It doesn't mean deprivation and starvation.  Your diet is your way of eating and drinking.  Let's make an effort for that diet to be a healthy one.

Follow these links to learn more about good nutrition and a healthy diet from the U.S. Government, helpguide.org, UC Berkeley, and the Mayo Clinic.
Click here to read about the health impact of soda.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Top Ten Resolutions

There are different kinds of top ten lists - they can be a list of the most popular, most common, most frequent, most needed, hardest, etc.  My Top Ten New Year's Resolutions is a combination of a variety of lists.  I have ordered them by what seems to be the most common and the most needed goals.  I'll be blogging about these resolutions and offering some tips, advice, cautions, encouragements, and so on as the month goes along.

  1. Lose weight/achieve an athletic goal.
  2. Learn something new.
  3. Quit smoking.
  4. More quality time with friends & family.
  5. Save money/reduce debt/stick to budget.
  6. Read more.
  7. Volunteer/help others
  8. Get organized.
  9. Get a job/better job.
  10. Document moments of life's awesomeness.
 These all seem to be pretty good goals and I wouldn't be surprised to find that you have one or two of these on your To Do List for 2011.  Which ones are you considering giving the old college try?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Letting Go

The other day, I got into a conversation with a woman at the grocery store when she commented on the cough I am still getting over thanks to a recent cold.  She informed me that she, too, had recently had a cold.  She expressed the conviction that she'd caught her cold from standing outside in the cold for too long.

Now I'm pretty sure it is the 21st century and it is a well-established fact that colds are caused by viruses, and not by being cold, despite the similarity in names.  Benjamin Franklin knew back in the 1700s that the cold was transmitted by infected people to others via close contact.  Somehow, it seems logical to me that at this point in time that people would no longer believe colds are caused by being cold.

There are just some things we should let go of.

  • Archaic Ideas.  If science has proven something wrong, or true, just accept it and move on.  Colds are caused by viruses.  Hair does not grow back thicker or darker after shaving.  Chiggers do not burrow into your skin so putting nail polish on the bite will not kill them.  
  • The Past.  A friend told me about a loved one's comment that she would never let go of the past as it defined her.  But at the same time the loved one was saying this, she was failing to self-reflect, grow as a person, or take responsibility for her actions.  What's done is done.  Use your past to create a better future; don't use it as a crutch.
  • Toxic Relationships.  Every holiday season, you hear people complain about having to spend time with relatives they don't like.  My question is, why spend time with them?  Life is too short to put up with crappy people.  Decide if a relationship is healthy for you and take appropriate steps to do something positive for yourself.
  • Bad Habits.  As soon as you read those two words, something popped into your head, didn't it?  We all know what our bad habits are, why they are bad for us, and how hard it's going to be to change.  Accept that it won't be easy, remember why you should make the change, and take the plunge.  Rid yourself of bad habits this year.
Letting go of things could be your best move in 2011.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Getting Started

Men's natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.  ~Confucius

Studies have shown that it takes 21 days to form a new habit.  These studies also indicate that the action has to be performed every day in that 21-day period to really stick.

Other experts suggest doing something for one month, since not everyone will stick to something new every single day for 21 days.

So what does all this mean for those of us trying to improve our healthy habits?  I see it as consistency and small steps.

If you are trying to make positive changes this year, here are some tips to get you started.
  1. Don't try to change everything at once.  If you want to stop smoking, eat more healthfully, and lose weight, you may want to tackle these issues one at a time.  You could become overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of trying to do it all at once and give up on all of it, never to try again.  That is not the way to go!  Pick one habit and work on that before adding another.
  2. You can do anything for one month.  Don't try to pretend you will never eat junk food again.  Just give it up for one month while you work on eating better.  Breaking time into months makes your objective so much more manageable and less daunting.  Plus if you mess up, there's always next month!
  3. Stop thinking of foods as good or bad.  Yes, you do want to limit high-fat/high-sugar foods.  But if you think of them as no-nos, you'll only want them more.  If you allow yourself to have the foods you want, in moderation, you will be less likely to overindulge.
  4. Write it down.  Whether you are going to work out 4 days a week, or want to eat healthfully, writing down your actions will help you reach your goals.  Seeing those blank days on the calendar will help you get out there and take a walk.  Adding up those calories will help you see how well you are doing and where you can make little adjustments.
  5. Give up the All-or-Nothing attitude.  Just because you messed up one day, one week, one month, or even one whole year is no reason to give up on yourself altogether.  Every day is a new day and you can start again any time.  Never give up.  Never surrender.  
  6. Find what works for you.  Some people will tell you that you have to go to the gym to work out.  Others say walk in your neighborhood.  Walk with a friend.  Walk your dog.  Buy a home gym.  Etc, etc, etc.  Truth is, for your new habit to stick, you're going to have to figure out what works for you.  I don't like running in my neighborhood because of the dogs and lack of sidewalks.  I don't like the Coliseum because of the walkers taking up the entire catwalk.  I don't mind the gym, but I'm too cheap to pay for membership.  What works for me is going to McLane Park.  It's the only way that works for me.  Figure out what is going to work for you.
  7. Don't expect miracles.  You probably are not going to lose 5 pounds in a week.  You may not lose 5 p0unds in a month.  But you are going to get healthier, increase your life span, decrease your disease risk, and feel more energized if you not only start up a healthy habit, but keep it for life.
You can do this!  

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

You probably noticed that the blog looks different today.  I am the kind of person who has to change my computer wallpaper every month, so I decided to change the look of the blog for 2011, too.  I will still be writing about whatever interests me at the moment, so that has not changed.

Obviously, what everyone is thinking about today is New Year's resolutions.  Should you make any, what should they be, how long until you break it....

Remember that your resolution should be written as a goal.  It should be achievable, specific, and measurable.  Read more about the elements of a good resolution here.

For this year, I have several goals that are all part of the larger aim of getting in shape.  The things I want to do this year are:
  1. Double 2010's number of exercise days (102).  To do this one, I will have to exercise 4 times every week.
  2. Run another half marathon with a time of under 2:30.  That is a big goal, as my first half marathon time was 3:09 and I am no faster now than I was then.
  3. Compete in the Classic Amphibious Triathlon held at Wappapello Lake.  This would be my first, and though it's a relatively short triathlon (400 meter swim, 16 mile bike, 3.5 mile run), that still is a bit daunting.
  4. Consider trying my first marathon.  I am making this one very flexible because I'm not sure I will really be able to do this.  I've been recovering from an Achilles tendon injury and haven't run a step in months, so I will judge this one as I go through the year.  The marathon I am thinking of is the Heart of America Marathon held on Labor Day each year in Columbia, Missouri.
I am really looking forward to 2011.  I think it will be a good year and I am excited about my goals.  I hope you truly do have a happy New Year, as well.