Holy Snow Batman!

If you live in New England, you were probably just hit by a giant bucket of snow.  As a kid, your first thought was “SNOOOWWW DAAAAAY!!!!! I’m gonna go sledding, and have a snow ball fight and….who wants to build a snow maaaaaan???”

As an adult and home owner, my first thought was “SNOOWWWW DAAAAAYYY!!! Oh wait, I have to move all of this.  This is MY responsibility.”  Adulthood.  It happens to the best of us.  So I thought about it and realized that this was still a good opportunity.  The husband and I got out there, him manning the snow blower (a necessity in Connecticut) and I with my shovel and broom.  Together we spent the morning clearing out the driveway, porch, deck and made a path through the back yard to get access to our well and garage. It actually wasn’t too bad and as a bonus, we got our physical activity in!  It can be hard work moving snow.  This storm was about a foot:

IMG_0848 IMG_0849 IMG_0835 IMG_0837 IMG_0838 IMG_0845 IMG_0843Now in general, the bitter cold and snow can be a MAJOR exercise deterrent.  Running or even just taking the dog for a walk now has mountains of new obstacles.  Getting out to the gym or a class can also seem daunting.  What is important to remember is that even if your normal activities are no longer weather appropriate, you can still stay fit and have fun.  Shift your thinking and focus on seasonal activities.  Now I know that snow removal although seasonal, is not fun.  Instead think about all those things you enjoyed as a kid.  Get together with friends and have a massive snow ball fight.  You will be puffing by the end with a giant smile on your face.  Sledding is another classic.  You wont even mind running up the hills!

This past weekend, we embraced the cold weather.  Growing up, my husband and his family would play pond hockey together.  We planned it out and had everyone all set.  And then it snowed the day before. 😦 Did that stop us? Please.  We are New Englanders!  The ice was thick enough so we went out onto the pond the day before with the snow blower (I’m telling you, its amazing!) and shovel and we cleared a rink for the boys to play hockey and then an outer circle for the less talented skaters (ahem, me and the children).  The next day the ice was ready for us.

IMG_2408We kicked off the day bright and early around 10, skated all morning and then had a nice batch of home made crock pot chili (recipe coming soon!).  Everyone playing hockey was playing all out.  Some of them had been avid hockey players when they were younger and some were just beginners.  It was really fun to watch because even the newbies were having a good time.  My friend Meagan and I skated around the outer loop chatting and watching, getting our bearings.  We also each grabbed an extra stick to use for balance.  I would highly recommend this strategy for individuals who are not confident on skates.  It gives you such a sense of security and if you actually do start to fall, you can absolutely catch yourself.  By taking the stress out, you can enjoy yourself longer.

The day was a blast and didn’t really feel like exercise.  That night and the next day, however, we all felt it.  2+ hours of continuous skating engages so many muscles and really makes your body work.  It felt a lot like post skiing (another activity to embrace), that really satisfying wiped feeling.  I didn’t get too many photos but we had a beautiful day.

What winter activities do you look forward to?

Are you Getting Enough Fruits and Veggies?

A lot of people may think they get enough fruit and veggies over the day, but they may fall short of the recommendations.  To start off, what are the recommendations? In general, the more produce the better, but check these charts for your age and sex to get specific recommendations.

Daily Fruit Needs
Image from http://choosemyplate.gov/
Daily Vegetable Needs
Image from http://choosemyplate.gov/

These recommendations are pretty clear by putting them into “cups” rather than a number of servings.  However, there are 2 exceptions.  When it comes to dried fruit 1/2 a cup counts as a full cup.  The volume is smaller just because they are dehydrated, but they retain their nutrition.  The second difference is with leafy green vegetables.  This includes lettuce, spinach, kale and other salad mixes.  Because they are so light, 2 measured cups equals a cup serving.  Use the below images that I got from PopSugar to help you visualize your actual needs.  It may not be as daunting as  you think,

Fruit ServingFruit Servings 3 Fruit Serving 2

I couldn’t find similar images of vegetables but just grab some measuring cups and measure it out.

If these charts and images make you realize that your intake is on the low side, you are in good company.  The CDC conducted a study and found that on average, only 32.5% of Americans meet their needs for fruit and only 26.3% meet their vegetable needs.  These numbers have actually gotten worse since 2000.  Statistically, the highest intake is found in women, adults over 65, and in those with a college degree.  Surprisingly, fruit intake is very similar across income brackets (vegetable intake is highest in those with salaries above $50,000).  This shows that social factors and education may be more important than income.

But you may ask, why is it important?  Well for your personal health, it is probably the best thing you can do.  Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in salt, fat, and calorie making it easier to lose weight or stay where you are.  It has also been shown that a diet high in produce can reduce your risk for heart disease, certain cancers, stroke, lower your blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and kidney stones.  They are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, water, and phytonutrients.  All of these are critically important for your body to function properly and at its highest level.

Keep your eyes peeled for a follow up post on how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your daily life.

Do you struggle with your produce intake?

How to Stay Hydrated Without Really Trying

Keeping hydrated is something that people talk about a lot during the summer.  Its hot, we sweat and a tall glass of water is incredibly appealing.  But it is just as important in the winter and is frequently overlooked as an important area of well being.  According to a study by the University of New Hampshire, we are prone do dehydration in the winter about the same as in hot weather.  A lot of water is lost simply through breathing and perspiration.  We may think that these losses are low, but we sweat under our layers and when the air is very dry, water evaporates quickly.

Being in cold weather also affects our ability to regulate fluid balance in an attempt to conserve heat.  This means that when we are dehydrated, our body does not release a hormone that triggers thirst in addition to not conserving water in the kidneys, increasing water loss.  Since our body is not automatically correcting, we need to be more conscious about our fluid intake.  Incorporate these strategies the help prevent dehydration which can result in dry mouth, sleepiness, headaches, dry skin, constipation and dizziness.

Keep Water Available

If you don’t have any water, you aren’t going to drink it.  Keep a bottle in your car, on your desk, or by your bed.  This way when you do get thirsty it is nice and easy.  It also serves as a physical reminder that you should have something.  Even casually sipping over the day can result in an improved intake.

Drink with Meals

Always have a glass when you eat.  This may also be a helpful strategy if you are trying to cut calories.  It slows down your eating, helps you feel full sooner and eases digestion.  You need enough fluid in your body to have comfortable bowel movements as too little can lead to constipation. Having a glass with meals also gives you 3 structured opportunities each day to help out your hydration.

Use a straw

They help you drink much faster, leading to a larger volume.  It is common advice to avoid straws when drinking alcohol because of this.  Due to the mindless-ness of the act, it wont feel like a chore and  you can empty a water bottle pretty quickly.  It also makes drinking in the car easier and less prone to spillage.

2015-01-12 14.45.23

Drink Alternative Beverages

In general water is best.  It is certainly better than soda or juice for hydration, but it is not the only option.  Many people are so bored with water the thought of drinking 8 glasses a day is such an imposition.  Unsweetened hot or iced tea is a wonderful alternative as it has frequently been linked to its own health benefits.  They also come in a wide range of flavors.  Pay attention to caffeine intake and drink throughout the day.  You can also infuse water produce or herbs.  Cucumbers, mint, berries and watermelon all make great, refreshing water that are almost calorie free.  Just put your desired flavoring agents in a jug of water overnight and enjoy the next day.

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Don’t forget about Exercise

Anytime you work out, remember you are losing water.  Even light yoga or weight lifting should have you pre and re-hydrating.  Have a glass before you work out and keep a bottle on you during.  Exercise may trigger your thirst so embrace it.  In addition to being healthful, it can also prevent dangerous situations.  Dehydration can cause dizziness, being light headed, and having reduced coordination.  All of these can lead to serious injury if you are active – think dropping  your weight, falling on a treadmill or blowing out a joint due to poor form.

Track It

You never really know how much you drink throughout the day if you don’t pay attention to it.  Physically tracking it, at least initially, can clue you in to whether or not you are meeting your needs.  There are a ton of different methods you can try.  If you track your food intake in a written food journal or online, just add in all of your beverages as well.  If you carry a water bottle with you and refill it during the day, keep a sticky note by you and make a tally mark every time you finish a bottle.  Or you can per-portion all of your water for the day and when its done, you know that you have reached your goal.waterbottle

What do you do to keep hydrated?

Fitness In the Office

So its the new year and you want to jump start your fitness routine.  Maybe you want to join a gym or a studio, or start training for a race or event.  All of those are excellent goals! Sometimes though, our resolutions fizzle and we realize we don’t have actually have the time, money or motivation to dedicate to those kinds of large scale interventions.  If you need alternatives to these big commitments, I have you covered.

Don’t worry that you aren’t doing something big enough.  With the new year everyone wants to go all out.  Just remember, if you can do the small thing all year but can only go gangbusters for a month, slow and steady may win this race.  Here are a bunch of small tricks that can add up to help you get moving in 2015

Look at your commute.

See if you have any places you can make adjustments.  Check out how I built 60 minutes of activity into my daily routine.

Train CollageBe inefficient. 

What? Someone of German decent advocating being wasteful?  The way most of our life is structured is to do the fastest thing.  Drive. Send an email.  Have a video conference instead of a meeting.  We are all about doing the least amount to get the most time/benefit.  This leads us to sit. All. Day. Long.  Analyze your work environment and see where you can make some adjustments.  Try walking over to a colleges office to discuss an issue rather than sending an email.  Offer to walk across the street to get the morning coffee. Round everyone up for a meeting by physically going to each office.This actually makes you more personable as well so 2 birds, one stone.

Plan fitness breaks.

This is actually good for productivity and morale.  Make a schedule, something like every hour get up from your chair and stretch or take a lap for as long as you can.  Obviously office culture dictates whether you can take off for 15 minutes or if more than 3 will get you in trouble.  Even if you take 1 minute every hour is better than nothing and it may be enough to loosen you up.  And think about it; do your coworkers get to leave for a smoke break? If so, think about taking advantage of that time do something positive for your health.  And don’t forget, you can always dance! Play a song or two on your computer or iPod and boogie.  Its fun and you may get an office mate to join in with you.

Dancing 2
Me and some old co-workers during lunch, inspired by the Olympics.
Dancing
And who says you need a partner?

Embrace lunch time.

There is so much that you can do at lunch.  If you have the space, bring a yoga mat or some small weights and stash them in your office.   Then commit 10 or 15 minutes to a light work out.  Basic Pilates, yoga or weight training are all possible at the office.  You can try and listen to a yoga podcast to guide or you go free-form.  You can also try some of these moves:

  • Calf raises – While standing, rise up onto  your tippy toes. Hold for a second or 2 and then come back down to flat feet.
  • Bicep Curls – Use weights or a full water bottle
  • Triceps Extensions
  • Squats – Safety tip: never let your knees go in front of your toes.  Focus on sitting back, not necessarily sitting down.
  • Push ups – Feel free to start on your knees for an easier modification
  • Sit ups
  • Lunges
  • Planks – Hold it as long as you can and gradually work your way up to 30 seconds or a minute
  • Leg extensions – While sitting in your chair, slowly  bring one or both legs up so they are parallel to the floor, then bring down with control

A good flow is to do an exercise 10-15 times in a row, rest and then repeat the series 2 more times.

If you don’t have the space to really spread out, consider doing a couple flights of stairs while you wait for your lunch to microwave or coffee to brew.  You can also walk to a local restaurant to pick up lunch rather than driving.

Own It

Have confidence and just go for it.  You may feel silly at first. Don’t let it limit you.  If you want to make fitness a priority, your attitude can take you a long way.  Sticking out at the office may not be your favorite thing to do, but if you think about it, you would be sticking out for a very positive reason.  It may also encourage your co-workers to follow suit.  I walk to work, take stretching and fitness breaks and talk about my fitness tracker all day long.  Now 2 of my coworkers (30% of the office) have followed suit.  One keeps sneakers in her office to walk during lunch and another just purchased her first FitBit.  If you own your health you wont be silly and you may become a trendsetter.

own it
You can do it!

Use these suggestions as a guide and analyze your work environment to see how you can make healthy changes.

How do you work fitness into your work day?