Category: Superhero Body


Squirell-ator

During a long workout or on days when you’re just not inspired you may be tempted to read, watch television or talk while you workout. Yes this may keep your mind busy and trick you into thinking your workout went by faster than normal, but what you may not know is that you are actually causing more harm than good.

The mind-body connection is always strong, but never as strong as it is during exercise. Exercising with your mind detached from the activity makes just as much sense as eating bag of potato chips then going for a walk. Why is it such a bad idea? Several reasons:

  1. If your mind is focused on the television, book, phone, or friend on the treadmill next to you, your body is not in proper form. Improper form leads to injury.
  2. Mindful exercise is more effective than when you “zone out.” According to a recent study published in the New York Times, participants who were mindful during physical activity had lower blood pressure and lost more weight than those who worked with distractions.
  3. If you’re distracted, then you’re not operating at maximum output. Half-ass effort yields half-ass results.

So how do you practice mindful exercise?

  1. Before you begin your workout take stock of your mental and emotional state. If you’re feeling

    Via Woman's Day

    blah, sad, or otherwise less than grand an attitude adjustment may be in order. Your attitude has a major impact on the effectiveness of your workout. This post from Mindful Muscle goes into greater detail about state of mind and its effects on workouts, but I doubt anyone would disagree that attitude is a big part of any endeavor, exercise or otherwise.

  2. Eliminate all unnecessary distractions. I find that listening to music helps me focus and block out everything, but for others it’s a distraction. You know best what makes your mind wander.
  3. As you work out focus on the muscles you are targeting. If you’re doing a triceps press, focus on isolating the muscles as you contract. Concentrate on your breathing, making sure to exhale on exertion. You will notice that you feel the contraction deeper in the muscle and that you will feel a higher level of exertion than when you workout with distractions.

Try it for a week while also tracking how you feel before, during, and after your workouts. Trust me, you’ll notice a major difference.

Advertisements

We’ve all heard that a diet rich in fiber helps promote weight loss and fight disease such as cancer, but exactly how does fiber do that?

First of all, its important to understand that there are two different kinds of fiber—insoluble (dietary) and soluble. Insoluble fiber cannot be absorbed into the blood stream. Instead it promotes your digestive health by speeding up the removal of material in your digestive tract. By removing waste, insoluble fiber helps reduce the risk of such diseases as colon cancer and helps minimize discomfort from an unhealthy digestive system. Sources of insoluble fiber include whole grain cereals, wheat bran, and the skins of fruits and vegetables.

Soluble fiber is fiber that can be absorbed. This type of fiber has been shown to help lower bad cholesterol (which reduces your risk of heart disease) and helps with weight loss. This is because soluble fiber makes you feel fuller longer, causing you to eat less especially when paired with lean protein. Good sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, beans and legumes, oat bran, barley, and citrus.
Health professionals suggest that the average adult consume 20 to 35 grams of dietary fiber per day. This goal can be met with a well-balanced, varied diet consisting of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and at least 3 servings of whole grains.  A serving of a fiber supplement such as Metamucil 30 minutes before each meal will also help you get enough fiber and curb your appetite so you can avoid binging during meals.

Would Batman be Batman without the batlike getup? Could Magento have been as menacing if his trusty helmet wasn’t blocking Professor X’s mental intrusions? Most likely not. The clothes don’t make the person, but they do go a long way to completing the persona and often give the superhero that extra boost of power they need to completely take the superhero plunge (remember Spiderman’s over-sized pajamas . . . exactly!)

No matter what kind of superhero you are–an environmental hero, teacher, police officer, volunteer, or socially conscious business owner–you need to dress the part if you want people to take you seriously. More than 90% of a person’s judgement of you is made before they ever hear you speak. Looks are the biggest part of the quintessential first impression, and yes first impressions do matter especially for the aspiring hero. You don’t want to start off with a bad impression. Witness, exhibit A:

Courtesy of the Fail Blog

A true superhero knows that to look the part they need to:

  1. Dress appropriately for the occasion: An environmental hero knows to wear comfy shoes and to come armed with trash bags and antibacterial hand lotion when attacking a dirty park. Just like a police officer doesn’t fight crime without his badge and uniform.
  2. No B-O for the Hero: Good hygiene is a must for any superhero. I’m not saying sacrifice personal style here. Piercings, tattoos, colored hair, and other expressions are all a-okay in the superhero handbook. What’s not good is offensive body odor, creepy toenails that look more like talons, and greasy hair and skin so slick we could oil down a whole fleet of semis (shutter).
  3. Clothes that fit: Clothes that are either too big or too small look all wrong. Clothes that fit make you look and feel good, and when you feel good your confidence exudes that superhero strength people respond to.
  4. Signature style: No two superheroes look-alike. Each one has their own unique look to match their persona. Develop your own signature style, one that lets villains and citizens alike recognize you and what you stand for.

We all know that we have to dress to impress. That phrase means even more to the hero. So be sure to dress the part. People will notice your hero style and respond in kind. It’s just one more step toward achieving your hero status.

Eating healthy when you’re busy is next to impossible, but if I could do it as a single parent and a full-time student and still lose weight, then so can you! In order to stay on track I had to rely on some quick staples and a few think ahead techniques.

Here is my list of healthy staples:

  1. Kashi: Kashi makes an amazing line of whole grain, low-sodium, low-sugar organic snacks. Every single item they make fits into the 10 ingredient rule and stores easily. They also have some healthy frozen meals to keep on hand for those days when you don’t have time to make lunch. Plus, their chewy oatmeal and dark chocolate cookies are awesome!
  2. Frozen fruit and veggies: Healthy meals are a snap with frozen goodies on stand by. You can get organic fruits and veggies in the frozen section of any grocery store. Use what you need when you need them and pair them with a sandwich, chicken breast, or make a light stir fry. Use low-fat greek yogurt and frozen fruit for a healthy, protein rich smoothie on the go. You can drink your breakfast on your way to work or school. **Tip: Get a single serve blender that doubles as a to-go cup. It’s quick and leaves you with less dishes to clean.
  3. Stretch Island Fruit: These tasty chewy treats equal 1/2 serving of fruit and are void of unnatural dyes and white sugars. Pair them with a granola bar, string cheese, or a handful of nuts for a quick snack. Plus, since they’re fruit leather they’ll keep well in the pantry or in your desk at work.
  4. V-8: Get a serving a vegetables fast by keeping V-8 on hand. The big jug is cheaper per serving, but the individual jars are handy for those crazy mornings. Of course, don’t forget to recycle your cans!

Take time once a week to prep your meals and snacks for the whole week. Here are a few make ahead ideas to get you started:

  1. On Sunday make a batch of quinoa, rice, or lentils that can be mixed and matched with different veggies and proteins throughout the week. Use the frozen veggies and precooked meats for super fast meals.
  2. Pre-pack veggies, fruits, and nuts into reusable 1/2 and 1 cup containers that you can grab and go. You can do the same thing with cottage cheese and yogurt. (Plus, by doling out single servings, you’re keeping your consumption in check).
  3. Invest in a crockpot and create healthy one-pot dinners like chili or a seasonal stew. Not only are they easy to make but they save energy (compared to the oven) and make enough servings for more than one meal.
  4. Precook a batch of turkey or chicken that can be used in sandwiches or stir fry or paired with veggies.
  5. Use low or no sodium added chicken, tuna, salmon packed in cans with water (no oils here) to make quick meals. Top on salads, pair with ezekiel bread/tortillas, or add them to casseroles.
  6. Boil a dozen eggs. They make great snacks, protein for salads, or pair them with avocado and ezekiel bread for a fast lunch.

The key is to have plenty of things on hand ready to go for those inevitable mornings when you’re running behind. A little prep work on Sunday, combined with some good ole stand-bys can make the difference to keeping you committed to eating healthy (and staying on budget).

As many of you know, I’m a bit of a health nut. I haven’t always been this way. In fact, I only made the change in the past two years. Before that I was a fast food munching, junk food junkie who treated myself to cake on a daily basis and spent most of my time on the computer.

Then my dad was diagnosed with cancer.

Now my dad is not and has never been healthy–not as long as I’ve known him. He’s a type 1 juvenile diabetic. Over the years he’s gone into diabetic shock more times than I can count, letting his blood sugar waver from below 30 to well above 200 (ideal range is 80-120). He didn’t exercise, ate horrible food, drank, chewed tobacco, and when he had a sugar low instead of eating healthy to maintain his sugar he would counter with a dozen candy bars.

Overtime he developed acid reflux disease (among other things). Repeatedly it ate away at his esophagus until finally his body couldn’t keep up with the repairs. The cells turned cancerous. They gave him a 20% survival rate because of his diabetes, but even if he survived cancer he wouldn’t be the same because he already had advanced renal disease (a side of effect of his diabetes) and the chemo was sure to accelerate that, meaning he would have to start dialysis.

Family members, including myself,  took turns taking my dad to chemo. I sat in the waiting room, reading all of the literature on cancer and other serious diseases. In the many materials where some consistent statements:

  • 1/3 of all cancers are lifestyle related
  • Healthy diet and exercise can prevent cancer
  • Organic foods are best

My dad’s cancer was a result of acid reflux disease. Like many things, my dad didn’t change his diet or manage the acid reflux. Added to his other heath issues, it was bound to happen.

So I sat there in the recovery room with my dad after chemo as he’s being re-hydrated. He has to get up and vomit several times. He was 6’2″ and 225lb when he was diagnosed with cancer. Now,vomiting what little he was able to swallow, his 160lb frail frame staggers back to his chair to finish with the nurse. I’m holding the informational materials on cancer, trying to be strong because right now I just want to cry. I love my dad, but that stubborn bastard can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. He couldv’e taken better care of himself. It would’ve saved us money (medications, hospital costs, monthly checks with the specialists, etc) and my mom wouldn’t be up half the night, jumping at every weird sound he makes, checking to make sure he’s still breathing.

That was when I decided I’m not putting my daughter through this.

Why am I telling you all this? Because, I want you to understand that your health doesn’t just affect you. It affects everyone around you. The consequences of poor health can take a severe emotional and financial toll on your family and friends. At least once a week I have a nightmare about my father’s health. It’s hardest on my mother of course. I always wish I could do something more.

I decided to set an example.

It was hard at first. I love cake, and I ‘m not keen on cold, hard veggies. I was working 60+ hours a week and going to school full-time and the sole caregiver for my then four-year old daughter. Of course, my siblings and I have all earned my father’s stubborn streak, so I made sure to use it to my advantage. I didn’t see much difference at first. It took time to change all those little bad habits. In October 2009 I made the commitment to go full throttle. I lost 20lbs of pure fat and dropped from a 12 to a 2. Although I look good, I feel even better. I can go with my daughter to the park. I can go on a 4 mile run and come home and paint a room and still have energy to go dancing. Many of my health issues subsided. Best of all, my daughter loves that I don’t tell her I’m too tired and she knows that I’m doing everything in my power to insure I’ll be there for her for a very long time.

My father’s health issues have been hard on my daughter too. She loves my dad. She’s grandpa’s little girl. It only shows how far one impacts people, and how devastating their decisions can be when they choose not to take care of themselves.

My dad survived the cancer, but he did have to start dialysis. He’s getting a transplant for Christmas, courteous of my mother’s donated kidney. So now I have the stress of having both of my parents in the hospital during Christmas–not my idea of a holiday. I try to keep that to myself, don’t talk about it in front of my mom or dad. They don’t read my blog (they’re not tech savvy) so it’s okay. I can let it out here.

So I implore you, take care of yourself. Get healthy. Go exercise. Lay off the junk food. If not for yourself, do it for your children.

Heroes know that balance and strength are important. Balance and strength of body, spirit, and mind empower the hero to take life’s challenges and to do their part to make the world a better place. Yoga is an excellent way to achieve that balance.

Yoga is a three thousand year old Hindu practice uniting body, spirit, and mind. There are four spiritual yogas, and much of the physical work/exercise we associate with yoga stems from each of the four yoga paths. The four paths are:

  1. Karma-yoga: This is the path of selfless action, the path that frees one from the ego.
  2. Bhakti-yoga: This is the path of devotion, the path that teaches that love is the most basic human emotion.
  3. Raja-yoga: The path of concentration and meditation, the process of igniting the flame of knowledge through careful and repeated practice and meditation.
  4. Jnana-yoga: The path of knowledge and discrimination, the path to a pure and enlightened existence.

Much of what we know in the West as yoga are physical spin offs of one or more of the four yogas. Some of the more common practices popular in the United States are:

  1. Anusara: This method focuses on lifting the heart to the divine. All poses work to open the body and heart to the heavens.
  2. Ashtanga: This method uses heat and breath to purify the body and spirit of toxins.
  3. Bikram: Also called heated yoga, it combines 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises while working in a room typically heated to 105 degrees.
  4. Hatha: This actually encompasses all physical renditions of yoga. All yoga practices fall under this. Still, some studios use this term.
  5. Iyengar: Nicknamed “furniture yoga,” it incorporates blocks, straps, and other tools to help the practitioner get into a more perfect pose.
  6. Jivamukti: This method tries to incorporate more of the traditional spiritual practices if yoga with extreme physical practice.

Of course, there are several more, each one a slight deviation from the next, but all work to align the mind, body, and spirit.

This month, many yoga studios are offering special classes. Most studios offer at least one free class to new students year round, some offer as much as a week, making it easy for you to try out studios and find one that works best for you. Take advantage of National Yoga Month and learn how yoga can help you find balance and strength.

When we think of exercise we think mainly of the effects it has on our physical health. The benefits of exercise extend well beyond the physical, stabilizing and energizing both our emotional and mental faculties. In essence, exercise feeds the brain, and too many of us our starving.

Author John Medina in his book Brain Rules says that “physical activity is cognitive candy.” The brain needs food, oxygen, rest, and low stress to perform well and exercise plays a big part in integrating those elements and breaking them down into things the brain can use.

  1. People who exercise tend to eat healthier. Healthy feed promotes an active brain.
  2. Exercise boosts oxygen in the blood, including blood flowing to the brain.
  3. Exercise helps you sleep better. A well rested mind is more alert.
  4. Exercise boosts feel good hormones, which reduce stress. Stress can cripple brain function.

It doesn’t take much exercise to see the benefits in your mental health. A peaceful walk, yoga, jazzercise, kickboxing–getting down on the dance floor Saturday night–it all helps stimulate the brain. In what ways can you feed your brain today?

Happy, healthy superheroes know that simple unprocessed foods are the way to go. Reading labels and carefully scrutinizing the ingredients is a great way to identify bad foods–especially those masquerading as “healthy.” Still, sometimes its hard to know if you’re buying the right things. That’s why I follow the 10 ingredient rule:

Only buy items with 10 ingredients or less

Spices don’t count–they’re freebies (except for salt of course) and keep it to ingredients you can pronounce. That’s the quick and dirty way to weed out the bad stuff. More than 10 ingredients and it’s becoming too processed. More than 10 syllables per ingredient and you’re in trouble.

10 fingers, 10 toes, 10 ingredients. It makes just makes sense. Happy eating!

Superheroes know organic is better for our bodies and for the planet, but most people believe organic foods are expensive, hard to find, and out of reach. Now, I’m a coupon clipping, budget conscious mom yet I’ve been able to easily integrate organic choices into my family’s diet. It just takes a little know how and a few tricks:

  1. Focus on the dirty dozen. Although 100% organic would be great, for some people its just not feasible. That’s why Environmental Working Group puts out an annual list of the dirty dozen–the top 12 fruits and vegetables known to have the highest and most harmful concentrations of pesticides and chemicals. If you can’t go 100% organic, focus on just replacing the dirty dozen with organic choices.
  2. Shop in season. The reason organic is sometimes more expensive is because, out of season, organic is more expensive to produce. In season, organic fruit and vegetables are considerably cheaper. One, because it has a shorter shelf life and needs to move quickly. Two, because organic produces abundant crops in season. Plus, focusing on seasonal choices forces you to add variety to your diet and to eat in a way that’s more in tune with your bodies natural processes.
  3. Shop local. Not only is it great to show support for your local farmers and ranchers, it’s cheaper too. You cut out the middle man and if you frequent the farmer’s markets and small outlets on a regular basis, you can develop a rapport with the producers–and get in on some good deals reserve for loyal customers.
  4. Shop like the Europeans do. One of the biggest issues is that many Americans end up throwing away huge amounts of food. We buy too much at a time, so the fruits and veggies go bad before we’ve had a chance to consume them. I’ve been guilty of it too and have to wrangle myself when I’m surrounded by sales and delicious looking fruit. Europeans don’t buy in bulk. They buy enough for a few days or a week maximum, especially for perishables.
  5. Go frozen. Frozen items such as meats, fruits, and vegetables keep longer and often have higher nutrient value than fresh. This is another great way to avoid the waste mentioned above.

Chain stores are also jumping on the organic trend, offering organic choices at competitive prices. As it becomes more popular and more people elect organic over conventional, availability will go up and the price will go down. It’s all part of that vote with your dollar concept I ranted about on Monday’s soapbox.

Are You A Warrior?

The Warrior Dash is coming to Austin this year and our team is ready to go! It will be my first year competing (and I have the Turkey Trot the weekend after) so it will be interesting to see how well I do. For those of you who don’t know what it is, the Warrior Dash is a 5k obstacle course full of mud, fire, barbwire, and shenanigans. That’s right, I said shenanigans.

It’s a fun athletic event that tours the country, hitting up different cities every year. We put a team together from work (mostly ladies) and are scoping out potential costumes. We want to look the part.

The event is followed by an after-party complete with drinks, food, and live music. It spans over three days and sells out fast, so hurry up and check the schedule to see if its coming to your area so you can get in before there’s no room left. Fellow Austinites, you want to hurry!!

Hope to see some of you there!