Friday, March 16, 2012

Hello Finland!

Blogger allows you to see where people are in the world that view your blog.  I hit a new country today and thought I'd say, "Hello!".  Thus, the blog title.

I've been meaning to write about my favorite exercise benefit of all time: how you feel.  And, ironically enough, I haven't been feeling well lately and so I've put it off.  I re-started an exercise routine early in the year and I was quite frustrated that I wasn't "seeing" any benefits.  The scale barely moved at all.  I've spoken with friends and family a lot about their weight loss goals and that always seems to be the biggest complaint.  "I'm not seeing any change!" 

In my limited personal experience, I was feeling the same frustration.  However, I did notice one thing different.  It may not make any sense, since there were no physical changes yet, but in my first few weeks of working out, I felt different.  The perfect way to describe it would be that I felt less fat.  My skin felt tighter, I felt more compact.  Four weeks into my work out schedule, the scale still hadn't moved but I lost inches.  Not in all the places that I was "feeling thinner" but enough to give some motivations to keep going.

In my battle with anxiety and depression, I've also noticed that the way I feel when I'm on a regular exercise schedule is like waking up to a sunny sky every morning.  Its been my best cure to a bad mood or frustrations with life. 

Now I'm the first to tell you that I don't believe in cure-alls.  This blog is called "The Balance" because I sincerely believe that happiness in daily living comes from a balance of all health aspects (Social, Spiritual, Physical etc).  But I can tell you that when one is lagging, like Physical, the others suffer as well.  And the opposite holds true.  When one is improved, it improves the others.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Confessions and Observations

I have one confession and two observations to share today.  Confession first.

My degree geared me towards a career in Corporate Wellness.  Most companies provide some type of Wellness Program for their employees to help prevent sick days and insurance payouts (yep, its all about the bottom line for them).  But because they worry about the bottom line, you can take advantage of the program as an employee to worry about your health bottom line.

My current employer has a wonderful Employee Wellness Program.  It provides use of their on site facilities, testing to measuree your current health status, consultation on that status, nutrition classes, and even some personal training, along with monetary rewards for participation in health improving activities (such as physicals, yearly check ups, dental check ups, reading a health/nutrition book, taking a fitness class, etc).  See?  Wonderful!

Here's my confession:  I don't currently participate.  There are lots of complicated, justifiable reasons why, but that changes as of today!  Yes, today I seek to rectify my hypocrisy and begin my participation in the program.  I'm actually looking forward to it because of the other element of the program: 3 hours a week of work-release wellness time.  I get to be off work for three hours this week just so I can go and do my workouts.  This is going to greatly increase my ability to stick with it.  If I want to leave work early, I HAVE to get on the treadmill.  What's more motivation than getting paid to work out?

Okay, on to the observations. 

Yesterday, after a particularly stressful day at work, I had 1) a headache and 2) a very big wish to just go home and veg out in front of my TV.  The headache and the work frustration started building off of each other to the point where I started justifying why it would be okay for me to skip gym night and just go home.  But thanks to some internal motivation and not wanting to disappoint my work-out buddy, I went to the gym anyway.  And here is what I observed at the end of my work out:

1.) My headache was mostly gone.  It still ached a little but the pounding and squeezing had stopped.  Now, this isn't entirely scientific.  I'll admit to taking some headache medicine before my work out, but I took a lot less then my body is used to having. 

and 2.) My mood was considerably brightened.  Again, it helps that the headache was almost gone but I want to chalk it up to my favorite type of mood altering chemical: Endorphins.  It seems silly, and for me it might be a placebo effect but who cares?  I felt a ton better.  Actually more upbeat and cheerful instead of gloomy and depressed.  I felt more powerful physically (we'll have to discuss my work-out power trip another time), and thus more able to overcome my difficulties at work.  Now did anything at work really change?  No.  Me moving a stack of weights up and down didn't change a single thing about my life.  However, it did change my attitude.  Boiling things down to one simple action, moving a stack of weights, counting to 20, can bring all of the crazy into focus.  I've always seen it as a form of meditation.

And here's the happy quote of the day:

"Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy.  Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't."
-Legally Blonde

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ab Exercises I Want To Try

As I was scouring the Internet for anything interesting/entertaining (a daily habit of mine), I found something educational; My favorite thing to find on the Internet! I read this article and was impressed with the ab exercises they were showing. I might just be working these into my workout!

Here's the full article:

If you just want to just watch the videos:

If you try them, let me know how it goes!

My new Favorite Book

So in my efforts to improve my overall health, I started reading a book that I bought a long time ago under the persuasions of a favorite professor but never read more than the first page. In my defense I was finishing my last semester of college (or at least, what I thought was my last semester) and trying to focus on de-stressing.

Well, I started reading it in January and while I haven't finished it yet, it is one of the best books on the subject of physical health that I have ever read. Including every text book in my college career (I have a health and fitness degree if I haven't mentioned that before). It clearly illustrates what the current never ending and always conflicting science supports as to what actually promotes health.

I could give you the simple summary equation but I don't want that to deter you from reading the entire book. Its not a very long read neither is it complicated. The author is very good at summarizing the research without falling into diction that is hard to understand. The research that he refers to is simply astounding and as a student of health, I was even surprised at what I learned. Now I will tell you the equation to good health because I don't want it to sound like his book is the same as all the others that claim to be the cure-all for every disease or body malfunction out there. This equation certainly wouldn't cure my own personal physical disorder. And when I tell you what it is, you're going to have two thoughts. You're going to think "That's it?" and "But there are so many reasons why I can't do that".

Okay, if that wasn't enough of a drum roll, I give up. Here it is:

Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grain and Regular Exercise

That's it in a health-nutshell. You can't get more simple than that but you're going to think "But I only like a few vegetables, whole grain is expensive and I don't like the taste, fruits are so hard to eat before they go bad and I am so busy already how could I find time to exercise all the time?" Well, if you're like me at all, you'd think some of those things. But my response to that is: READ THE BOOK. It will give you the motivation to strongly consider a change in your habits. If not change them right away.

Oh, I guess I should tell you the name of the book. Its called The Culprit and The Cure by Steven Aldana. It was a very well spent $13. I'm considering it as my standard birthday/Christmas/Wedding/Baby Shower/St. Patrick's Day/Any-other-event-I-can-think-of present.

Been Awhile

Well I'm back. After some...well, we'll call it "time", I've decided to come back and continue my blog. And here are my explanations why:

1.) I've become clinically overweight

2.) I've written a new exercise program for myself

3.) I'm having a hard time motivating myself

4.) And everything else that has happened in the "time" that I've been neglectful

So here I go again!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stress Management

I found this in the Harvard Special Health Report of May 2006 under the title "Stress Control".

"Glance at the 10 leading causes of death in America, and you won't find the word 'stress' anywhere. Yet many well-respected studies link stress to heart disease and stroke--2 of the top 10 killers. Heart disease alone was responsible for more than one in three deaths in 2002. Stress may also influence cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases, which rank as numbers 2 and 4, respectively, in the top 10.

Stress has implications for many other ailments as well. Depression and anxiety, which afflict millions of Americans, can be caused or exacerbated by stress. Stress also triggers flare-ups of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and gastrointestinal problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome. And illness is just the tip of the iceberg. Stress effects you emotional as well, marring the joy you draw from life and loved ones.

What is stress? For one thing, it's not all bad. Your perception of a real or imagined threat can spark the stress response, a physiological cascade that prepares the body to fight or flee. That swift reflex was encoded in you for survival and can save you from injury or worse. It's a rush of hormones that spurs you to jump out of the path of a speeding car, or quickly douse a small fire. Stress has another positive side as well. Researchers have found that as stress or anxiety increases, so do performance and efficiency--at least initially. At a certain point, though, rising stress becomes detrimental, and performance and efficiency tumble.

Trouble usually brews when the stress response is evoked repeatedly, causing unnecessary wear and tear on the body for less then momentous reasons. In a world bursting with situations that can elicit the stress response--traffic jams, layoffs, illness, and money woes--it's not surprising that many people experience stress frequently. Certainly, no one can completely avoid stressful situations. Yet it's entirely possible for each of us to influence how these situations affect us.

As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. It took much longer to raise the scaffolding that supports the negative cycle of stress in your life, too. Learning to dismantle it will also take time. Yet your efforts can reward you richly with better health, greater peace of mind, and a smoother, more joyful course through life."

Incorporating a little stress management into your daily routines seems like just one more thing to add to our daily to-do lists. But the effects of stress on your emotions and your body are very real. The great thing about stress management is that you can experience instant results. After a bout of meditation, you do feel better, more relaxed and calm right away. Although, in order for long term effects to take place, you have to make it a long term goal.

There are quite a few methods and theories that go along with stress management. Some of my favorite theorists include Leo Buscaglia, Viktor Frankl and Wayne Dyer. Each believed stress comes into our lives for different reasons and so they each have different methods for dealing with stress. Each of them, however, are correct in their own right. I don't believe there is one solution to effectively deal with stress, nor do I believe that there is just one method for each individual. Rather, I believe that all different methods can be applied, and may be needed in order to effectively deal with stress.

Leo Buscaglia's leading theory revolved around love and self-love. His determination that if we improve the amount of love we show others and ourselves, we experience less stress. Wayne Dyer saw that all stress comes from worry about the future and guilt over the past. He believed that focusing simply on the present could decrease all the stress in our lives. Viktor Frankl developed his theory through his Nazi concentration camp survival. He understood that seeking for or having a meaning in your life can help you withstand the major stressors in life. I believe that keeping an eye on the bigger picture of life can help us deal with and overcome any stressor.

The methods and activities that can be used for stress management are numerous. Meditation is one that frequently comes to mind. It can be difficult though. To force yourself to sit and empty your mind of everything except one simple word or phrase can be frustrating and discouraging. Few understand that meditation can happen in a variety of settings and in a variety of activities.

Playing a game of volleyball, for example, can be used as meditation. You are emptying your mind of everything except what is happening in the present moment (Wayne Dyer's philosophy also). That can be exceptionally freeing for your mind and thought process. Going for a run is similar.

Deep breathing is another very simple form of stress relief. Pausing for a moment to concentrate on taking a few deep breaths in and out seems too simple for it to actually have an effect. Try it. You'll be amazed at how quickly you can make yourself feel just a little more calm by taking a few deep breaths.

Mindfulness is one of my favorite methods of stress management because it does not take any extra time during your day. You can do it all day long even. Mindfulness is the practice of living in the moment. Thats not to say that you're forgetting about consequences of your actions and doing what you please. Its a matter of putting more of Wayne Dyer's theory into practice. You let go of your worry for the future and the guilt over what happened in the past. If it is not currently occurring at the moment, then don't think about it. You can do this while completing a project at work. Simply focus on that single project and you'll find that your ideas and thoughts come more easily because your brain is not being forced to think of numerous ideas all at once. You can do it while your cleaning or doing chores also. Just simply become observant of the things that are happening right then, the feel of the keys under your fingers, the way your hands move, the way your muscles flex when you shift positions, the feel of the air on your skin or the smell of your surroundings.

Humor is another favorite method of relaxation. Laughter has the most amazingly complex and positive effect on the body and a majority of its systems. I can talk for 14 pages (and have) about the positive effects of laughter on the body. But laughter has an emotional component to it as well. After experiencing a bout of laughter, your mind is in creativity mode. You will find that you may come up with the best solutions to your problems after a good laugh. Your brain is also being filled with good feeling hormones like endorphins. These can give you a more positive outlook on situations. Try taking a regular humor break during the day. Collect funny pictures, stories, or videos and look over them or search for new ones. You could also contact someone who always makes you laugh. Keeping people around you that have a good or similar sense of humor can make situations much easier to handle.

Sometimes just setting aside time for yourself and your favorite activity everyday can make a world of difference. I read a quote somewhere that said, "Water cannot be drawn from an empty well. If you don't take time for yourself, the less and less you'll have to give to others, including your children."

Those are powerful words and a powerful reminder that we really do suffer when we don't make an effort to decrease or more effectively deal with the amount of stress in our lives. And taking time for yourself is not a crime. Like the saying says, the less time you take for yourself, the less you'll have to give to others. Building your reserves helps you and everyone you come in contact with. And don't forget, stress also raises the level of bad cholesterol in your body and supports weight gain by the body.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Why? What's the Point?

A lot of times the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle is retarded because we start asking the “why” questions. When we stop seeing the point to all of our hard work, it makes it easier to give in to our immediate satisfaction demands. Questions like “What’s the point?”, “Is it really going to make a difference?” and “Is it even working?” are good because they make us pause and re-evaluate what we’re doing. But if we don’t have the answers to those questions our resultant conclusion is “it’s not worth it” and we stop.

“Is it worth it?” is the one question we always need to have an answer to or our own motivation will suffer and decline into nonexistence. No one can successfully illicit a permanent lifestyle or behavioral change if they do not value the change or the end result. Everyone at times gets discouraged and experiences disappointment in their attempts to live healthier. It happens to everyone. Seriously, it wouldn’t be life if we didn’t fail every once in awhile.

But the key to success, however cliché it may be, is to get up and try again. The key is perseverance and endurance. My favorite motivational phrase I use when everything just seems like too much is “keep on keepin’ on”. Sometimes the only thing we can do is just keep on going no matter.

In our journey towards a permanent change, we have extra help. It’s called a purpose. When we truly believe that what we are doing will get us to our end goal and that our end goal is worthwhile we will be successful. And when times hit that make it hard to continue and we begin to forget the goal or forget how much that goal means to us, we give ourselves a reminder.

These reminders can be simple words or phrases posted in our rooms and on our mirrors that help us remember the “why” or they can be more powerful written anecdotes in which we realized we needed a change. Maybe a picture of us that showed us how unhealthy we really are. Or maybe a picture of the new dress we really wanted but are afraid to buy because of the way we would look in it. Maybe it’s a picture of our spouse, who we wish we could do more with. Or our kids, who we want to be able to see graduate, marry and have kids of their own. Maybe we just don’t want to live in fear of dying early.

No matter what our reminder is, it is personal and motivational to us. Here are a few common examples of benefits of a healthy lifestyle. They may mean nothing to you or one may mean a lot. I would like to issue you a challenge though. Try and find a potential benefit of living a healthy life that is specific and motivating for you. Then use that benefit as your reward for your achievement and a way to help you keep on keepin’ on.

  • Increase positive thinking and improve mood
  • Reduce the risk of developing chronic disease
  • Get sick less often
  • Reduce healing time when you do get sick
  • Get better sleep
  • Have a better sex life
  • Save money in medical bills, health care and clothes.