Archive for April, 2011

Finding Balance

April 15th, 2011

Have you seen that commercial for some low-glycemic index milkshake of some sort that is supposed to help keep your blood glucose levels even?  (Side note: this is marketed to those living with Type 2 diabetes not Type 1 diabetes.) The camera moves as the woman talks about trying to balance her blood glucose levels as pots and pans in her kitchen swing about.  Until, of course, she opens the milkshake can and everything is hunky dory again.

“Balance” is one of those catch phrases these days as we are inundated with too much to do and too little time in which to do it. 

But I’m talking about the kind of balance you CAN and SHOULD work on, every day.  The physical kind of balance!

One of my bootcampers commented today that she feels like she has lost all of her balance.  We kindly reminded her that she has twins younger than 2 years old so she has an entirely different body now than she used to have.

It also reminded me of another bootcamper who came one day about a week after her 40th birthday and reported she read something that said you start to lose your balance capability after the age of 40.  Poor thing, as soon as she read that she felt like she was tripping all over the place.

I’m just saying: (physical) balance is something we should always be aware of, and always work on.

It’s kind of fun to throw a few balance exercises into your daily life!  Brush your bottom teeth standing only on your left foot and brush your top teeth while standing only on your right foot.

Without touching a wall or door jam, try to spell out letters A through E with each foot.  Make the letters as big as possible!

Or you can try this one, which I hadn’t done before I Googled “balance exercises” for this blog.

With either no shoes, or in flat shoes, stand by a chair or table. If during the exercise you begin to feel very unstable, then you can grab and hold onto the chair or table. It is normal to feel slightly unstable doing balance exercises, so only grab if you think you are going to fall. Learning to adjust is how balance will improve.

Put one foot infront of the other, so that the toe of one foot touches the heel of the foot infront. Make sure your feet touch. Pick a point out infront of you and focus on it. Do not look down. Balancing in this position is not as easy as it sounds.

Whenever you feel confident balancing in this position, you can try closing your eyes. When you feel comfortable with this try moving your arms around. Eventually if you have good balance work up to moving upper body backwards and forwards and side to side. Then finally you may be able to try tilting your head back.

If you can close your eyes you are doing really well.

Swap feet. Usually this exercise is easier with the feet one way round. Make sure you do it with both ways.

Fun (and very important) stuff!!

You Smarty(Exerciser)Pants!

April 14th, 2011

We are always trying to separate things out in a somewhat strange way… I mean, do you really ever think you can isolate one muscle group?  Try moving your bicep without recruiting any of your shoulder muscles.  Try doing a pushup or lunge without using your back muscles.

Difficult, isn’t it?  I’d say it is actually impossible.  (A lot like trying to separate emotions from blood glucose swings sometimes… sure, they are different… but they are also inseparable.) 

Those weight machines may not be as useful or functional as you’d like.  Try grabbing a set of dumbbells to enhance your body knowledge and shoot for functional movements instead!

But why should your brain be any different?

Every year more research comes out that supports my long-held belief that exercise supports brain health as well as physical health.  Not only does regular physical exercise support your body, it supports your moods and can help stave off depression. 

More specifically:

One of the more exciting discoveries in neuroscience in the last 20 years has been that the adult brain can continue to make new neurons throughout the lifespan.  It doesn’t happen equally in all brain areas, for reasons that are not totally understood, but it happens readily in one specific area: the hippocampus.  This is an evolutionary older part of the brain that is concerned with forming memories and processing emotion, which may help explain some of the cognitive and emotional benefits of exercise.

Interestingly, aerobic exercise can increase neurogenesis (generation of new neurons) within the hippocampus at many stages of development, including in the neonatal (Kim et al. 2007), juvenile (Lou et al. 2008) and adult brains (van Praag, Kempermann & Gage 1999).  The fact that the hippocampus is a critical brain structure used in memory may explain why aerobic exercise can enhance learning (Vaynman & Gomez-Pinilla 2006).  Furthermore, we know that stress reduces neurogenesis, an effect that may contribute to depression and anxiety (Lucassen et al. 2010).  Therefore, the enhanced neurogenesis brought about by exercise may represent the neurobiological mechanism by which regular exercise reduces depression.

(“Exercise and the Brain” Jeffrey Kleim, PhD March 2011 IDEA Fitness Journal)

Just think of all the benefits regular aerobic exercise can bring not only your body, but your brain as well!! 

Big Efforts, Small Rewards Day 2

April 13th, 2011

 (Hasn’t changed; losing weight is still work.)

As you work at losing weight, you need to congratulate yourself on each mini milestone you reach.  Some celebrate with a pedicure, some with a new workout outfit, some with a massage… and some (ironically) with a nice dinner.  How about a new pair of shoes!

But how do you know which milestone to celebrate?

Weight Watchers used to recognize every five pounds.  Maybe they still do?  But I’m not talking about milestones being numbers—I’m talking about those milestones that make a massive difference in your daily life once you achieve them.

I’ll just list a couple milestones you might want to celebrate.

  1. (A client told me this one the other day and I am still smiling at her progress!) No longer needing to shop in “the big girls” section of a store.  Woot!!
  2. Climbing to your front door while holding groceries… and not being out of breath when you get there!
  3. The XXL pants falling off as you wear them.
  4. Climbing a flight of steps without your knees and/or back hurting.
  5. Going to the grocery store and not once thinking about going down the cracker/chips/cookies aisle… or, thinking about it and deciding to skip the trip down the aisle.
  6. Recognizing that getting in and out of your car is easier than it used to be.
  7. Reaching a certain destination/distance before you need to take a break to catch your breath.
  8. The glorious sound of a zipper zipping up without the painful groans, gasps, or sucks as you struggle.
  9. Hearing yourself say “yes” to an invitation you might not have said yes to previously.
  10. Recognizing that today you made a great effort to take care of that one body you’ve got to make last your entire life. 

If you think about these for a minute or two, you’ll see that these are in no way “small” rewards.  THEY ARE HUGE.  It’s just sometimes we forget them and get discouraged all over again if we’ve had a bad day or the scale says something we don’t want to see.

Try making a list of reasons you want to lose weight.  Yes, an actual, physical, pen and paper list.  Make it full of small reasons and big reasons.  Once you’ve accomplished something on that list, celebrate your progress.

You can do this.

I’m here if you need help.

Big Efforts, Small Rewards Part 1

April 12th, 2011

(You thought it should be the other way around, didn’t you?)

There is no way around it: losing weight takes a LOT of effort.  It is a heck of a lot easier to gain weight by not paying attention to every calorie (most of us already count carbs; now you want us to count calories too?!) than it is to lose weight by following the calories in, calories out fail-proof method.

Especially when that jug of peanut butter or ice cream is calling to us.

We all have a special notion of how big we are, and we all have a special notion of how big we should be.  (That’s “should” for ourselves, from our own mind.)  When we find out those two notions are very far away from each other, it can be a life-changing moment.

For me, I was 23 years old, standing in the second floor women’s department at the Robinson’s-May in Santa Barbara.  I was staring at the displays of QUEEN-sized underwear, about make a purchase.

Yeah; that’s a life-changer right there. 

(And yes, in case you didn’t know, the size on the label is literally in all caps: QUEEN.)

But then once you are fortunate enough to have that moment and know there is no going back for you, there is a heck of a lot of work for the next several months and years ahead.

So you’ve got to recognize that you have a lot of work ahead of you AND you have to work on ways to mark your sure progress along the way.

If you think you should be a size 6 yet all of your pants you can put on say size 22 on their labels, you’d better make temporary friends with size 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, and so forth.  (I say “temporary” friends because you want to make this journey a ONE WAY ticket, never to return to the bigger sizes.  Never ever is your goal!  Seriously; are you enjoying the work of losing weight?  If not, do it right and only do it once.)

I can also tell you the day I was standing in a Macy’s and realized I could shop just as easily in the women’s department, plus sizes, and petite department.  Wacky!  It was kind of like standing in that spot where you can stand in four states at once…. (I think I spent a lot of time shopping for clothes before I realized some self confidence was in order.) 

Recognizing and marking your progress as you move towards a weight loss goal is essential.  Without recognizing the progress you are making, you will undoubtedly lose momentum, lose your way, begin to feel badly about yourself, and head back to the jug of food.

Some weight loss plans suggest you stand on a scale every week.  Some say every day, and some say never stand on a scale but judge your progress by the way your clothes fit and feel.  I think there are ways that work for each of us, but I do think that avoiding a scale altogether can be as dangerous as avoiding the idea of losing weight.

I think you need to see for yourself the way the numbers on the scale change: how they climb, how they fall, and how they seem to stand still for days on end.  It’s exactly like a blood glucose check: just data. 

Just data to help you figure out the next steps you will take.

20 Minute Workouts—Jumping Rope

April 11th, 2011

Did you know you can jump rope with and without a rope?  You can jump rope even if you don’t lift your feet from the ground… so long as your effort is up and energy is high, you’ll get a in a great cardio workout.

Give it a try.  Find 20 minutes for yourself, or even set your alarm for 20 minutes earlier tomorrow and squeeze it in before you do your regular morning routine.

See what happens! (Depending on your cardiovascular fitness, your regular routine, and your dawn phenomenon, you may not need to adjust your insulin as you jump in the morning, but watch for changes in the hour or two after you jump.)

If you do have a jump rope, use it.  If you don’t have a jump rope, hold out your hand right now.  Feel that?  I just handed you an invisible rope! 

Now everyone has a rope, visible or not. 

Find yourself a nice space where jumping rope doesn’t involve breaking anything





Light 20 minute jumprope workout:

Think about keeping your torso erect, standing tall, keeping your abdominals tight and staying light on your feet.

Minutes 1-4: march in place (or around the block and start your timer when you get back), keeping your hands and arms free and mobile

Minutes 5-8: invisible rope for all: jump rope without a rope, alternating feet as you jump, essentially shuffling your feet.  No need to get your feet too far off the ground!

Minute 9: jump rope with alternating feet for 30-60 seconds.

Minutes 10-13: lay your rope on the ground, standing to one side of it the edge of your foot should be parallel with the rope.  Now, hop from one side of the rope to the other from side to side.

Minute 14: jump rope with alternating feet just like in Minute 9.

Minute 15-17: alternate jumping lightly from your right to left foot just like in Minutes 5-8.

Minute 18: one solid minute of double foot jump roping!

Minutes 19-20: cool down by leaving your rope on the ground and marching in place or circling the block in the other direction.

When the 20 minutes are up, take a couple of minutes to stretch your calves, quadriceps, and hamstrings.  Lift one arm up overhead and reach to the opposite wall to stretch your torso; change sides.

Good job!!

Moderate 20 minute jumprope workout:

Same thoughts as above. 

Minutes 1-4: warm up as in the Light workout above.

Minutes 5-7: invisible rope for all: jump rope without a rope, alternating feet as you jump, essentially shuffling your feet.  No need to get your feet too far off the ground!

Minute 8: pick up your rope and continue the same footwork technique as the previous minutes 5-7.

Minute 9: jump rope with both feet for 60 seconds.

Minutes 10-13: sidestep by jumping from the left foot to the right foot, tapping the left foot to the right after skipping over the rope.  Repeat with the right foot.

Minute 14: jump rope with alternating feet for 60 seconds.

Minutes 15-17: put the rope down and jump lightly from left to right foot, swinging your invisible rope with your hands.

Minute 18: pick up your rope and jump with your right foot for 30 seconds and then with your left foot for 30 seconds.

Minutes 19-20: cool down and stretch as in the Light workout above.


(Workouts designed by June Kahn and Lawrence Biscontini, Morning Cardio Workouts.)

Yes or No?

April 8th, 2011

I went for a run last night after my afternoon D.O. it Bootcamp class.  Going out for 7 miles at 5:30pm was one of the last things I wanted to do right then, and knowing I had some tough hills ahead didn’t make it any easier!

It was really cold, and I only had a pair of shorts to run in.  I was very glad I had a long sleeved shirt and gloves if I wanted them.  But still: it was very windy, and just the thought of being out for an additional hour was just making me sad and tired!

So I puttered around for a few minutes, checking my voicemail and email.  Anything to put off my departure!

And then I realized I had puttered away 15 minutes, waiting around in the cold in my shorts.  That seemed pretty silly, so off I went.

I got to run downhill for about a mile, and then start the trek up my first hill.  I was running at a busy time for cars, in an area I needed to watch the sidewalks for cracks, so I was concentrating on being aware of my surroundings as I went.  I was happy gravity was helping me start my first mile.

After about 15 minutes, I was on my way up my first steep hill and suddenly it dawned on me: I never regret getting out there and DOING something. 

My run was still only a third of the way done and here I am getting all nostalgic over what running has brought to my life!

Great.  Maybe I should run by a friend’s house and ask for a tissue.

But in all seriousness, this is a very good thing for each of us to think about.  What are you going to let stand in your way?  What are you going to learn how to figure out so that you can keep going toward your goals?

I was lucky a number of years ago to work for a doctor who ended up being a friend as well.  I still remember the day he came out of an exam room after seeing an 85 year old woman.  I guess the two of them were discussing her life and he asked her if she was happy with what she had experienced over her eight and a half decades or if she had any regrets.  In response, she hit the arm of the chair and said “I wish I had said YES more!”

That lady and her saying that to her doctor has stayed with me ever since. 

I try to say YES to new experiences even if they scare me.  The way I see it, saying NO can be the scarier option.

It’s why I never regret getting out there: I’m saying YES.

What about you?

Hats Off!

April 7th, 2011

Feeling a bit scattered as I sit down to write today: I’ve got a couple things I’ve been meaning to say but none of them are really worth a full 500 word post… so I’ll just jot a few here and we’ll see if we can’t cobble something together in which you can find something  useful.

  1. Hats off to my mom, reporting in from my sister’s place where my mom and dad are visiting to help my sister get ready for the Spring.  My mom says “For me personally, I just helped Dad hoist a 4×8′ sheet of pressed board up into [my sister]’s garage rafters, and I was far more concerned about his shoulder than anything to do with me.” Sweet!
  2. Hats off to my dad, for returning after taking six boring months off of his 12 plus years of daily bootcamp routine for some shoulder surgery, and for his working hard to get his cardio capacity back to what it once was!  Every time I see him he reports how many additional laps he can get in around the track since the previous week.  Awesome!
  3. Hats off to my parents’ friend, also a regular bootcamper, who is in her 70s and considers straight-legged pushups her “party trick”.  J  She just had some stomach surgery and was able to come home from the hospital within 24 hours of the surgery. Impressive on both counts!
  4. Hats off to my bootcamper last year who won a trophy for being the first finisher at a stair climbing fundraiser at the Transamerica building… he made the (approximately) 50 flight climb in 6 minutes!!  (This year he wasn’t able to attend and the first finisher came in at 8 minutes!)
  5. Hats off to my other bootcampers who joined in the fun this year at the Transamerica building… and they went up TWICE that morning, finishing their second trip 9 minutes FASTER than their first trip!
  6. Hats off to one of my personal training clients who has mastered her fear of climbing hills!  I got an email report from her the other day that she and two of her friends spent the afternoon that day not only climbing her dreaded hill once, but TWO TIMES.  That makes me so happy for her!
  7. Hats off to my teacher bootcampers for all the work they have been doing on themselves since September!  It is SO FUN to walk on campus and get stopped by other teachers.  Most conversations begin “are you the bootcamp lady?” and end up with huge massive compliments paid to how great the campers are looking and feeling and sounding as they embrace a more active life through exercise!!

Tell me why I should take my hat off to honor YOUR efforts!  I’m all ears!!!

Wilderness Survival

April 6th, 2011

Do you remember when you were diagnosed with diabetes?  Did the world suddenly become a crazy disorienting dangerous place?

Or did you take the diagnosis in stride, leave the doctor or hospital thinking “I can do this” and learn in the coming weeks or years how perhaps incorrect that initial assumption really was?

Reading this article at today made me smile.  What it takes to survive in the wild isn’t all that different from what it takes to survive living with diabetes!

I will paraphrase the article, although I do think it’s worth a read on its own.  They say that a six year old survives better than an accomplished adventurer or wildlife expert, overall.  (Shout out to the kids on this one!)  Why?

A kid recognizes he or she is lost, and stays close to where they are, unlike an adult who keeps thinking they can find their way and keeps wandering… making it harder for rescue teams to find them!

A kid will rest when he or she is tired, drink when thirsty, and look for shelter when tired.  These things seem like no-brainers, but honestly, now, when was the last time YOU took a nap when you were tired?  By resting when tired, a child will be better able to reduce their stress and mental fatigue.

Think about the kids in your life who are living with diabetes.  Do they ask for help?  Do you think they recognize they need help when it comes to checking blood sugar or help with a low or taking insulin?  (No fair to count teens in this category!  Teens get their own category.  And, for that matter, their own wilderness.)

Does a kid with diabetes sometimes say “I’m tired of this disease” or words like it?  Do they ask a parent to take away their diabetes? 

Six year olds can be so smart.  (And adults can be so silly.)

Go kids!

Is It REALLY All About the Scale?

April 5th, 2011

I read the Joslin blog from a few weeks ago written by C. Ronald Kahn, MD about Obesity and Diabetes.  He writes about the importance of cutting insulin resistance as much as possible in both Type 2 and Type 1 diabetes.

It’s a frustratingly shallow article, overall.  Especially when it’s written by someone with such expertise!!

So here’s my take on some of the topics he mentions:

Cut down your body weight to decrease insulin resistance.  While the Joslin blog doesn’t explain why insulin resistance is considered harmful, I’m willing to pose a few ideas:

Insulin Resistance leads to elevated blood glucose, which in turn leads to damaged micro- and macro-vascular systems that lead to traditional complications of kidney and eye damage.

Excess Insulin removes free fatty acids from the bloodstream and sends them to your body’s fat storage cells.  This creates a circular cycle as added body weight in the form of increased fat stores also increases your body’s resistance to insulin.

Dr. Kahn also says the bottom line is what you see when you step on the scale.  I disagree.  I think the bottom line is somewhat more complicated than that.  I think your body composition matters quite a bit as well as your weight.

You need to increase or at the very least maintain your lean muscle mass if you want to keep yourself strong and healthy for the long haul.  As you age, your body begins to lose its lean muscle at the alarming rate of about 1/2% each year after the age of 25… and that loss doubles after the age of 60 UNLESS YOU STAY ACTIVE with exercise and resistance training.

(Because muscle is more compact than fat, you may be a muscular trim size 6 and weigh more than a weak flabby size 4.)  To maintain your body’s performance, you need to work at preserving and hopefully increasing the lean muscle you have.  It’s never too late to start!

Joslin says it’s important to work with your physician, nurse or dietician to lower your body weight to a healthy weight.  I would also like to jump up and down, wave my arms, and shout “WORK WITH A KNOWLEDGEABLE TRAINER, TOO, TO KEEP YOUR BODY WORKING AT ITS BEST!”

You know where to find me!

Some Fun Ideas To Help You Feel Energized

April 4th, 2011

Mondays typically bring a “blah” kind of mood along with them, don’t they?  Particularly after a weekend of fun and sun!

The following ideas come from an article that lists some ideas to help you get more energy throughout your day, be it a Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday. 

I definitely love this first one, and I’d love to hear it if you’ve ever tried it!

Change your socks for refreshment.

It’s an amazing trick. Bring a change of socks to work, and change your socks midway through the day (say, after lunch). You’ll be amazed at how much fresher you’ll feel. This trick is especially handy on days with lots of walking — like during a hike or family outing to the amusement park.

Okay, now this next one I have done.  ( I’ve also done the opposite!)  I can’t handle colors that are too bright, though, and I’ve heard from my bootcampers that I hurt their eyes if I go too bright too early in the day… !!

Wear brighter colors.

This trick is related to the mood you project to people, and the reciprocating mood they project towards you. If you wear dark, somber colors, you project a dark, somber attitude, and people will respond to you with a somber attitude. If you wear bright, happy colors, you’ll get that attitude projected towards you, which will boost your own mood and energy levels.

And because I’m me, I have to include these (of course!):

Start exercising.

If you have a fairly sedentary life, just the idea of starting an intense exercise program is exhausting. But if you go slow, literally taking one step at a time, you can go from being sedentary to becoming a runner.

Take a walk outside.

Getting outside for some fresh air, a change of scenery, and a quick walk to get your blood going will do wonders for your mood and motivation. Seeing the sun is a signal to your body that it’s not bedtime yet.

This one, though, I haven’t tried but I think I will, now that I’ve got the idea planted in my brain. 

Get on your toes.

Roll up and down on your toes. This stimulates your circulatory system, which will deliver much-needed oxygen and fuel throughout your body. You’ll be more energized and sharper. You can do this right now.

It’s fun to think that some of these incredibly small and simple things could have a positive change!  Let me know if you’ve tried any of these and how they work!!  If you have other ideas, let’s hear them!