Susan Dawson-Cook

Sep 192013

I read a pull-out section in the Wall Street Journal the other day about retirement. I must confess I found it more than a little depressing. Most of the people surveyed didn’t spend any more time exercising than they did when they were employed. What a shame. One of the authors boasted about how she didn’t feel like exercising, so she didn’t, as if that was a positive choice that enabled her to “enjoy life” while all the fit people wasted their lives in misery. I rather wished an article had been authored instead by one of the dedicated men and women I see every morning exercising without fail at the fitness center.

One of the biggest roadblocks I see to success is the tendency to associative negative language with exercise. Negativity always sets us up for failure. One author on Facebook refers to her “evil exercise program.” People who rarely work out describe exercise as painful, agonizing, time consuming, and difficult. People who exercise religiously describe it as relaxing, energizing, enjoyable, and mood-enhancing. Then they bubble on about how it enabled them to drop certain medications, improve blood sugar level, blood pressure and more. Attitude matters more than anything else when it comes to making a plan and achieving success.

For those of you who can’t remember the last time you walked a mile or picked up a weight, I’m on my knees praying I can convert you into an exercise advocate, who uses movement to enhance your life. When I start the day without a workout, I often feel frazzled by midday. When I start the day in motion, I have a sense of calm, focus, and well-being that carries me through until nighttime.

Sometimes non-exercisers appease their own guilt by accusing active people of being obsessive, unproductive, and weight worriers. This certainly doesn’t describe my life or the lives of most of the people I see every day at the workout center! Instead of using negative language to describe exercise and the people who choose to be active, why don’t you try using positive language to get your back side out of the house? Talk to yourself about how that workout will help you focus to complete a task, how it will enable you to be more patient with a taxing family member, how it will improve your health and give your self-esteem a boost when you’re feeling low.

So don’t wait—embark today on your wonderful, exhilarating, life-changing exercise program.

Sep 092013

Exercise tops don’t all fit alike. So put as much thought into how they feel on your upper back and shoulders as to how they look. Five years ago after I suffered a severe rotator cuff injury, I looked at this for the first time. My physical therapist mentioned posture exercises as being an important part of my rehab and said the muscles and tendons in the shoulder complex were more likely to move unimpinged if the upper posturals were in proper alignment.

The next morning I worked my way into an exercise top I planned to wear all day. I felt an immediate tugging in the injured part of my shoulder and then went and looked in a full length mirror to see that the way the top fit, it hunched my shoulders forward. I decided then to get rid of these tops. When you try them on, look in the mirror to make sure the “tightness” equally pulls on the front and the back of the shoulder.  This should be of even more concern to larger breasted women (not me), who will tend to slump forward already because of the amount of weight they have to support in the front.

Even  exercise tops that don’t pull me unevenly sometimes overtighten my neck and upper trapezius with prolonged wear to the point that I’m uncomfortable. Now I try to teach class and then change into a regular bra to avoid unnecessary soreness and strain at the end of the day.

I hope this post will get you thinking about your upper body exercise wear and how you can choose clothing that will keep you more comfortable while in motion and afterward.

May 062013

We all know the importance of fitness for personal health. Unfortunately, those who travel frequently often find it difficult to maintain healthy fitness habits. The rigors of the road can take their toll on travelers who experience repeat changes in routine, irregular mealtimes and interruptions in regular sleep patterns due to unfamiliar surroundings. As a result, frequent travelers tend to be in much poorer health than those who stay closer to home.

However, you needn’t feel trapped in an unhealthy lifestyle if your job requires frequent travel. Simple planning and some basic awareness can help you change stressful trips into opportunities to maximize your personal health and fitness.

Before you leave, plan to make the most of fitness opportunities on your trip. Research the locality to which you plan to travel. Learn about hiking or running trails near your accommodations. If you have the opportunity to book your own accommodations, pick a place with excellent fitness amenities. You might be able to find a hotel with in-room yoga or other fitness videos, a well-equipped fitness center, running trails, and so on. On a recent trip to Maui I was able to book great accommodations for my fitness needs by looking through a travel site beforehand. I searched through this list of Maui hotels and found one within my budget that had a 24-hour gym.

When packing, remember to bring along loose, comfortable clothing for working out. If you have portable workout equipment such as a simple exercise band, pack it so that you can take advantage of short timeframes in which to get a powerful workout in limited space. Also, never leave home without a refillable water bottle to help you remain properly hydrated and avoid purchasing unhealthy drinks.

On your flight, get a little exercise with simple stretches and in-flight calisthenics. Simple shoulder shrugs, side stretches, knee lifts and ankle rolls will help minimize many of the discomforts associated with long flights.

Throughout your trip, remain aware of opportunities for exercise. Take the stairs instead of riding an elevator or escalator. If your schedule is packed with meetings and events, use small breaks throughout the day to get a workout. For example, do some exercises between meetings using a chair and your exercise band. In a break during afternoon sessions, find a secluded spot to do a few crunches and lunges. Every little bit will help, and you will notice a decrease in travel-related stress as well as more physical energy when you put these tips into practice.

Mar 122013

Tricia Schafer wins a medal at a race

“I’ve been caffeine free for many years,” said Tricia Schafer, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. ”My boyfriend and I decided to drop it because it made us irritable. Seriously, we’d get up, be all peaceful, then have a few sips of coffee and start bickering. The correlation was uncanny. I also struggle with anxiety issues and caffeine seems to make it worse.”

Over the course of a typical week, Tricia swims eight hours with the Phoenix Swim Club Masters, works out on a spin bike four days and runs 20 miles. She also sometimes competes. In the past, caffeine-rich products made her irritable, rather than giving her a competitive edge. “I have never consumed an energy gel. I just don’t feel like I need them. I sip on V8 juice between events or eat Clif Shot blocks (uncaffeinated).” She also easts Zing brand nutrition bars “because they are gluten/dairy/soy free and are super easy to digest. And they are delicious.”

Tricia breaks up her two to three hour a day workouts into increments “so I can eat real food in between efforts.” Her preference is to eat healthy, wholesome foods often in small amounts. “I hate feeling hungry and I hate feeling full.” In addition to Zing bars, she pours herself tall glasses of homemade juice comprised of celery, kale, chard, beets, and grapefruit, nibbles on nuts and seeds and often eats up to eight eggs daily. She usually also eats one serving of organic meat. Occasionally, she indulges in her favorite treat- coconut chocolate milk.

Tricia’s style of meal preparation is quick, easy, and super nutritious. “I’m a lousy cook and barely have the patience to cut veggies for the juicer, but I eat them as I cut them and often end up filling up on raw veggies and skipping whatever the next ‘regular’meal would be. If I’m hungry, I have to eat now.” While the average American craving instant food gratification ends up in the line at McDonald’s,  Tricia makes sure what she eats nourishes her active body, rather than filling it with crud.

Mar 042013

If you’re struggling with your weight, put a magnifying glass up to the sugar you’re consuming. Studies show rats are more inclined to choose sugar than narcotic drugs when offered a smorgasboard of addicting substances! So don’t bash yourself for not having willpower–instead reconstruct the way you eat and you’ll be surprised at how much more control you have over what slides past your lips.

Sugar hides in places you wouldn’t imagine–spaghetti sauce, breads, crackers, cereals and other processed foods. I’ve read food labels and been stunned to see what lurks on the list. If sugar is near the top of the list of ingredients, there’s loads of it! Get food smart by reading labels and making and effort to reduce your daily dose of sugar, which can improve your health in more ways than one. You’ll miss the “high” you get from that insulin spike for awhile, but in the long run, you’ll have steadier energy and be less susceptible to binge eating and cravings for sugar-rich foods.

Try replacing cakes, pies, and candy bars with a piece of fruit. A slice of juicy mango or pineapple will put a burst of sweetness on your tongue and  provide your body with nourishment. So instead of finishing one simple sugar sweet only to end up desperately banging  on the outside of the candy machine an hour later, choose a snack item that will give you a steady stream of energy and allow your brain to focus on something other than getting your next “sugar fix.”

Are you still doubting you can do it? If you want to feel empowered, I urge you to challenge yourself to one week without candy, cakes, pies, cooking and puddings. Get them out of the house where they won’t tempt you to taste them and then embark on a low sugar diet. Remember, it doesn’t have to be tasteless–start trying new fruits and healthful recipes and before you know it you’ll find a whole new repertoire of healthy favorite foods. By the end of the week, you’re likely to find that you’re eating less and feeling better without sugar’s addictive disruption. Good luck! I’d love to hear your comments on how this goes :-)

Sep 232012

The Open Water Swimmer Book Cover

The Open Water Swimmer by Sabrina Devonshire

My romantic suspense, The Open Water Swimmer, was released by Extasy Books last weekend. Since there aren’t a lot of books out there starring athletic characters, I decided to write one myself! The male protagonist, Jeff Dickson, is an elite open water competitor, so if you’re craving a read starring a character with that competitive drive you have yourself, you might get a kick out of this. I wrote the book under the name of Sabrina Devonshire – my novel-writing pen name.

Here’s a link to Sabrina’s author web site www.sabrinadevonshire.com if you’d like to read the synopsis and an excerpt. Happy Reading!

Sep 172012

As many office workers know all too well, maintaining good posture and strong core muscles can be difficult when you sit at a desk all day. At times it seems impossible to get a tight core without changing jobs to … say … a lumberjack?

But guess what — there are plenty of exercises you can do to strengthen your core while at the office. Some of these you can do without your coworkers even knowing you’re working out! These exercises will make your core tighter and stronger, which in turn makes it easier to sit for long periods of time. Just make sure you use a sturdy chair for the seated exercises!

Try these out:

1. Use an exercise ball. One of the easiest switches you can make in your workday to improve your core strength is to use an exercise ball instead of a chair. By sitting on an exercise ball, you’re forced to balance all day, and your posture will improve as well because you’ll be less inclined to slouch. Exercise balls strengthen your upper and lower abs, obliques and hip flexors, all without you having to think about it. Exercise/stability balls suitable for sitting on will be 55 or 65 cm in diameter. Your legs should form a right angle when you sit with feet hip width apart, feet underneath knees.

2. Isometric squeeze. Isometric exercises are perfect for the office, because they don’t require any movement at all. Simply sit straight and tall in your chair and contract your abs — hard — for several seconds, making sure to breathe the entire time. Release and repeat several times. Make sure you’re really focusing on making your muscles tight rather than just sucking in your stomach.

3. Sitting crunch. Get ready — you’re going to look a little odd for this one. Sit in your chair with feet flat on the floor (move forward to the edge if you need to) and knees bent. Rest your hands lightly on the side or back of your head, and tip body back, bracing through the abdomen. Rise slowly back to a vertical position. Do several repetitions.

4 . Sitting March- Sitting upright in chair with rib cage lifted, do marching movements with one foot and then the other.

5. Sitting twist. Sit up straight in your chair and place your hands on behind your head. Now raise one knee while simultaneously rotating your trunk to touch that knee with your opposite elbow. Try to stay long through the spine with rib cage lifted. Switch sides and repeat continuously for 30 seconds.

6. Leg pull-ins. Sit at the forward edge of your chair with your legs straight and place your hands behind you, grabbing hold of the seat on either side. Lift your legs a few inches off the ground and lean back a little without resting on the chair. Now crunch your body inward: Lean forward and simultaneously pull your knees in toward your chest. Return to starting position and repeat several times.

7. Plank position. Rest your hands firmly near the edge of a sturdy desk, then take a few steps back until your body forms a diagonal with the floor. Keeping your body tight and straight, hold the position for as long as you can, or at least 30 seconds, focusing on bracing through the abdomen, tightening your glutes, and keeping your back straight. Also make sure to breathe continuously. Over time, when this starts to feel easy, this can be done kneeling on elbows (buttocks higher is easiest) or with toes curled under and elbows on the floor or on top of the stability ball.

Practice these exercises a few times a week, and soon your core will be so strong, no one will guess you sit at a desk all day.

About the Author:
Patty Englebaugh founded ErgoStoreOnline.com in 1993. She has 19
years of experience installing ergonomic office furniture and computer accessories that create healthy work environments in home and corporate offices as well as in the healthcare, education, government, and business sectors. You can reach her Mon-Fri 8-6pm EST for one-on-one support for your ergonomic needs: (877) 971-0151.

Sep 132012

Well-meaning friends and family members urge you to take care of yourself. Yet every minute they’re telling you to sleep, eat right, and exercise, and relax, you’re thinking “if only you knew.” There are doctor’s appointments to rush off to, prescriptions to be filled, meals to be cooked and you’re afraid to leave your spouse alone.

Still, what you really want is your spouse to be well-cared for by the person who loves them most. And that person is you. And one way to increase the probability you’ll be able to continue to fulfill this invaluable role is to exercise. Exercise reduces the incidence of a whole host of debilitating diseases. It also improves sleep and will help you feel more energized and optimistic. If you are coping and in control, it will be easier for you to maintain a cheerful face so your souse will be more likely to enjoy the moment with you instead of focusing on fear of the disease.

If your spouse cannot be left alone, try to arrange for a friend or family member to come by the house for the hour you step out to the gym. Just the change of scenery will give you a lift. If you don’t think you know anyone, take a chance and ask a friend or neighbor to help. You’ll most likely get a “yes.” One of life’s frustrations is that people feel helpless when they see others suffering and are unable to prevent it. So they are often thrilled to help in any possible way. It makes them feel good about themselves knowing in a small way they did make a difference.

When help isn’t readily available, there are always other exercise solutions (there is no way to escape exercise around me). Perhaps both of you can take a walk. Or you purchase a stationary piece of aerobic equipment such as a treadmill or bicycle. Even exercising a little here and there throughout the day offers health benefits.

You can also do an in home workout with dumbbells and bands or hire a Vital Moves trainer to come to your house to run you through a workout. Or you can pop an exercise DVD in and pump it up. Don’t be afraid to break a sweat! Try to exert yourself for at least 40 minutes total most days of the week.

Remember, building a strong body will not only keep you healthy, it will make your job easier. Lifting and helping move a person can be exhausting and injurious when the caregiver isn’t fit enough to cope with it. A base conditioning program can help your body, heart, and mind to keep it together. So you can be the best for you. And for the spouse you love so much.

Jul 212012

This morning, I read a staggering statistic over a cup of Chai. 63 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Not good news at all for any of us. On the positive side, if you become aware of certain practices in our society that make us fat, you can keep yourself from becoming part of this statistic or arm yourself so you can start moving the scale in a downward direction.

I recently drove with my husband, son and mother to Colorado for my brother’s wedding. The entire trip, I was bombarded by billboards with photos of sundaes and sandwiches and lines about all-you-can-eat buffets. At hotels, morning breakfasts consisted of food laden with calories (biscuits and gravy, eggs smothered in cheese and sour cream). And at restaurants in general, we were served monster portions that could have fed three instead of one. Is it any wonder that we are overweight, when everywhere we go, we are programmed to finish the three-person plate, go for the all-you-can-eat buffet, and indulge in food with so much sauce, you can’t taste the original food (and could almost gain weight smelling it, it’s so caloric). Have you ever noticed what’s on the children’s menus–pretty much never anything healthy–it’s always fried chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and pizza without a single veggie.

TV can also send you running for the kitchen (or dialing for pizza in 30 minutes or less). Just when you’ve finished dinner, you turn on the tube to see someone pulling a cheese-rich slice of pizza from a plate, sinking teeth into a juicy sandwich or sipping an ice cold beer. My solution for that is hit the mute button and go do a small cleaning task. The worst thing you can do for your diet is eat while you are doing another activity such as watching TV or reading. When you eat mindlessly, you can easily consume a ton of calories without the brain even processing that the food was consumed. So afterward, you don’t even feel satisfied.

Even the grocery store can send us on a path of destruction. All I can say, is don’t go there hungry! The store managers know how to put all the most costly convenience foods just where you will see them and the packages have images that will get you salivating and forgetting they pack more calories than nutritional punch. My advice is to just steer clear of the frozen foods aisles and head straight for the produce section! Make a point of trying one new food every week that is healthy so you can acquire a new healthy taste. The more you eat fresh food, the more your tastebuds will come to appreciate food that’s not packed with artificial flavors and preservatives.

So my message for you is to rethink all this. For one, why do we eat? Ideally, it should be for nourishment, not simply to satisfy some temporary lust for taste. The more you eat food overloaded with additives, the less you will be satisfied with foods that improve your health like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. They don’t have any flavor, people sometimes say. That’s because your tastebuds have become deadened to the taste of real food. Give them time and they will be satisfied with a hint of garlic or a touch of ginger, instead of five dollops of sour cream.

Part of my weight-maintenance and health program involves avoiding too many meals out. That way I don’t have numerous opportunities to eat foods over which I have no control. Few menus offer caloric content and I don’t know if my vegetables are steamed, sauteed in olive oil or some kind of trans-fat laden grease. I also sometimes ask people about my meal (like what is in that butter dish? butter, margarine, etc.) and if they can’t tell me, I never go back.

If every person demanded that restaurants serve smaller portions, healthier fare, and provide nutritional content, they would have to deliver. Instead, we allow them to take advantage of our gluttony and our senses, which lead us to make poor nutritional choices. Some people would rather not know how many calories they are consuming so it doesn’t inhibit the enjoyment of their meal. But this temporary enjoyment comes at a high price in terms of health not only for us, but for every other American. And anyway, I would ask you, do you really want to adopt a mantra to live by that is “ignorance is bliss?”

May 042012

I highly recommend that you read this great article I came across this morning about shoulder injuries. Although it’s particularly pertinent to swimmers in that it addresses possible modificiations of freestyle to reduce shoulder stress, it also has great information about muscle balance and methods of rehabilitation that should be helpful to all. You can check it out at
www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/lane9/news/Commentary/30442.asp