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

Apr 172012

I encounter many clients and swimmers with shoulder problems. In many cases, the pain can be resolved simply by icing and reducing activity for a period of time and then following up with exercises that facilitate proper alignment and movement in the shoulder girdle. Consult with a physical therapist if you are unsure how to rehabilitate a shoulder injry. If your shoulders are in good shape or have been recently rehabilitated, you can keep them that way by practicing a few safety tips:

1) Never carry a purse or backpack over one shoulder. This puts undue stress on the tissues around the shoulder girdle. Carry the purse or bag over both shoulders or in the hand. Even better, remove some items you don’t absolutely need to carry around with you.

2) When walking your dog, hold the leash in the hand opposite of the side where your dog is walking. When your dog stops suddenly, your shoulder will internally rotate and be more “anchored” than it will be if you are holding the leash with the opposite hand where the tug may pull your elbow and shoulder away from your trunk and hurt your shoulder.

3) Never yank an item from the back seat of the car. This jerky and unsupported movement places a tremendous amount of stress on the shoulders.

4) Stretch the pectoral muscles after you spend time in front of the computer to restore balance in your posture. When you are hunched over, muscles and connective tissue is unable to move properly without “collisions.”

5) When picking up objects, try to get “underneath” them by using a step stool or ladder and use both arms. More stress is placed on the shoulder when you lift a heavy object that is above shoulder height. In general, avoid “heaving” objects such as suitcases. Ask for help or have someone assist you when getting a bag off of a carousel. Sudden jerky movements are most likely to tear tissues.

6) Be aware of anything causing aggravation and try to avoid or modify it. For example, if you are a swimmer who also plays tennis and racquetball, you may want to cut back on one or two of those sports and pursue an activity such as running or biking that is more lower body dominant to avoid putting so much stress on your shoulders.

Mar 202012

by David Haas

Physical activity is not only recommended for the healthy, but also for most people fighting diseases such as cancer. When dealing with common cancers such as breast cancer or the more rare forms like mesothelioma, your body must be at its best. A lot of research has been carried out to know whether exercising has any effects on the lives of people who are undergoing cancer treatment or those in remission. Exercise does benefit people undergoing cancer in many ways, but one should seek the council of their doctor before beginning any exercise routine.

Studies conducted in relation to how physical activity affects cancers have shown that it could help in the prevention of breast and colon cancer. Preliminary results of other studies have also indicated that physically active people have a reduced risk of prostate and endometrial cancers. The Center for Disease Control has gone ahead to recommend that people engage in moderate physical activity for a period of 30 minutes at least five days of the week. Alternatively, you can do intense physical exercise for 20 minutes for three days during the week.

The merits of physical activity speak for themselves. However, it is an important pillar to ensure that our bodies are strong enough to fight off infections. It is also important to accelerate the healing process when we are sick. The following are some ways that it may help cancer patients.

Cancer treatment can leave a patient extremely fatigued and make it feel like a Herculean effort to get moving. Although it may be hard to get started, daily physical activity can boost your energy levels, improve your mood, and help your body get stronger again. Simply go for a walk around the block to elevate your heart rate or participate in a Yoga or Pilates call to improve muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility.

Most cancer patients can benefit from exercise, regardless of the stage of treatment. A positive frame of mind often makes it easier to cope with the emotional and physical stress of illness. Consult your doctor and find a workout plan that is appropriate and get out there and get active!

Joining the organization in 2011, David Haas is a cancer support group and awareness program advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. In addition to researching the many valuable programs available to our site’s visitors, David often blogs about programs and campaigns underway at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, as well as creative fitness ideas for those dealing with cancer, while creating relationships with similar organizations.

Read more: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/david/bio.htm#ixzz1pgb141iO

Feb 072012

Success is giving 100 percent today and seeing yourself as having what it takes to accomplish something amazing right here and now instead of putting forth a mediocre effort today while you wait for success to come to you at some later date.

Jan 172012

Just like your car, when you driving your body hard, it needs some maintenance and tune-ups. Many athletes and fitness buffs are very diligent about making sure they swim, bike or run a certain number of miles ever week, but devote little attention to pre- and post-workout stretching, massage, and recovery.

In reality, the body maintenance is as important as the workout itself. Proper care for your body can reduce the incidence of injuries, reduce pain and inflammation and improve performance. Below are some tips to help you establish a preventative maintenance schedule for your body:

1 – Schedule massages regularly. Massage is necessary to keep muscles and the connective tissue that sheaths muscles healthy (long and pliable rather than lumpy and thickened). Massage also often alleviates muscle discomfort. If you can afford it, schedule one twice a month. Otherwise, learn how to do self-massage work with balls and foam rollers.

2 – Stretch major muscles worked after every workout. Stretching releases toxins that build up during exercise, improves circulation, restores length to tissues and incites a relaxation response. Always take nice deep breaths while stretching and hold stretches for 30-60 seconds per muscle stretched. Do not bounce the stretches.

3 – Identify overtight parts of your body and give them extra attention. Stretch these muscles more frequently or even do 2 to four sets of 30-60 seconds for these areas. For example, many people have tight psoas muscles (upper part of front of thighs) from sitting so much. This can tip the pelvis forward and place undue stress on the low back. You can stretch the psoas after work by getting down on your knees and taking a giant step forward with the right foot, resting your hands on the front thigh and then pressing forward with hips in the back, getting that lengthening stretch in the psoas. Then you can change sides. Sitting also tightens the chest muscles, which can be loosened by lying on top of a foam roller with the arms out to sides, palms up at shoulder level and letting gravity passively lengthen the muscles.

4 – Rest. Sleep sufficient hours nightly and take at least one day off from training every week. Never work the same muscle groups in strength training two days in a row.

Your body works very hard for you and you should give something back by nurturing it with some care and recovery.

Dec 162011

Sadly, people often talk about being fit as if it’s only for kids. I hear things like “I used to do lots of cycling when I was younger, but…” or “now that I’ve got a career and family, I don’t have time to workout and dally with 10K races anymore.” At a party recently, a man told my husband it was about time for him to give up on wearing a 32 inch waistband pant size. And even though this man has let his waistband expand much wider than is healthy, I remembered my manners and didn’t burst out laughing or say what I was thinking, which was “speak for yourself.”

My husband has lost almost 20 pounds since he turned 50, simply by increasing his aerobic exercise to 200 minutes a week and eating a healthier diet based around fruits, vegetables and grains. Weekends for both of us are filled with activity, rather than overeating and couch potatoing. While I’ve been competing in swim meets, in recent months, my husband ran the Tucson Half Marathon, finished his first sprint triathlon, and biked in El Tour de Tucson.

My point is, both of us have families and busy careers, yet we continue to live active lifestyles. It isn’t something we outgrew when we turned 20, 30, 40 or even 50 (well I’m not 50 yet, but getting pretty close). And we’ve found ways to make our training fun. The good news is, if we can do it, so can you! All it takes for you to succeed is commitment. And its well worth it, too. Just waking up every morning and feeling healthy is all the incentive I need to press onward and upward with my healthy lifestyle plan.

If you ever look at a lean athletic person, turn green with envy over his or her sculpted body and want to convince yourself that this person has no life so you can persist with your sedentary lifestyle in peace, think again. This person could be your new role model. Think how great that person looks and probably feels each and every day and how if he or she can stay in shape, you can get there too. Then get off your duff, start working out, head for the store and buy a whole bunch of vegetables you’ve never eaten before and find a way to turn them into meals and before long, people will ask you how you fit in those jeans or managed to run the whole 13 mile race. And you can simply smile and say “it all started when I read this very interesting fitness blog…”

Nov 162011

If you are the first one to correctly guess what I just ate (hint: it was delicious), I will send you a free copy of my DVD, Personal Best Stretch: Move Better Than Ever! Bring it on…

Nov 142011

Since exercise, particularly swimming, transformed me from sickly and unhappy to vibrant, healthy and passionate, I feel compelled to share this amazing gift with others.

Nov 092011

Susan after a swim in the La Jolla cove

Susan after a swim in the La Jolla cove

Some of my best workouts happen on days I almost talked myself out of exercise. Today was one of them. It might frighten you to hear the kind of mental chatter that rattles around inside my head, but perhaps you can relate to it as well. This morning, the workout protagonist (to be referred to as athlete or A) and antagonist (the sleepy sloth or SS) got into instant battle the moment the alarm sounded off. Sleepy sloth whined, “it’s too cold to swim.” And she’s right, actually. Hardly anyone in their right mind would swim outdoors at 6 a.m. when its less than 40 degrees. Athlete argued the water would be warm and once I got in and started moving, I wouldn’t be cold at all. So I got out of bed and donned the swim suit, slippers, and swim parka. Then SS said, “but with these cramps, no way.” Hormones were to blame for this agony. A argued the whole day would go better after the swim – I’d be calm, cheerful, happy, and understanding. So I ended up on the pool deck 10 minutes later and swam the whole Masters workout from beginning to end. I started out feeling sleepy, sluggish and bloated. And by the end of the workout, the cramps had dissipated and I even swam a 39.0 50 breast in the last 10 minutes of workout. Not bad! So I toweled off and ran to my warm car feeling bouncy and happy and like I accomplished something. Even better, I felt fantastic for the entire day simply because I started the day off with energizing exercise.