Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Wanna Look Like Grandma

Well, I am so sorry I am past due on getting this post up. My darn computer screen turned red on me and it's been awful looking at it and trying to do anything! Everything is tinted. So I got my son to come over tonight and take a look and he "googled" the problem. Sure enough, other people have experienced this and so now I can either try to get it fixed or get a new monitor. Sigh.... So I am ignoring the color and typing anyway.
But so - on to the topic today - ramping up your exercise program. I love moving. I'm addicted to it, although it doesn't run my life, I couldn't live without it. Make sense? And as I get older, the more I have to do! I figure that by the time I'm 75, I'll be working out 10 hours a day and eating lettuce just to stay ahead of the game. Only kidding...kind of. But we do have to work harder at staying in place and still harder if we want to gain as we get older.
I like gaining when I can. Staying in place is OK for awhile and better than losing. Right? But my goal is for my grandchildren to say "Gee, I hope I look like Grandma when I'm her age." Hopefully my brains will be intact also when they say that. : ) So gain is the goal.
But so how do we do this? First of all, we have to move consistently, every day for at least 30 minutes to start and a day off a week for good behavior. Do this for a couple of months to get used to the idea and begin making moving a habit. Of course, if you have any doubts, you've been sedentary for a long time or you are very overweight, always check with your doctor about what you're going to do. Second, move up to 60 minutes of doing something cardio-like 6 days a week. Might be walking 4 days, riding a horse 2 days. Good for a start. Do that for awhile - 6 weeks or so, then RAMP IT UP! Add something that is going to get your heart pumping, your lungs heaving in and out and your muscles tired, but not hurting. Walking faster, spinning, tennis, running, biking, rowing, using cardio equipment in the gym, lots to choose from depending on where you live. Move like you mean it! But do it at your own pace. You don't have to keep up with the pros, but push yourself.
I talk in my book about my experience not trying Jazzercise forever because I thought I would embarrass myself. Then I finally went and lo and behold, I could do my thing in the back of the class and no one would ever know I missed cues (like anyone cared!). I love Jazzercise and try to do it three days a week now. I also go to the gym at least twice a week, ride my bike, walk my dogs and ride my horse on the weekends. Mix it up. Don't let your body get comfortable because then it's getting efficient. It's such a wonderful mechanism it learns to become efficient to conserve energy/calories for you. So sweet. But if you are trying to lose weight that doesn't help - mix it up!
Bottom line - eat less calories than you burn if you need to lose weight and make sure those calories are full of nutrients, not garbage.
If you haven't started exercising consistently - get going. If you are, but you've been doing the same thing for a year, change it up and make it harder. Challenge yourself, but not so much you are going to be too sore to move the next day. Everything in balance. Keep focusing on the gain, maintain when you have to, but try not to lose ground you have worked so hard to achieve. (Read my "Workarounds are Our Friends" post). Enjoy, my friends. Stay healthy. Strong immune systems are important in fighting the flu. Exercise boosts immunity. It's all in the Plan.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Too Busy to Live

Some friends of mine and I were talking the other day about the huge teams we used to raise for fundraisers like March of Dimes, the Jimmy Stewart Marathon, etc. Back in the "old days" about 10 years ago or so. We all concluded that life has become so busy that many more people than in the past just don't have time to think about doing a fundraiser walk, turning out for a Special Olympics event, going through their closets to find coats for the "coats for the poor" gathering, etc. And that is really sad.

I still do those things, because I have always valued our nonprofits and the terrific work they do, but it is definitely more difficult these days to work it in. I have reduced the number of boards I'm on simply because if I am on a board, I want to contribute, not just show up for the meetings. But I have to pick and choose more carefully.

I was sitting on my front porch watching the doves eat all my birdseed yesterday and doing nothing else. I wasn't talking on my phone, I wasn't reading or weeding. I was just swinging and watching the birds. I caught myself thinking that I had some time and I could go do this or that. But, no, doing absolutely nothing but enjoying the birds was perfectly OK and I wasn't wasting time.

To say that our culture is driven to achieve is a massive understatment. Most of my colleagues agree that we are out of balance, overtired and overworked - like a washing machine that is trying to spin a big load that is heavy on one side and light on the other. Only WE don't hear a sound. No warning lights or buzzers go off for us unless we pay attention to our own personal stats. In my last post I talked about getting our health screenings. Keeping an eye on trends in our health is how we know we are getting out of balance. High blood pressure and weight gain are just two obvious results of getting out of balance. Insomnia or lack of good quality asleep can actually increase your stress levels and also artificially increase hunger. Risk for high blood pressure goes up as we age. Couple that with a pressure cooker job and lots of responsibilities at home and you really increase your risk.

To stop the washer and redistribute the load means get things back in balance. Many of us need to actively redistribute. We need down time to enjoy our friends, our family, our pets, the beautiful world around us. Leave "busy" to the bees. That's their job, not ours. Breathe............................

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Are You Keeping Score?

In so many things we do everyday, we keep measurements. Fuel in the car, temperature outside, doneness of the cake coming out of the oven, where our bank accounts stand, how our investments are doing and on and on. And we know measures are a good way to gauge how things are going. In the workplace we call it keeping metrics.

Whatever you call them, are you keeping score on you...personally? I'll bet if you have kids, you have a little booklet kept in a safe place that provides the dates they got their vaccinations, right? Do you have a little booklet on you that lists when you got your personal health tests done and how you scored? You may not have one. So it is important to know why you should.

But first you have to get the tests done!! For starters, we should all be getting annual physical exams and annual gynecological exams. That's basic FEMALE 101. Tests done in those appointments will give you all of your cholesterol numbers, glucose (sugar), blood pressure, hip to waist ratio, weight and BMI. You can also request that your doctor include hormone level tests (if you are approaching menopause) and a CRP test (C -Reactive Protein) which measures inflammation. Inflammation has become another way to measure risk for heart disease or cancer. Your doctor should know if your insurance typically covers these additional tests. Your gynecologist will do a breast and pelvic exam and do a pap smear.

Other tests we women should have are: baseline mammogram screening at 35 yrs. and annually starting at 40 yrs.; baseline dexascan at 50 yrs. and then as often as your doctor recommends - usually every 5 years or so. Another test is a colonoscopy - again starting at around 50 yrs. and as often as your doctor suggests based on your initial results. A few other very important annual tests are dental and vision.

These are the minimums you should have and there can be others depending on your family history or your own personal history. Don't put them off because you are dealing with another health issue unless your doctor recommends it. And always be sure your doctor gives you all your numbers - not just a postcard that says "all results within normal ranges."

Record them in a small diary that you can make yourself or use the Health Tracker section in the back of my book "Aging Lite: A Baby Boomer's Health Planner for Women." The purpose is to keep track over time and be able to see trends in your health. Is your total cholesterol trending up? Is your bone density trending downwards? If you can see trends, you have time to make lifestyle changes and/or talk to your doctor about whether to take medication (while you are making lifestyle changes).

My friends, we have to pay attention to our own health in addition to those we love. We can't say "I'll do it later...I just don't have the time." Make the time. Early detection is essential in surviving any number of health issues. Keep score, stay alive!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Back on the Bike

So my sister reminded me after my last blog that it isn't spring everywhere as evidenced by pix my husband's sister sent today of a snowstorm in Minnesota. So I apologize to everyone who reads my blog and thought - geez it isn't spring here! Well, this summer you'll have your sweet revenge when it's 110 degrees in the shade here!

But as it IS spring here and April, it's time for my husband and I to get back on our bikes. Les got a motorized bicycle last summer and is now able to ride with me when I do 30 miles or so on my roadbike. Since he only has one lung (and one of a couple other organs) , it just isn't possible for him to keep up even slowly. So it's been a very nice compromise and allows us to spend time together outside getting some exercise. He does actually get some exercise since it is a pedal-assist. He also gets a lot of looks from people as he buzzes by!

Last summer we came up with a triathlon that we do now and then: ride the horses early in the morning for an hour, get on the bikes and ride to breakfast and back - about 25 miles, and go to a par 3 golf course and play a round of golf. How fun is that? Feels good and we sleep well those nights!

The biathlon version is just riding the horse and the bikes. We try to do one or the other most weekends.

So my husband was visiting his brother and his wife up in the mountains this weekend while I had a class to administer on Saturday. But when he got back today, we got on our bikes and did our first ride of the season. It was beautiful outside - perfect riding weather. We only rode about 13 miles, but the route had two huge hills, so it was just fine for the first ride of the season. We're enjoying every moment we can and making every minute count. Les just had his quarterly CT scan and we are praying for a good outcome. More time. He's already beat the odds. So why not keep beating them? Sounds good to us!