Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Show Me Your Adjectives!

by Kris Pitcher

In the name of self exploration, I did a scary thing a while back. I asked a good friend to write down five adjectives about me. While it was somewhat safe based on who I had selected to engage in this with...I still felt a little bit like I was running naked down the freeway.

What I mean is I really had to expose myself and be willing to accept whatever adjectives might come forth. What if she'd said, "bossy", or "self-centered", or "snotty". What if she'd said, "judgemental", or "always wants to eat the big half", or "*itchy"?

If you asked someone to write down five adjectives describing you, what would they say? Forget the adjectives that run in your head. Those ones don't count in this exercise. Here's a super safe place to start...ask your kids. Ask your kids to write down five things that describe you.

Now that you're feeling pretty good (I hope), ask someone you trust to do the same for you. Just five adjectives. Asking your spouse or partner is nice, but the power in this is hearing from people close to you who you don't engage in this level of exchange with regularly.

The truth is she didn't say any of those things I worried about at all. People don't "see" the insecurities that run through our heads. Only we hear them. They might as well not be there at all.

You will be amazed at what your friend/s write about you in those five powerful words. It's what they see in you. My point is, stop showing me your insecurities and start showing me your adjectives!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Thank You Estrogen! Why He Loses Faster Than You

by Kris Pitcher

Here's an interesting (and perhaps infuriating) fact:

Women burn fat more slowly than men, by a rate of about 50 calories a day. Most men have a much easier time burning fat than women. Women, because of their reproductive role, generally require a higher basic body fat proportion than men, and as a result their bodies don’t get rid of excess fat at the same rate as men.

If I had a nickle for every time I heard someone tell me their husband/boyfriend/brother was losing weight faster than her...well, I'd have a lot of nickles. But there are some simple things at play here which can help us understand this factoid.

Women as described above are designed to carry more fat based on our reproductive role. Sorry ladies, but you're the one's who've been trusted to bear the children of this world and with that responsibility comes a little extra padding.

You need the fat to create and protect your child. Going to Cold Stone four times a week during your pregnancy was however, your choice.

The contributing factor here is estrogen. Our estrogen regardless of it's womanly wonders...keeps the extra padding on us. It keeps it on us just in case we need to populate this world of ours. You never know. Thank you estrogen.

One of the other major factors in the equation is men carry more muscle mass than women. Our metabolism is driven by our muscle mass, so it stands to reason that men burn more calories than we do. It's simple. We can level out the playing field a little bit by getting our estrogen filled butt into the gym to lift some weights. Weights heavier than our giant purse.

By building and maintaining our lean body mass as we age, our metabolism doesn't have to slow down. Use it or lose it ladies. Keep your body burning calories all the time (even when you aren't doing anything) by building muscle. Um, can you help me off my soapbox here, it's a little high for me to jump?

I just can't impress how important strength training is. Combined with your cardio, you'll find a sleeker, slimmer, toned you. A you who burns more calories every day. I bet you'd like to meet her! Now you're armed with some information to deescalate this reality of life: he loses faster than you. You're right, it's not fair. Get over it and get moving!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Your Mission Possible, Writing Your Personal Mission Statement

by Kris Pitcher

You have purpose in your life. You know in your heart what's most important to you. But, do you have a personal mission statement?

Your mission and values are expressed every day in how you live your life. What exactly have you been expressing? Living your life with purpose requires you life it on purpose. Hmm. What I mean is, you must be deliberate, about living to your values in order to carry out your "mission possible". Make yourself a cup of tea and get a piece of paper. You're going to want to jot some thoughts down.

Where do you begin in crafting your mission statement? Starting with passion makes sense. What do you love to do in your work? And, more importantly, what do you love to do in your personal life?

Listing your talents is a good next step. What is it you're good at, enjoy - don't be shy. What are your natural gifts? Ready for a big one...if you had unlimited time, and were guaranteed to be successful, what would you do?

Forty years from now, what would you like people to say about your contribution? What would you like people to say about your life's work, about your character, about the impact you've made?

Who has strongly influenced you in your life? What attributes did they impress upon you? These kinds of questions help you to get clear on what you value, on what you're passionate about and on what you'd like to accomplish in your life (vs. in your work).

Putting the answers together you can create a mission statement that expresses who you are and what your purpose is. Now all you have left is to begin to live your life to your mission possible. It's exciting really, to think about doing what you might if you were guaranteed success...Get busy! Life is waiting and so is your success!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Living With Plantar Faciitis

by Kris Pitcher

You know you're getting older when your social conversation revolves around over use injuries instead of what band you saw, or movie you went to...or book you last read. Lately, it seems a lot of conversations have been about plantar faciitis.

There is a thick band of tissue, facia, that runs from your heel to your toes. Basically if you were to place your hand with the heel of your palm at the heel of your foot, running your fingers toward your toes - that's what your plantar facia would look like. It connects your heel bone to your toes. There's our anatomy for the day.

The facia becomes both inflamed and tight due to over use, and lack of stretching. But it's not just over use from exercise which can cause this inflammation. Rapid weight gain, obesity, shoes with poor arch support, and having a tight Achilles tendon (connecting your calf muscle) can all be contributing factors.

Most commonly, pain in the arch or heel is the give away. It's often worse in the morning and can get better through the day with activity. As with any "itis" inflammation can be frustrating, debilitating, and can keep you not only from your exercise but also from activities of daily living.

What to do? Reducing the inflammation is key. RICE - rest/ice/compression/elevation is a good place to start. Icing the bottom of your tender foot can be painful in itself. But, take a plastic water bottle and freeze it. Roll your foot on the frozen bottle for 5 minutes while you watch TV. Many doctors would recommend taking an anti-inflammatory, I'm no doctor. Consult one.

Compression is another great way to get a hold of the inflammation. Taping your foot will help support it. Get yourself to the meg-a-low mart and buy a roll of athletic tape. Take a piece and run it around the perimeter of your foot from the knuckle of your big toe, around your heel to the knuckle of your little toe (my husband skips this part, so you can see there's more than one way to do it). Then you'll take strips and run them under your arch - as your toes are flexed toward your shin (dorsi flexion). Careful not to tape too tight...you'll know when you stand up if it's too tight. This makes a world of difference.

Massaging the bottom of your foot on a tennis ball also helps to increase blood flow to the facia, while stretching the foot. Again, do this while you are seated. It feels nice, if you can keep it away from the dog.

Rest, well that part is difficult. But if you're having a particularly bad flair up, you might not want to run a marathon. Some people get custom orthodics. I have them and find it actually makes my plantar faciitis worse. I keep mine in the back of the closet somewhere. You have to find a treatment combination that works for you.

Another important thing we don't think about is making sure our bed covers aren't too tight at the foot of the bed. Seems silly but if they are too tight our feet are pointed all night (in plantar flexion), tightening our calves and our arches. Simple fix there. Having supportive athletic shoes is of course important. I'm not just saying that so you can buy new shoes either. Shoes wear out.

Consistency with any treatment is the key. You will have to keep doing it. Faciitis unfortunately doesn't just go away, but you can live with it. Sorry. But you can control the inflammation which is critical to living with your new, braggable, over use injury. Welcome to the club!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Benefits of the White Button Mushroom

by Kris Pitcher

I have always been a mushroom fan! Stay with me here. I know you either love them, or hate them. The Greeks believed the mushroom provided strength for warriors in battle. And, if that isn't enough to get you to eat at least one...here's a little more information about the great button.

At just 100 calories per ounce the thermodynamic effect of the mushroom is a negative. Meaning, you burn more calories eating and digesting one, than there are in one. You gotta love that! They are 80-90% water, and 8-10% of their dry weight is fiber. The mushroom is very high in potassium, riboflavin, niacin and selenium.

Selenium works with vitamin E to protect our cells from free radicals, it's an antioxidant. Mushrooms will help you stay young. One of the great things about mushrooms is they have a wonderful flavor on their own (they do if you'd just try one), or they take on the flavor of what you are cooking. This makes them very versatile in the kitchen. There's more, the health benefits of mushrooms are real.

The button mushroom has a substance that inhibits the activity of aromatase (an enzyme involved in estrogen production), and 5-alpha-reductase (an enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT). Because of this, the latest findings show white button mushrooms can reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer.

The Chinese treasure the mushroom as a health food. The Romans regarded the mushroom as a gift from God. And we...well, we pick them off everything and roll them up on a napkin hoping no one will notice. Really? It's time to get the benefits of the white button mushroom!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Magnesium - Make It Happen!

by Kris Pitcher

Minerals are critical to our body's ability to function. We don't think about it, but our body is continually performing amazing biochemical reactions to keep us going. Minerals are key to those functions. Magnesium in particular makes things happen!

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions. It's got a lot of work to do! Minerals, like magnesium, are required for these chemical reactions - so it's important we get what we need in order to function optimally.

Magnesium helps us maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps our heart rhythm steady, supports our immune system, and keeps our bones strong. It also regulates our blood sugar levels, and promotes normal blood pressure. It is also involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.

One of its primary jobs is contraction and relaxation of our muscles. It's involved in the production of and transport of energy and the production of protein. Another critical role is its function with certain enzymes (complex proteins that cause chemical changes without being changed themselves) in the body.

When we don't get enough we can experience symptoms of deficiency including muscle spasms and pain, PMS, irritability, depression, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, and heart disease.

Symptoms are put into three categories according to Medline:
Early: Anorexia/Apathy/Confusion/Fatigue/Insomnia/Irritability/Muscle Twitching/Poor memory/Reduced Ability to Learn
Moderate: Heart (cardiovascular) Changes/Rapid Heartbeat
Severe: Continued Muscle Contraction/Delirium/Numbness/Hallucinations/Tingling

We get magnesium from dark green leafy vegetables and from bananas, dried apricots, avocados, nuts (almonds), peas, beans & seeds, soy products (tofu), and whole grains like brown rice and millet.

Adult women need 310-320 milligrams per day, and adult men need 400-420 milligrams per day. Getting adequate magnesium is important to making things happen! Are you getting your dark green leafies? Your body is counting on you!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Picture of Health

by Kris Pitcher

What exactly is the "picture of health"? What do you envision when you say those words? What comes to mind?

I'd like for you to envision you. It's not that crazy. The truth is if you could see yourself as the "picture of health" you would do the things a healthy person does. The challenge is you've been waiting.

You've been waiting to be the healthy person before you do the things a healthy person would do. Because it's just going to happen like magic.

It works the other way around - that's the magic! Just do the healthy person things...and you'll be the healthy person. Simple.

In order to be the healthy person, you have to do the things a healthy person would do. I know this makes sense to you...yet, you've been waiting for the magic.

Do and be. I'll brag here for a minute. I've been more or less successful at weight management for the past 20 years because I've been doing it. Doing it. I do it every day. And I'll keep doing it as long as I want it to work (which is forever). The formula is simple - do the things a healthy person would do, and be a healthy person.

Am I the "picture of health"? By no means. But when I think of those words...I picture myself, and work to become better. Now the question is, can you picture you? The waiting is over - there is no magic, do something toward becoming a healthier you today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What Not's and What We Should Eat

by Kris Pitcher

We spend a lot of time on what not's. What not to eat. What not to drink. What not to do, to wear...etc. Part of focusing there is education. We need to know pop tarts probably aren't the best breakfast choice. A bigger part of focusing there becomes - well craziness.

I feel strongly we'd be better served focusing on the shoulds. It's about putting a positive spin on our lives really. So, instead of "what not's" today we'll look at some shoulds around eating. If we've been spending our energy elsewhere, this gives us a reminder of a good place to focus thoughtful energy. So what should our eating pattern look like?

Following a good night's sleep of 7 or 8 hours we should eat a healthy breakfast first thing in the morning. Gulping down 8oz of water will get you on the track to hydration, wake up the cells in your body and get your systems going. Follow up with some lean protein, complex carbohydrates and a small amount of healthy fats. In a hurry? Think about a whey protein shake, and a slice of whole grain toast with 1 T of natural peanut butter. You're out the door!

Mid-morning it's time to fuel again. And guess what? It's not rocket science. You're looking for the same nutrient profile - lean protein, a small amount of complex carbohydrate and some healthy fats. Need ideas? How about a low-fat yogurt (protein & carbs) with 10 raw almonds. Done.

It's lunch time. Lots of choices here. Did you plan ahead and bring your lunch or are you looking at the menu? Either way, there's a good choice to be had. Even at the burger joint you can select their small burger and eat only the bottom bun. Think ahead for success. Skip the fries, and you know how I feel about the sugar pop. It's a no go.

Three o'clock...time to fuel again. Are you getting the hang of this? The most active part of your day is likely over, so you should be done with your grain carbohydrates. Veggies and lean protein are my go to meal. Find what works for you.

My workout comes next in the sequence of my day and it's followed by a whey shake. Dinner is after that around 6:45 or 7 pm. Can you guess what it is? Lean protein and veggies! Final meal comes just before bed. That's right - just like a baby!

For me, it's eggs (mostly whites) before bed so I can have some fuel to rock me to sleep and get me through until morning. Now, as you can see an attitude of "less is more" doesn't work with eating to lose weight. Frequency is really important to eating in order to lose weight, or maintain weight.

Eating 6 small meals throughout the day helps our body maintain a consistent blood sugar level, sends the message we are getting adequate fuel, and allows our body to burn fat for fuel and build lean body mass. If you changed nothing else but the frequency of your meals, you'd lose weight.

Nutrition is so important, eating enough is important, and eating frequently is important. Focus on the shoulds for success with your plan!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Shampoo Is Not Filling The Void In Your Life

by Kris Pitcher

As I stood in the bathroom at the Red Lion Hotel, packing my things...the most amazing and transformational thing happened to me. I carefully zipped my tiny toiletries into their neat little bag, assembled the essentials - the hair products...then my gaze turned to the little bamboo stand holding the bottles of hotel shampoo and conditioner.

In that moment I decided I did not need to take those bottles with me. Not only was I ready to leave the shampoo behind, but I was prepared to leave the bath soap with massaging nodules, and the facial cleansing bar neatly wrapped in their own little packages. This was a moment of clarity of mind and of cleansing of soul.

In this very moment, I decided I didn't need excess simply because it was there before me. This is HUGE for me. If you're like me...you have a drawer, cupboard, or closet FULL of hotel soaps and tiny bottles of shampoos and conditioners. But this moment wasn't about the soap. It was about food.

I stood there in the bathroom and recognized this association with excess and translated it to food. RIGHT THERE! Hello! Do you hear those bells ringing? Did you see those white doves just take flight?! This was a transformational moment. I do not need excess just because it is there before me.

On a surface level, this is a concept I know. But to make the deeper mental leap and to recognize it in the moment was a big step along the journey. In my life, if there's half of anything, I want the bigger half. In fact, I'd have rather not had to share it at all - I wanted my own. I have always needed excess. Why? Because I've been filling a void with food.

Fill your life, feed your life, with things you love. Do the things you've been putting off. Live your life now, and be happy. Stop filling your self with excess food, simply because it's there. It's not filling the void you feel.

Like me, you have plenty of shampoo at home...you don't need that tiny bottle from the hotel. Shampoo is not filling the void in your life, it's just filling up your cupboard. Start making the connections in your life which will transcend your progress. They are all around you...right in front of you - on the bathroom counter!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

For Bloggin Out Loud!

by Kris Pitcher

Me and Angela Brown of Sistahpedia!
I had the distinct pleasure of speaking at an amazing event! As you know, or maybe you don't, I am the Health & Fitness contributing blogger for Sistahpedia.

Sistahpedia.com was co-founded by Angela Brown and her sister Debbie as a place for WWK - Women Who Know. It's a place for women to find and share resources to get/give a hand up, leg up, word up! It's chock full of information on health, beauty, entertainment, careers, education and more! The site has just launched!

The event was a "Shopping and Treats" event by Bike Style Spokane, a company owned by a woman helping ladies find, "The quest for the intersection of style and comfort" in the cycling world. Barb Chamberlain, Bike Style visionary, is demystifying "cycling" and sharing that biking is really something every one can do.

It's basically girl talk about biking...like what to do about sweat, what to wear, biking beyond spandex, how to carry what you need and bad hair days. Plus a whole lot of important things like - yes ladies, you can change a tire. She's made it really approachable. Plus, she's found clothes, bags, and gear just for ladies. Who doesn't like cute bags!

And, I got to present at the event and "blog out loud" how cool is that?! It was a blast to meet Bliss readers in the local area, and to introduce lots of ladies to my blog. It's energizing for me to connect with you, doing that in person was a lot of fun for me.

It was a great event, complete with specialty coffee, chocolate, paper arts, cool custom decals, massage...and more. There were lots of great folks there, and it was fun to meet ladies with like interests. Looking for a speaker? Think about bringing Bliss to your event...just saying, for blogging out loud!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Should I Eat Before My Morning Cardio?

by Kris Pitcher

Here's a great question.

"Will I really burn more fat if I skip breakfast before my workout?"

A. Eat your Wheaties. Whether or not you nosh, you'll burn the same number of calories you always do on your morning jog. Although the body breaks down extra fat for fuel when you exercise on an empty stomach, much of it is not the jiggly sort (aka adipose fat) you would like to fry off your abs, but a different variety that is stored in your muscles for energy. To lose more adipose fat, your best bet is to do intervals, says Brad Schoenfild, lead study author of a review of fat-burning research published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal.

This comes from Fitness magazine. We hear, "not the jiggly sort..." But don't forget the lead sentence..."Although the body breaks down extra fat for fuel when you exercise on an empty stomach,..." Keep in mind the big picture - fat burned for fuel is fat burned for fuel. You don't get to decide where it comes from. So if we're burning extra fat by not eating before our morning cardio, wouldn't it make sense not to eat before our morning cardio?

The reason this strikes me is we read these little "blips" of information, and they are from reputable sources (the Strength and Conditioning Journal) but is the information entirely in context? Yes we'll burn the same number of calories, but he follows by saying we'll burn more fat. We're talking about a matter of percentages of fat vs. glucose (stored carbohydrate) burned for fuel use.

My point isn't to dip my toes in minutia here, my point is to use the information you know to question what you read. That's all. Now we're all sitting with our spoons mid-mouth not knowing what to do, right?!

We are average people...move more, make good nutritional choices. We're in this for the long-haul. Whether we burn 2% more fat by not eating before our cardio in the morning is not going to make or break us. Now, if you're on your way to the Olympics - that's another story! Simply think about the information you read, and go back to the basics...they always work.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Break Free From Your Ruts!

by Kris Pitcher

We are absolute creatures of habit. We take the route we're comfortable with and we go to and from the same places day after day. The sun shining on my left knee will attest to the fact that I run my razor in the same path and somehow time after time...miss one single hair with each pass. The long knee hair.

We certainly get in patterns with our workouts. It's called a "rut". The problem with the rut is it impedes our progress. Because of the principle of adaptation, we need to change things up. But that's not my main concern about the long knee hair.

My concern is what are we missing by always doing what we've always done? On a basic level we miss what's just outside our path. The cup of coffee from the place without the giant green logo on the block we don't travel past for instance. Maybe it's better, or different...or the love of your life is there waiting for you. What progress in our lives is being impeded by ruts?

We'll never know if we don't break outside our ruts. If we aren't willing to be slightly uncomfortable to try something we're uncertain of, or go some place where we might get lost along the way...we'll never quite know what all is out there waiting for us.

I'm determined to get that long knee hair no matter what I have to do. What I do know is I'll have to do something different. I already feel a sense of accomplishment and freedom just from the thought of it. What will you do in your life that's different today?  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Will You See Your Lima Bean?

by Kris Pitcher

A funny thing happened while I was preparing my meals. As I poured frozen collard greens (that's not the odd part) into my Pyrex container, one lima bean popped out of the package. "A lima bean!" I laughed. "That must be good luck!"

In a sea of collard greens, a lima bean could be seen as a noxious weed, or a good luck omen. I'll take the latter. Plus, I happen to like lima beans...so I didn't mind.

Looking at life through optimistic eyes gives you an advantage. You set your "lens" to see the opportunity in the world rather than its unfairness. You see your impact rather than what happens to you. Positive thinking becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy too.

It isn't always easy to wear your rose colored glasses. But really in the grand scheme of things we have a lot to be thankful for. I hear people's complaints and sometimes I can't hold back the laughter. Really, you couldn't find something more important to complain about? If you think it, it's true...either way. Why not see your lima bean as a good luck omen?

One day, five years from now - will you have regrets for being unhappy? Will you wake up one day and be resentful for the life the world has handed you? Or will you put your rose colored glasses on now, see your advantage, your opportunity?

My lima bean will be a good luck omen! How will you see your lima bean?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Burning Calories!

by Kris Pitcher

I can't help but feel a little bit giddy. Caloric expenditure is a classy topic! The fact is our metabolism is driven by our lean body mass. Our muscle. Our metabolism slows as we age...not because we age. Because we lose muscle! It doesn't have to be that way. You want to burn? You need to lift! But today we're talking cardio.

See? I'm getting excited. I'll settle down. We talked about the basic difference in energy expenditure between weight vs. non-weight-bearing exercise. So, why does everyone LOVE the elliptical? I'll tell you why. Great marketing. The calorie count - that's why. But let's break it down. Just how does that machine know how many calories YOU burn?

Caloric expenditure relative to exercise, and resting, metabolism has to do with the rate at which oxygen is delivered to active tissue (muscle) and utilized. The more muscle we have (active tissue) the more blood we need to deliver (it's the highway carrying our oxygen) for use. The tissue needs the oxygen to metabolise fat (when we're doing cardio in the right HR zone for example). The calorie is the byproduct, of the metabolic process. A calorie is a measurement of heat - it's the amount of energy needed to increase 1 gram of water one degree Celsius.

So, if our calorie expenditure is a function of how much oxygen we use - our volume of oxygen or VO2...what does the elliptical machine know about that? It's simple really, all we need to know is our VO2 (mL/kg/min) x BW. Then we convert that to L/min...divide by 1000. Then to convert the L/min to calories we just multiply VO2 L/min x 5. What? You're lost?

Yeah...it's not simple. You can have a maximal treadmill test done at your cardiologist's office to determine your volume of oxygen uptake. That won't be fun. You can have a sub maximal VO2 test if your gym offers it. It's done on a bicycle, monitoring your heart rate and blood pressure - increasing intensity based on a prescriptive protocol. From those results your trainer can determine just how many calories you are burning per minute.

OR the machine can just ESTIMATE BASED ON YOUR BODY WEIGHT. And that's what it does. All the machines typically assume you weigh 150 pounds, and I have no idea how they determine what caloric expenditure per minute to use. I imagine they test a bunch of average people and take an average of that and call it good. My point is - IT'S NOT ACCURATE!

The big picture take away here is stop living your life by the calorie count on the machine. It's not like a savings bank. It doesn't mean you have burned EXACTLY 350 calories. It gives you an idea. You might be over or under. What we do know, is that weight-bearing exercise expends more calories than non-weight-bearing.

We also know there are some devices which more accurately track your metabolic expenditure based on data you put in. You wear these things and it tracks your activity and expenditure. There are lots of charts on line which can give you an idea of your activities from hiking to gardening...to skipping rope.

The cardio machine doesn't know anything about your VO2, your body composition - how much muscle you have, or therefore how many calories YOU burn per minute. Don't get caught up in the minutia. Keep the big picture in mind. Plus you won't get weirded out if "your machine" isn't available at the gym. Get burning!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Weight-Bearing vs. Non Weight-Bearing Cardio Exercise

by Kris Pitcher

On a very long car ride we were listening to "Car Talk". Click and Clack were explaining downshifting to a lady who made me cringe on behalf of my entire gender. Why a woman like this has a car with a manual transmission is beyond me. But when they were finished with her, I think she understood.

It made me think about another conversation I had recently where the obvious wasn't so obvious. And the reality is we don't know what we don't know. So, I thought today would be a good opportunity to revisit weight vs. non-weight-bearing cardiovascular exercise. 

Weight-bearing exercise is any exercise putting stress on our bones and muscles against gravity. On our feet. Within that, there are varying degrees of effort. We can look at some of the machines in the gym as examples. Let's take the elliptical - everybody loves the elliptical. Our feet are planted, meaning we aren't lifting and stepping with each rotation. This would be on the low end of weight-bearing. It's great for our hips, knees and ankles for the very same reason. 

Next look at the treadmill. As we walk we are lifting and planting our foot, bearing the weight of our body against gravity with each step. We can add an incline to increase the intensity without increasing the impact to our joints. Higher up on the scale. Getting it?

How about the stair stepper? We're lifting and planting with each vertical step, bearing our weight. More intensity than the treadmill - a different movement recruiting our muscles in a different way. Higher yet on the scale. 

The last time I was on the step mill Jacques walked up to it, climbed on top of it and asked me, "Are you in trouble?" "No...why?" I said. "Because whoever told you to do this wants you to be in pain!"

True, the step mill is the mother load of weight-bearing cardio machines. It's a revolving stair case. With each step you are lifting and planting - then you get to squeeze and hold your entire body weight for a second before you take the next step. Pure torture!

Now, you can probably tell me what isn't weight-bearing. The rowing machine. spinning class, the recumbent bike, swimming (no gravity). These are great for a lot of reasons. Just different. We heard about the importance of weight-bearing exercise in relation to osteoporosis. It's the weight-bearing exercise which helps us to strengthen our bones. Weight lifting does this the most effectively. But it's important to know the differences with our cardio choices as well.

Other differences? There are differences in effort. This makes sense. If we are bearing our body weight...we're likely expending more energy. But let's save that for another day! We'll talk about the differences in caloric expenditure - tomorrow!   

Monday, May 16, 2011

Slow Down And Live In Your Now

by Kris Pitcher

We're in a hurry. Get there fast is the name of the game in all aspects of our lives. If it's not super fast, it's way too slow. This is true for certain with our fitness goals.

The challenge with being in a hurry is you're not where you are. Huh? There's a lot to be said for being in the moment. You are where you are. In life, in your professional work...in your jeans. It takes time to get better, to meet our goals, to accomplish something big.

Looking to the future is important. But not at the expense of living your life right now. Being able to be happy where you are is the difference between the people who walk around with a smile on their face - seeing the world through eyes of opportunity. And those who complain because their McDonald's coffee is too hot. Let. It. Cool. Down.

If you're willing to slow down and do what you need to do, you'll be surprised that you'll begin to meet your goals - and feel a sense of happiness. Why? Because you're living your now. Take a step back from the rush of your life, don't be in such a hurry...slow down and be where you are.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hip Fractures and Fall Prevention

by Kris Pitcher

Did you know that people don't fall and break a hip, they break a hip and then fall? This might not be a topic at the front of mind for you. But if you have older adults in your life, which we all do, you'll find the information helpful.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates more than 10 million people over age 50 in the U.S. have osteoporosis and another 34 million are at risk for it. If you need one more reason to do strength training - THIS IS IT. Weight bearing exercise helps us maintain, and even build our bone density as we age. This is so important.

Having osteoporosis is a risk factor for hip fracture. Exercising regularly and maintaining strength and balance is important as we age. Women sustain three quarters of all hip fractures according to the Centers for Disease Control. One out of five hip fracture patients dies within a year of their injury (Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2002;50:1644-50.)

Most falls happen in your own home. Keeping a tidy, clutter free environment is important to reducing trip hazards. We can improve our environment at any age. Think about your floor surfaces, electrical cords, stairways and walkways.

We can also have our eyesight checked as falls can result from poor vision. Checking our prescriptions for side effects of blurry vision would be smart too. All these things add up and stack up against you in terms of creating trip hazards.

Keeping ourselves, and our loved ones, safe means we can be independent longer. The stronger we are, the better! I always remind people...if you can't stand up and sit down...you can't go to the bathroom on your own. Once you can't do that - you're a handful for someone.

Do what you can to keep osteoporosis at bay and prevent falls by keeping yourself strong and your environment clear of hazards. Live a blissful life, longer!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Skinny Carrot Cake

by Kris Pitcher

I am constantly ripping on the mega-box warehouse carrot cake. And don't get me wrong...they make a great cake. It's just our waistline becomes a wasteland in the blink of an eye. So, when I came across this skinnier version - I had to share. Roll up your sleeves and make something from scratch. You'll be amazed!

Carrot Cake
2 1/4 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 C grated carrot
1 C granulated sugar
1/2 C packed brown sugar
6 T butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C low-fat buttermilk
cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl & stir with a whisk. Add grated carrot, and toss.
  3. Place granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter in large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Spread batter into a 13X9 - inch metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 28 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake on wire rack.
  4. To prepare frosting...skip the frosting - it's skinnier that way. Dust with powdered sugar instead!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Ultimate Power Nap

by Kris Pitcher

I was recently reminded of something I used to know. So, I thought I'd pass it along in case you forgot it too. My memory failing me might have something to do with not sleeping very well. What better time to talk about the power nap!

Getting adequate sleep is critical to your health. We can all agree on that. How much is enough? Well, experts agree we need 7-8 hours each night. Many of us don't get nearly enough.

The power nap will have you recharged in no time flat, ready to take on the world...or at least make it through the second half of your day. Find yourself a quiet place to lay down.

Get yourself a cold cup of coffee or tea, gulp it down, and hit the sack for 20 minutes. The caffeine will begin to hit you as your 20 minutes is up and you'll have gotten some z's and will wake refreshed.

Power up to power through your day with a fresh mind and you'll be unstoppable. There isn't much to it, the power nap is 20 minutes of bliss I could use for sure! This isn't one to file away, it's one to put into practice. Let's all take the ultimate power nap!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How To Hit The Lotto With Your Exercise Goals

by Kris Pitcher

My sister is right, winning the Lotto is not a good plan. It hasn't worked out so far...and I just checked my numbers from Monday's game. And oddly enough. Nothing. There's still a glimmer of hope for Power ball. But deep down, I know she's right.

Meeting our health and fitness pursuits is the same. There really isn't any luck involved. The odds of everything magically lining up are slim to none (no pun intended).

If you've been hoping to "hit the lottery" by magically losing that extra 20 pounds, but not really having to do anything to make it happen. Here's your numbers check. It's. Not. Going. To. Happen.

In the case of my lottery plan - I'm socking away my savings, maxing out my IRA, and contributing the maximum to my 401-K. You could say I have a back-up plan. What's your back-up plan...to meet your magic number? Let's start by skipping the number. It doesn't matter.

Go back to the basics. You know the ones. Move more. Eat the right things, at the appropriate times during the day. Fuel your body and your mind. Surround yourself with support. Do the things that you know work, and you will get the results you want to get.

There simply isn't any luck involved. We do the hard work, and we reap the benefits. It's something I practice each and every day. Come on, walk the walk with me. If I happen to hit the lotto - well, I'll just write more Bliss! But I'm not counting on that...

Take Flight In Movement

by Kris Pitcher

My carefully draped scarf quickly became a hand washing hazard as I bent over the restroom sink. Before its tassels grazed the basin, I flung its triangle over my right shoulder and I was overcome.

In that swift movement I was transported in time. I could feel the rush of freedom...of flight. My scarf had become a cape, and with a cape...I could fly!

I remember flying through the house with a towel tied around my neck - it tailing behind me as I bobbed and weaved. There's nothing quite like that feeling. Freedom of movement, freedom of spirit. Every kid dreams of being able to fly.

Now, we move quickly but not because we've taken flight. Do the things that transport you. For me, I get lost in my cardio...once I get going. I also feel that sense of flight in specific activities - scuba, and in-line skating. There's nothing quite like the feeling of flight. Some people feel that way when they're riding their bike.

Take time to feel your body move, to get lost in movement. Who knows, you just might take flight!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Wrong Food, It's Just Not That In To You

by Kris Pitcher

We pay an awful lot of attention to food. It's everywhere. We are constantly surrounded by its images. Look around...billboards, advertisements, fast food restaurants, commercials - all telling us what we should have/want/need to make our lives better. I'll tell you what, it's not important.

Rather, we've placed importance on the wrong foods. Being bombarded with images is tiresome. Flipping through magazines, you clip coupons for things you would never buy...because now you have a coupon. Plus the image of the happy family eating a meal together looks like something you'd like. You don't need it or hamburger helper.

And you know how I feel about the constant barrage of sweets at work. Every other day there are cookies, brownie bites, mini-scones, and the giant Costco cake in the work-room. These things suck the living energy out of us. We walk past them enough times eventually breaking down and eating them only to be left feeling guilty, unsatisfied and out of control.

My point is we give this too much importance. Take the giant cake. It will not be the last cake ever to cross your path. It won't be the final brownie bite ever to come your way either...so, could you just keep walking? Could you stick to your plan and take a rain check on the things you hadn't planned on? I bet you could.

Place the importance on the foods that are in your plan...not the ones that aren't. Put your energy there. The rest - forget it, stop giving it importance and your attention. It's just not that in to you.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Buddy Up For Fitness Success

by Kris Pitcher

Making progress toward your goals is as easy as initiating the buddy system. Having a workout partner is critical to making gains. Whether your focus is getting to a group exercise class, or benching your body weight...you need a buddy.

Accountability is the first key to success with your buddy. Knowing someone is counting on you to show up increases your chances of getting there yourself. You are accountable to them and vice versa. The beauty of the buddy system is it works both ways.

Support and positive peer pressure is the next benefit. Having someone push you will help you get past the barriers you've falsely put in place for yourself. They'll get you to do one more repetition, or five more minutes. You will push each other. It works.

Finding the right person is what makes this work. You've got to be able to count on them. They've got to have similar goals, be willing to do a similar workout, and be able to meet your schedule.

If you've got a workout partner, and it's the right match, you know what a difference it makes. If they just sit on the bike next to you and dump all their problems on you...you might need to find a new partner. Just a thought.

Having trouble finding the right person? Many people do. It's a big, important role to fill. And that's why a lot of people hire a personal trainer. Their trainer fits the role by definition: accountable, reliable, knowledgeable, someone to push you toward your goal.

When you are ready to make your fitness your success...buddy up!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Something Special For Mother's Day

by Kris Pitcher

Happy Mother's Day! As I was preparing for this special day, I did a little research. I was reminded of the history of Mother's Day, its origin, and its variations through history. What I was most interested in is how others celebrate. And that's what I chose to share with you. As you celebrate your special day, and the women in your life - enjoy knowing how others might be celebrating.

Other Countries & Regions Celebrating Mother's Day

  • Asia - Many Asian countries that celebrate Mother’s Day tend to draw heavily from the United States’ tradition.
  • Australia - The Australian Mother’s Day is similar to that of the United States, in which families visit each other and dinners. In addition to flowers, cards, jewelry and chocolates, it is customary for Australians to exchange perfume and teas on Mother’s Day.
  • Bahrain - In Bahrain Mother's Day is called Ruz-e Madar and it coincides with the first day of spring, observed as March 21, as are the Mother’s Day celebrations in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Belgium - In the Dutch-speaking parts of Belgium the day is called Moederdag.
  • Canada - Canada was one of the first nation’s to pick up the US version of Mother’s Day, making it a national holiday in 1909, one year later the United States did. The customs largely reflect those of its southern neighbor, although in Canada there seems to be an added emphasis on doing chores for the Mother and cooking her supper.
  • China - While China’s Mother’s Day distinguishes itself little from the United States’, it is interesting to note that most Chinese names begin with a character signifying Mother in honor of ones maternal heritage, helping explain the cultural compatibility of such a holiday, despite it’s having been imported from the West.
  • Denmark - In Denmark dining out to lunch is a popular Mother’s Day pastime. The day is calledMors Dag.
  • Ethiopia - Mother's Day in Ethiopia occurs in mid-fall when the rainy season ends. Called “Antrosht,” Ethiopians celebrate by making their way home when the weather clears for a large family meal and a three day long celebration. For the feast the children bring ingredients for a traditional hash recipe. The ingredients are divided along gender lines, with girls bringing butter, cheese, vegetables and spices while the boys bring a bull or lamb. The mother prepares the hash and hands it out to the family. After the meal a celebration takes place. The mothers and daughters ritually anoint themselves with butter on their faces and chests. They dance while the men sing songs in honor of family and heroes. This cycle of feasting and celebration lasts two or three days.
  • Finland - In Finland Mother’s Day is called aidipayiva. In the morning the family arises and takes a walk, picking the new flowers which bloom this time of year and making a bouquet for the mother. A particular flower called the valkovuokko is favored. This is a small white pungent flower. Back home Mom presented with a decorated bouquet, while also being served breakfast in bed.
  • Hong Kong - Hong Kong’s holiday, called mu quin jie, is notable for its custom to pay honor to the parent of the Mother if she is deceased.
  • Italy - The Italians celebrate La Festa della Mamma with a big feast and a cake made in the shape of a heart. Typically Italian schoolchildren will make something to bring home to their Mothers, and the family will take care of the chores for the day.
  • Norway - The Norwegian Morsdag takes place on February’s second Sunday.
  • Pakistan (and Saudi Arabia) - The May 10 celebration of Motherhood in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is called Yaum ul-umm. It is inspired by and modeled after the western tradition of Mother's Day in which all mothers are honored and given gifts. Celebrations and feasts are customary.
  • Saudi Arabia - see Pakistan
  • Serbia - Also occurring two weeks before Christmas, the Serbian Mother’s Day tradition is quite similar to the Yugoslavian one. The Sunday prior to Mother’s Day is commemorated by a ritual in which parents tie up their young ones until they promise to behave themselves. Retribution comes a week later when children bind their mother until she offers them candy and other treats. But it doesn’t end on Mother’s Day. The following Sunday it’s the father’s turn to be tied up until he promises some pricey gifts.
  • Singapore - Singapore’s Mother’s Day places a heavy emphasis on marketing a wide variety of gifts including spa packages, vacuums, hampers, jewelry and other more traditional presents such as flowers.
  • South Africa - South Africa celebrates Mother’s Day on the first Sunday in May.
  • Sweden - Sweden’s Mother’s Day, which takes place on the last Sunday in May, has a strong charitable focus: the Swedish Red Cross sells small plastic flowers leading up to the holiday, and the proceeds raised are given to poor mothers and their children.
  • Thailand - Perhaps the most unique Asian Mother's Day holiday takes place in Thailand. The celebration coincides with the birthday of their beloved queen, Sirikit Kitayakara, who has reigned since 1950. Her birthday, and therefore Mother's Day, takes place on August 12.
  • Turkey - Mother’s Day in Turkey is heavily influenced by the traditions from the United States.
Learn more about this special day at mothersdaycentral.com

Saturday, May 7, 2011

How To Exceed Expectations

by Kris Pitcher

Some people think you get what you get in life. Others believe you create your own destiny. I say it depends on your expectations. If you've ever thought yourself into a crappy mood, you understand the power of suggestive thinking.

Why not turn that around and expect something different? A self-fulfilling prophecy can work both ways. It's time you begin to exceed your own expectations. Just getting by is "below standards" on the rating scale of life.

In order to exceed your own expectations you've got to believe you can do something. You've got to be able to turn a blind eye to the barriers, the setbacks and the "I can't" statements crossing your mind and spilling off your lips.

The truth is, you can if you think you can. If you were to give yourself a performance evaluation how would you rate? Spring is a good time to take note and make some improvements. Sometimes it means doing fewer things, and doing them better. Maybe it means doing more of what's important to you and less of the things which don't matter.

It comes down to self-evaluation, prioritizing, and focusing efforts in order to live the life you want. You are creating your own destiny - why not exceed your expectations!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hooping, Not Just For Kids

by Kris Pitcher

In my mind, there are things I think I can do. Hula hooping is one of them. Shooting the duck on my four wheels is another, but let's just take things one at a time here.

Upon execution...my memories jolt, quickly reminding me that I am not 12 years old. But "Hooping" isn't just for kids. This is a craze that is sweeping the group exercise world, circling it's way into fitness centers all over.

Of course hula hooping predates the 1950s, but this is the new hooping. Hoops are used not just around the waist but also around limbs for extra movement. The key is having the right size and weight of hoop. Yes, these hoops are weighted making for a slower turn, and a more resisted turn. Meaning you've got to do more work. How fun!

A kid's version won't do...unless you're kid sized. Your hoop needs to stand waist or nipple high from the ground. Then you put it around your waist, put one foot in front of the other and shift your weight. You're hooping!

Imagine choreographed workouts using a hoop?! A room full of 40-something hoopers...hooping it up! I'm willing to bet that in your mind, you can hoop too. Give it a whirl!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Anger Is A Battle You Won't Win

by Kris Pitcher

Some things aren't fair. I'm "carb sensitive"...that's not fair. It doesn't mean I am sympathetic to carbs. IT MEANS CARBS MAKE ME FAT!

OK, we can take a deep breath now - because I'm not angry. Being angry about that gets me where? No where. It gets me no where because anger is a battle you won't win. I am not entitled to eat carbs. There's nothing that says, "Thou shalt get to eat pancakes, pizza and pasta daily whilst maintaining a lean body composition."

Harboring resentment against yourself makes no sense to me. Anger against the rest of the world because they can eat [fill in the blank] also makes no sense. So really you are punishing yourself. And when you say it out loud doesn't it just seem silly?

If this is a sticking point for you - regardless of what your food issue is - it's time to let it go. Let those feelings of anger go! Release them! How can you do that when you see other people eating the thing you can't? It's easy.

Go back to your goals and your values. If you want what you want, your actions need to be in line. Simple. It's simple because it's important to you - you value it. You're done being caught up in anger over something that simply doesn't work for you. Stop fighting a losing battle, you deserve to win this one!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Food As Foe

by Kris Pitcher

Being able to strike a balance with your healthy lifestyle habits is really important. Managing enthusiasm for your focus might seem like a strange concept, but it's often those who race out of the gates fastest, who run out of steam first.

Making changes slowly helps people to make lasting changes and it also helps us to keep a sense of balance. For some people though, all this focused energy gets to their head. And whether they're diagnosed or not, disordered eating behaviors usually begin with emotional issues that manifest themselves as a physical problem.

People see controlling their food and exercise as a way of gaining control of their lives. Even good healthful intentions can go too far when they begin to impact other areas of your life. We're seeing new eating disorders being defined around people focused in on pesticide/chemical free foods and also with eating only certain food groups or items.

Any time we're micro-focused on an issue it can tip the scales of being overboard. Many can't recognize when they're stepping over that line. Keeping healthful habits in balance in your life means making room for error.

We need food for fuel, and finding and maintaining a healthful balance in our lives is so important. Food should be friend, not foe.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Help Yourself"

by Kris Pitcher

"Help Yourself" stated the cheery sign greeting the Monday crowd as we made our stop at the office refrigerator. There was not only a cheesecake in the refrigerator...but a chocolate one on the counter. What exactly happens here on the weekends?

Help yourself is right! Help yourself to a lower body fat! That's what I thought! I filled up my water bottle, heated up meal number two and kept on walking. But resolve is hard to find on a Monday morning...and the cake was soon gone.

Keeping yourself on track in the work place can be like dodging land mines. Every where you look there are things that just aren't on your plan. Things which are not going to help you...help yourself! Knowing your plan is your key to helping yourself.

Winging it doesn't generally work. Those who wing it, eat the cake at 8:00 am. But those of us on a plan, can just stick to our plan. We don't need to be side tracked by the signs telling us to 'help ourselves'.

Don't knock yourself if you helped yourself...just reacquaint yourself with your plan. Get back to what your goals are and clean things up. You can always pick back up and get moving forward. No sense in lingering in the past, learn from it and move on.

Pay attention to the signs around you and by all means you should "Help Yourself". Just not in the way the sign suggested!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Time to Pony Up!

by Kris Pitcher

This cowboy rode high. His jeans were crisp and his shirt untucked...buttoned high to his collar. His hat was firm on his head and as his chin tilted to the sky its brim rose to the heavens. The look on his face was serious, like he meant business. His cowboy hands gripped firm to the front and his boots were planted firmly on the lower rungs as his dad pushed from the other side of the grocery cart.

Sure, this cowboy might have only been five years old...but he was certain of who he is. How certain are you of who you are? Do you ride high and proud where everyone will see you? Or do you take a back seat...

It's time to tilt your hat to the heavens and put your chin to the sky. Drink in the solace of knowing who you are with certainty.

Stop questioning yourself, comparing yourself and wondering if you are good enough. Be certain of what works for you and of who you have chosen to become in this life.

Find peace with your inner self and move ahead being you! Put your cowboy boots on, pony up and go for a ride! Your life is waiting for you!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why Size Doesn't Matter

by Kris Pitcher

I like my GAP slacks because they're a size 6. Now, I have some trusty wardrobe staples from Penny's (don't judge) that are an 8. But my favorite slacks are my one "fancy" pair, my Ralph Lauren...they're a size 4! Now, how can I be a 4, 6, and an 8?!

And jeans, don't get me started - I've got the size range there too. Finding the right fit means taking about 40 pairs in the dressing room to find two to pick from. Right?

All those discarded pairs...the ones you can't begin to get your calf into, the ones you get over your thighs but they fall off your waist. All these mis-shapen pairs make me wonder...what's wrong with my shape!?

Nothing! That's what. Let's talk about "Vanity Sizing". There is no U.S. standard for women's sizing. No two makers create a pair of slacks with the same specifications. That's why I can be a 4 and an 8 at the same time. RL wants me to feel great in my slacks and buy more pairs. It's marketing.

The size 8 of today is a 14 from the '60s. The industry wants to make us feel better about our...inflation. Surprised? Don't be, we've super sized everything else. But let's not get off-point here. The point is, size means nothing. Sorry guys, but size doesn't matter.

So stop worrying about it. Take the tags out once you've purchased something that fits your body right now. It doesn't matter if you're a 10 or an 18. If you're clothes fit you - that's the size you are. The number is irrelevant.

Companies want you to like their product line, so they size down the clothes to make us feel better. They're not pulling the wool over our eyes though. Keep your head straight about the numbers - some of them matter and some of them don't. The one on your tag...it doesn't matter - you're more than a number!