Saturday, January 31, 2009
No matter what our best intentions are, unfortunately, most of us abandon our resolutions within 6 months. We have plenty of examples of people falling off the wagon of their goals. Oprah gained most of her weight back. Some of the Biggest Losers from past seasons gain back most of their weight. Any goals about making money have been put off by the train wreck that is our economy. What's going on? Are we destined to fail? Is there something in our makeup as humans that keeps us in our old, unproductive habits?
There are plenty of experts who study this. Most therapists and addiction counselors say that change may be difficult, but it's not impossible. In an article Jan. 1, in the New York Times, "New Year, New You? Nice Try", Alan Deutschman, author of "Change or Die", suggests four steps to improve success. The first is to start with a big change so you see immediate benefits which encourage further positive change. Next is to act like the person you are trying to become; think of yourself as thin, athletic, whatever. Third is to reframe how you think of the situation. And the fourth and most important, don't do it alone. Get help.
Personally, I'm not a big resolutions kind of girl. At the beginning of the year I tend to hope for pretty inexact things: lead a good life in the new year, work, enjoy my life, be nice, make the world a little better, not worse. However, during the rest of the year I do have plenty of very specific goals, most of which I attain. I do this by taking a good look at where I am currently. Then I have a goal. I now have the starting point and the end. Next, I map out a plan: intermediary goals, daily activities, etc. When I started training to climb Mt. Rainier after finishing treatment, I made an honest assessment of my fitness at that time, and I made a plan. I didn't just have a vague wish to get in better shape. I planned incremental improvements and acheivements. I strung together lots of small goals, each one a step leading to the greater goal. I would hike a small mountain nearby, next I would hike it without stopping for a break, then I would do it faster, and follow that with swimming across the lake....
I think all too often, we set goals that are not within reason (Oprah is not a tiny woman, will never be a tiny woman, but she can be a healthy woman at a healthy weight.). Or we don't make a realistic plan (losing 100 pounds on a TV show, with constant attention from trainers, is not a realistic, sustainable loss.) I am very much a realist - but an optimistic one. I do believe we can all do extraordinary things. We just have to plan for it. That is why I wrote several posts about my friend and the other American swimmers who recently swam the Strait of Magellan. They are ordinary people, who made a plan, stuck with the plan, and did something extraordinary. Whether you want to lose 20 pounds, have more energy to play with your grandkids, or climb Denali; set the goal, make the plan, and do it!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I always want to stay in shape and get tired of doing only crunches and pushups when there's no gym. So I've thought about good, effective exercises, using no special equipment, that I can do anywhere (even a tiny hotel room). I even used these exercises to maintain a rather rigorous workout schedule on a concert tour while I was training to climb Aconcagua (the highest peak in the Western hemishpere).
Besides my usual advice: walk whenever you can or take the stairs rather than the elevator, there really is a lot that you can do right in the room with no equipment. I'm a fan of good old-fashioned calisthenics for my hotel room workouts - think grade school gym class. Here are a few ideas:
- Lunges are great - forward, back, or to the side. You can work your core & upper body at the same time if you add reaches to the lunge. As you lunge, reach you arms forward at shoulder-height. If you want to add weight, grab a couple of water bottles or a book. I know that's not much, but you'll be surprised how effective even a couple of pounds can be in a combination exercise like this. I like doing this with a diagonal lunge - it's a little more of a real-world, functional movement.
- You can also do step ups. Place the desk chair against the wall so it doesn't slip & do slow, steady step-ups.
- Squats - with or without a little added weight (the water bottles). If your knees bother you, don't do a deep squat; just a few inches will do. You can also do plie squats: wide stance, feet at least hip-width apart, feet turned out at 45 degree angle.
- Squat/thrusts are also great: squat down, hands on floor by feet. Jump feet back so body is extended (in pushup position). Jump feet back underneath & stand up.
- Or mountainclimbers: squat down with hands on floor. Extend one leg out straight to the back, one leg bent underneath your body. Keeping hands on the floor, jump and alternate legs (as though you're running).
- How about jumping jacks (yes, jumping jacks!).
- The Plank. Strengthens everything. Lie face down, raise up onto your elbows and toes. Keep your body straight (like a plank) and hold.
- And my favorite - pushups (either full for from the knees - both demostrated by my mom).
These are just a few ideas.
Make a list of all the exercises that you can do in a small room - be creative. Make your own combinations; add a reach or a press with your arms to any lower body exercise; add a pound or two (the water bottles). Pick 4 or 5 of the exercises. Do 10-15 reps of each (or whatever number of reps is right for you). Take a short break and repeat the set, or pick a few different exercises.
These can make a pretty intense workout. Remember, I did these while training for Aconcagua. If it's too intense, do fewer reps, or take a longer rest between exercises. And all of the exercises can be modified: do a 1/4 squat or support yourself with the back of a chair, run or march in place rather than do mountainclimbers, do pushups against the wall.
Now you have some ideas; you can vary the intensity to fit your current fitness level; you no longer have the excuse that you're traveling. You have the tools - the motivation is up to you.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
(Walking is the last thing anyone wants to do right after surgery, but it is essential. It helps clear your lungs, your body and your mind. Do it - slowly and awkwardly at first, but keep going.)
Dana is now writing a weekly blog about prostate cancer. He posts once a week on Tara Parker-Pope's Well blog. The Well blog is a terrific blog covering topics related to many aspects of healthy living. It's well worth checking out frequently. But I'm particularly taken with Dana's posts on prostate cancer. He writes in an honest and articulate way about his journey through the world of cancer.
I thank him and wish him well.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Many of the offices that work to promote women's health - Dept. of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others - are not written into law and therefore can be cut at any time. The bi-partisan Women's Health Office Act (HR 1072 and S 612) would change that. The bill would provide those offices with permanent authorization.
Please visit Real Women on Health for more information. You can also email your Representative by clicking here.
Monday, January 26, 2009
The interview has been up on Margie's blog this month. You can hear it at meg-enterprises.com.
Friday, January 23, 2009
I've said already what a good example this is of striving for a goal: setting the goal, making a plan, sticking to the plan, and diligence. Now I would just like to say a hearty "good job".
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Since then, recommendations have changed. In the American Cancer Society's book, "Lymphedema, Understanding and Managing Lymphedema After Cancer Treatment," experts say that people at risk for or diagnosed with lymphedema benefit from moderate physical activity (p.31). Vigorous exercise does increase the amount of fluid in the part of the body being exercised, and increases the production of solid debris. The old recommendations came out of a fear that this would overwhelm an already stressed lymph system. However, the muscle contractions during exercise squeeze body tissue, thereby helping move lymph through the body. Also, deep breathing and the movement of the diaphram pumps lymph out of the limbs and toward the heart. And exercise helps reduce and maintain weight, which reduces the risk of lymphedema. Yes, there is a risk of lymphedema with exercise - our lymphatic systems are compromised. But most experts now feel that the benefits of exercise (reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and several cancers, just to start the list) are of greater benefit than the possible risk of triggering lymphedema.
With my own experience, I've found that to be true. After a couple of minor bouts with swelling, I got fitted for a compression sleeve and glove. I generally wear them only as a precaution when on a long flight or at high altitude. (I actually just got new ones from Jobst. It's important to replace compression garments regularly.) And I am careful always to build my strength up gradually. If I'm not in such good shape, I start working out again gradually. If I'm planning on ice climbing (or some other high-intensity activity), I start training early to avoid sudden intense strains on my arm. With just reasonable precautions, I'm able to do pretty much any activities I want.
At Life-Cise and Stay Fit Stay Strong, we work to develop appropriate exercise programs for people at risk for lymphedema. The benefits of regular exercise are too great to miss because of fear.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
On this day, children all over this country and the world are learning different lessons about the world. They are learning that we can come together; we can believe; we can make things happen.
This day does not mean the struggle is finished. We still must always be working for greater equality. We have much work to do to provide healthcare, education, adequate housing, safety, and so many other things.
But on this one day, we can be proud; we can celebrate. No matter what your political beliefs, this is a moment of hope.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I see this swim as such a good example for all of us. It's a story of starting with smaller goals, working for them, and then setting bigger goals. Each step in the process is a reasonable goal that leads to the next step. These swimmers set a very big goal, swimming the Strait of Magellan. To get there, they came up with a step by step plan - small goals, leading to bigger goals, leading to still bigger goals. They had a realistic plan that comprised not only the big goal, but also the steps that would get them there. And they've been steadfast. They didn't get ready for this in a couple of weeks. They continued working toward their goal for many months.
This is what setting and achieving any goal is all about. And it's highly appropriate to be talking about this now, in January - the month when so many have set goals for the new year. In order to achieve any goal, we must first take an honest look at where we are now. Next, what is the goal and how do we get from here to there? We must develop a specific plan. If I want to lose 15 pounds by July, what steps must I take now? What will I weigh next month, and the month after that if I am to reach my goal? If I want it to happen then, I have to start working on it now.
When I decided to return to climbing after all of my treatments were finished, I had to be realistic about my current level of fitness. Even though I worked out all throughout treatment, after a full year of chemo and radiation I was pretty run down. I settled on a goal: climbing Mt. Rainier to raise funds for breast cancer research. Next, I came up with a plan to get from here to there. I worked on building my endurance. I worked on building my strength. I set intermediate goals. It was important to me to have short, medium, and long-term goals. I needed the big goal to keep me motivated, but I also needed the three steps to take this week to keep me moving toward that goal. By the time I was actually on the mountain, I didn't really care if I made the summit. I was just thrilled that I was there. I had come so far. Of course, when I did summit, it was oh so sweet.
So, although I don't share Rachel's passion for such an adventurous swim, I am excited for her and I am inspired by her. Goals, striving for what's not yet within our reach - this is what keeps life exciting and zestful. We should all be thrilled to watch someone reach for any lofty goal. Go Rachel (and anyone else working toward their goal)!
Saturday, January 17, 2009
In a couple of days my friend, Rachel Golub and three other American swimmers will attempt to swim the Strait of Magellan, crossing from the End of the Americas to Tierra del Fuego. They were granted a three-day window for their attempt by the Chilean government. The distance is 2.4 miles, and depending on currents and speed, the crossing should take them about one hour. The water temperature will be around 4 degrees C, or 40 degrees F - serious cold! The swimmers will be wearing only swimsuits, and will be escorted by the Chilean Armada. Only two swimmers have successfully made the crossing.
These swimmers have all been training hard for this attempt. Rachel has been training with year-round swims off Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, NY. I wish them well and hope for good weather.
Although I'm a pretty adventurous person, this holds no appeal for me (I'm kind of afraid of big fish). However, I greatly respect their committment and determination. I know what it's like to have a big goal, stay focused on it, and work step by step to achieve it.
And I know this has nothing to do with cancer - except maybe, in a way, it does. The goal of staying fit during treatment, or maybe just having the strength to walk to the mailbox can be a formidable challenge. This swim is a great example for us all of goal-setting and diligent work. Rachel is not a super-athlete; she's a violinist; we've worked together for years. But she found something she enjoys, set reasonable goals, and built up to this. You can follow Rachel's progress on her blog, RachelGolub.blogspot.com. Read about her preparation and progress. And be inspired!
Monday, January 5, 2009
Top 20 iPhone Apps to Get Healthy in 2009
Whether you are already a health nut or just starting out on the road to healthy living, we all can use some help to stay on path. There are many health applications on your iPhone that can help you reach your new year’s resolutions for fitness, strength, and general well being. From tracking weight loss to simply breathing better these apps are easily downloaded to your iPhone. Here is a list we have compiled that we think will help you manage a healthy and more fulfilled life in 2009.
Diet & Weight Loss: Keeping track of your diet & weight can be a hassle. Here are some ways the iphone can help.
- Diet: If you are dieting while you are traveling this application will give you nutritional information and calories for over seven thousand foods sold nationally and internationally.
- Weight Tracker: Keep record of your weight on a day to day basis. You can also set goals to help you reach your target weight loss.
- Trim For Life: This is a new high protein diet application. It allows you to measure your body fat percentage (BFP) and keep a daily log of your weight. There is also a list of foods that will help you satisfy your hunger for a lot less calories. You can add your own foods and Trim for Life will let you know how helpful they are to your diet.
- Sensei for Weight Loss: A weight loss app that learns about your preferences and lifestyle to develop a program suitable for you. Sensei provides motivational messages and advice from experts and community members.
- Gluten Free Diets: Offers recommendations and instructions on creating a Gluten Free diet. Can also help you locate restaurants that offer Gluten free food on their menu.
Exercise: These applications can aid you in exercising to maintain good health.
- iPump: Hiring a personal trainer can be costly. With videos, images, and audio coaching you can have a personal exercise program right at you fingertips. This total body workout targets all the major muscles in the body. There is also an iPump series that includes Yoga, Pilates, and Swiss Ball.
- iMapMyRun: This app works with your GPS to give you speed, distance, pace, running maps, training logs and more. They also have iMapMyRide for cycling workouts.
- StretchZ: If you sit in front of a computer all day, this app allows you to access regular stretching routines for your work environment. It can help relieve neck, shoulder, and backaches. This is good because most jobs will not let you install software on a company computer.
- Fitview: Manage and track your aerobic activity, strength training, and vital statistics. Data is recorded over time and will show you accurate graphs to track trends.
- Steps: By wearing you iphone on your waist or in your pocket you can use it as a pedometer. This will also help you determine your speed, distance and calories burned.
Health & Medical: Here are some surprising abilities your iPhone has that just might improve your quality of life.
- Pocket First Aid & CPR Guide: Be prepared at anytime for a medical emergency. This is a great application that gives you precise instructions on anything from CPR to seizures. You can also enter medical, doctor and insurance information along with emergency contacts, allergies, and medications.
- My Life Record: Put an end to waiting for results to get from one doctor to another by giving you instant access to your entire medial chart. Keep detailed track of all your medical records including lab results, medications, and imaging.
- Doctors: Locate a doctor in minutes with this app. Whether you are local or traveling you can find specialists, hospitals and even pharmacies in your location.
- Significantly Glucose-Charter: For patients with Type 1 & 2 Diabetes, this is the ideal tool for keeping an eye on your blood glucose, insulin and other medications. A comprehensive food list has a number of means to help you assess the foods you are eating. There is also an option to report this information to your doctor every 30 days.
- Breath Pacer: Studies have show that slower breathing makes for better health. With this app you can learn how to pace breathing with visual and audio encouragement for twenty minutes a day.
Nutrition: Whether you are a vegetarian or just trying to eat healthy, these apps can give you needed information on your food intake.
- Food Additives: This app lets you quickly get access to over 450 food additives. You can avoid those that are potentially dangerous to your health & see which ones are safe. Great for parents, vegetarians, and the health conscious.
- Calorie Tracker: Search for foods you consume during the day and this app will tally up the calories. It also shows fat, carbohydrate, and protein intake.
- Restaurant Nutrition: If you are someone who likes to eat out then this application is for you. Choose a restaurant and find out calories, carbs, fat, and fiber content for listed menu items.
- FDA for iPhone: Get current announcements such as recalls, news releases, and MedWatch safety alerts from the US Food & Drug Association. There is even a FDA warning letter search.
- 8h2o: An easy application that lets you know if you’ve consumed the recommended 8 glasses of water a day.
Folks, the goal here is to use technology to improve your health. That doesn’t happen if you just read the article but don’t actually pick a few of these applications to try out. While some of theses apps are free, most only cost a dollar or two and are great ways to keep your health in check. So for the price of a Starbucks coffee, give a few a try this week.
Thanks to the people at x-raytechnicianschools.org.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Even if you can't swim, the pool offers great exercise. Walk or run in the shallow end. If walking in the water is difficult, just get in and move. You'll gain strength because the water offers resistance as you move your body through it. This can be especially good if you have back problems or other issues with mobility. The water is buoyant and therefore relieves some of the pressure on your spine or joints. Years ago I had a spinal injury (taxi ran me over). I used to get in the water and kneel down so that just my head was out of the water, and then move my arms around in the water. The water helped to support my neck and head, making it easier to get some movement in my arms.
Water exercise is great for anyone, but I think it's an especially good choice for those in chemo. It's gentle and calming, but also effective.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
As I walked up my driveway late last night in the bitter cold, I was thinking about all the people living on the streets, and wishing they can all find shelter. For all those who are unsafe for any manner of reasons, may you find safety and peace. For the many people suffering from the economic crisis throughout the world, those without jobs or food, I hope this year gets better. And of course I wish good health for everyone. For those already struggling against illness, I wish you hope and strength.
If I had just one wish, though, I guess I would simply wish for more compassion in the world. That one wish would go a long way towards fixing many of the problems of the world. As individuals, we might not be able to fix all the big probems, but we do have the power to make our little corner of the world better rather than worse. So, in this new year, let's all act with more compassion in our hearts.