2016

Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

Relaxation 101…Inhale calm, exhale tension

  • Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes and soften your jaw.
  • Let your breathing become rhythmic and smooth. There is no need to force the breath. Notice your breath as it moves in and out.
  • As you breathe in, see if you are able to imagine that you are breathing in a sensation of relaxation. With your exhale, imagine that your are breathing out any feelings of tension you may be holding. Just continue to do this for the next ten breaths.  Each breath is smooth and rhythmic; each breath in brings a feeling of relaxation, each breath out releases tension or tightness.
  • Assume a passive attitude.  Don’t worry about how well you’re doing.  When mindless thoughts occur (and they will!), simply observe the shift in your focus, let that go, and gently return your awareness to your breath.
  • Continue for 2 to 3 minutes. Over time, work your way up to a 10-minute practice.
  • When you have completed your relaxation, do not stand immediately.  Continue sitting quietly, allowing other thoughts to return.  Then open your eyes and sit for a moment before rising slowly.
  • Take one more moment to express self-gratitude.  Thank yourself for the gift you have just received—from you!
  • Practice the technique once or twice daily. The regular practice of eliciting the relaxation response will allow for more ease and familiarity. You will also reap the recuperative benefits to your health.

Back in the saddle

Two weeks ago today, I was hiking on the John Muir Trail out of Tuolomne Meadows with a 45 pound backpack, a whole lot of enthusiasm, and stellar companionship to share in the adventure. I had trained for this trip; ramped up my runs, added in some hill work, increased squats and lunges--and it turns out that all the additional preparation was well needed and helpful. The four-day, 32 mile backpack was a marvelous summer experience. And very physically challenging.

To my surprise and dismay, I became ill on the tail end of the last day, with what evolved into a significant flu. The "it will take 10 days to get over this" advice I received was right on target, and today was the first day I have felt up to exercising. Oh but how I have missed it! The first few flu days were dedicated to staying in bed or on the futon in the sunroom, content to let life pass me by. Little by little, I felt better, began to venture out of the house, but became easily fatigued, so that any glimmer of exercise consideration became quickly dashed.

Ah, but not this morning. John and I honored our standing Sunday morning bike ride date, and with just a bit of trepidation on my part, off we went. It was glorious! Cool morning air, birds singing, soothing sunshine, burning quads, and tight chest... yes, I felt the effects of not having been on my bike for over two weeks, as well as the remnants of the respiratory illness, but ahhh, it was just so grand to be able to exercise again!

On Becoming Well

On the last evening of a wonderful 4-day backpack trip into the Eastern Sierras, I noticed a sensation in my throat, sort of a full and scratchy feeling. Not paying too much attention, I assumed that the extreme dust from the trail had irritated my nose and throat. In the middle of the night, I felt a bit achy, but chalked that up to sleeping on a thin pad and carrying a heavy load on the arduous hike. The next day, hiking out and back to civilization, I nearly forgot about not having felt well, I was able to push hard on the 8 mile hike. That night however, wow, I became really ill. Feverish, massive sore throat, cough, headache, runny eyes--yuck, I felt awful.

That was a week ago. After 3 days in bed and laying low at home, I have slowly been becoming well: able to venture out, walk the dog, accomplish a bit of work, food shop, etc. But what a humbling experience this has been. I had not been sick in many, many years--in fact, I prided myself on having vibrant health, on "never getting sick"--all of which I associated with eating healthfully, exercising regularly, and getting adequate sleep.

So much for that pretense of security, eh? Everyone gets sick! Some people are more susceptible to catching the germ that is going around, some people rarely become ill, and some of us are more resistant to germs and recover more quickly if an illness does take a stronghold. Like this flu bug did to me. In spite of my very good eating habits, and of being fit, I got sick. Perhaps the hard miles on the trail, eating trail food (and not very much of it), and the altitude had weakened my resistance--I will never know for sure.

After the initial shock that my body had "let me down" by becoming ill, I capitulated to the process, crawled into bed, and focused on getting well. I drank a lot of water, ate small amounts of healing foods, and was fascinated as I observed my body slowly regain its balance. I am still not quite 100%, but am feeling pretty close now.

My lesson is that in spite of my generally excellent health habits, I am simply human--I get sick--but I am becoming well.

Mindfulness practice with dark chocolate: a perfect combination

Imagine this: a dark chocolate bar, wrapper opened, lying on the kitchen counter. You walk by, grab a square and gobble it up. It's delicious, but you are left wanting. You hesitate for a moment before you take the second piece, and eat that one even more quickly, to sort of "get it over with". Your brain is very happy with the chocolate buzz, but your stomach is not quite satisfied. That third square should just about do it...

Now, imagine those couple of moments of less-than-conscious indulgence in a different way--a more mindful way. The 1-inch square of dark chocolate is broken into 3 small but ample chunks. Take the first piece and hold it in your open palm. Sniff it. Lick it. Lick it again. Nibble off a bite, allowing it to melt slowly in your mouth. Feel your tastebuds come alive with the rich flavor. Take another, larger bite from the small piece. Roll it around your mouth with your tongue. Savor the sensuous texture, the incredibly delicious taste, the smell of the chocoate in your nose. Repeat this sensory experience with the next small piece. Take your time, let your brain, your mouth, your tongue, your nose, your throat all get in on this. The last small piece of the 1-inch, very healthy, good-for-you dark chocolate bar, is all yours! Don't rush. Close your eyes as you let this deep pleasure take over...

How incredible was that mindful chocolate experience? Fantastic!

As I work with clients to faciliate behavior change that leads to their optimal lifestyle managment, I talk often about mindfulness. Being present in the moment allows for a richness of each experience that may be otherwise missed in our familiar hurry-up-to-get-it-done way of living. All aspects of our life can become a deeper and more meaningful experience if we choose to slow down a bit to be present with whatever it is we are doing. Whether it is folding laundry, cooking a meal, listening to our child describe his school day, or eating a 1-inch square of dark chocolate, we will be more satisfied after the fact, simply because we paid attention while we were in that moment.

Many people have a tendency to become over-fed at a meal. Choosing to eat with a mindful approach will keep your brain on par with your stomach, so you will not only be aware of satiation before you feel too full, but your level of pleasure will be increased during and after that meal. This is a key concept to healthy weight management.

Enjoy your square of dark chocolate!

Sundays start with a ride

My husband and I have a standing bike ride date on Sunday mornings. We leave from our house around 8 AM and head off for one of our local loops. The morning air is delicious and oh-so-cool, the smells are damp and fresh, and there are fewer cars on the roads this early. This morning, barely awake was how I felt as we started, but I returned feeling invigorated and zippy. What a great way to start the day -- exercise, pleasant temperatures, being with my sweetie, enjoying a quiet ride on familiar roads.

What'd I eat when we got back? A cold, crisp apple smeared with almond butter! Yum.

If you have not been out yet this morning, take this opportunity now, before it gets too hot. If the day is passing you by, make a plan for next weekend to enjoy an outdoor exercise session early in the morning -- your day will be better for it!

Happy Sunday.

“Robin brings dedication, focus, passion, and intellect to whatever endeavor she is pursuing. She does not just talk about good health, she practices it thoroughly every day of her life. When she talks to clients about healthy lifestyle choices, they are able to see the effects of healthy choices by observing the woman in front of them!”
Arthur S., Client

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