4.2018

Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

A bike ride saved my brain…

I felt a bit crabby, my vision was blurred, my thoughts were disconnected, and I wasn’t quite sure at what point in my “learning more about the back end of my new website” session I was. I had entered a technology dead-zone–brain dead that is.

Spending too much time sitting still, especially in front of a computer brings me to that place every time. But today, I had a deadline, a project to complete before bedtime, a commitment had been made, so there I was. With my brain beginning to sizzle and my body feeling antsy. It was getting late, dusk was around the corner.

Aha! A bike ride. Brilliant!

I went out fast, and pushed hard for 50 minutes, while riding our standard neighborhood loop. My senses were so relieved to be outdoors and stimulated by the beauty around me. A sweet, rich aroma permeated the cooling evening air, birds sang from the treetops, the dipping sun cast warm golden light, neighbors walking dogs smiled and waved as I passed, my legs felt strong, lungs were full, heart pumping to keep up. I felt … marvelous.

Relieved of tension. Able to let go of the brain strain. Buzzed by endorphins. Pleasantly fatigued muscles. Quieted mind. Rejuvenated.

Grateful.


Perception…something to think about

This was shared with me by a dear friend and is worthy of you seeing it as well.

Washington, DC Metro Station: On a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk..

6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes:
The musician played continuously.  Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.  The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:  If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made…. How many other things are we missing?

Technology and Your Ears:Blocking Out the World

Call me old fashioned, call me too friendly, call me naive, and I will respond by telling you that I am very curious about the impact that cell phones and ear buds are having on the way we interact, connect, and respond to others. It is a phenomena that I have noticed and been talking about for a couple of years now, and one for which my awareness has reached new heights.

Cell phones have permeated our society–and rightly so, they are a marvelous tool. You can stay in touch with family, check in with the office, or chat with a friend when you have a few moments to spare. I use my iPhone to keep notes of new foods to try, books to read, and brilliant ideas that pop into my head. The GPS on my phone has come in handy many, many times to help me navigate in unfamiliar territory, not to mention the ability to locate the nearest Starbucks.

Ear buds are another of society’s sensations. Personally, I have not gone that way so much–mine are used occasionally, on an airplane and that’s about it–but for many other people, putting in the buds is synonymous with going out of the house or office. It is amusing to see the person who is attempting subtlety by threading the ear bud cord under their shirt so that only the last 4 inches of the cord is visible as it snakes into their ears, and equally amusing but puzzling to me, is the one-eared approach–as if that person is willing to half pay attention to the outside world.

That’s what I am alluding to: the paying attention aspect of living amongst the rest of the world. I once followed a woman in a grocery store, who initially appeared to be schizophrenic but merely turned out to be engaged in an animated phone call, first over which cereal to purchase but then lapsing into a disciplinary session for either her child or husband, I could not discern which. I was so fascinated by her willingness to carry on so, while in a public place, that I stalked her, watching her pick up a few more items. She proceeded to get on line, never once slowing down her conversation. As she waiting and talked talked talked into the phone, a sweet young toddler in the cart in front of her attempted to engage her, as sweet young toddlers will do, but this woman was oblivious. As she moved up the line and eventually stood right in front of the cashier, she was too engaged in her phone call to notice the cashier ask, “did you find everything…”, or to notice that the cashier stopped in mid sentence when she noticed that she was not being noticed! The phone talker was a pro, because she was able to swipe her ATM card, collect her receipt and coupons without pausing a moment in her conversation. She sauntered out of the grocery store, talking all the while.

What I felt then was that is woman had chosen to minimize the quality of her place in the world that day. She missed the chance to feel joyful when the toddler attempted to elicit a smile, or to appreciate when the cashier exchanged pleasantries with her. And that was just what I had witnessed; who knows how many other human interactions she allowed to pass her by, simply because instead, she allowed the pervasive presence of technology to dominate her awareness?

Earbuds and cell phones were certainly on my radar last week while we were in Washington, DC. Washington is a bustling, exciting, very crowded metropolis.  The eclectic mixing of people was incredible; people of different colors, ages, shapes, and lifestyles. One commonality was noticeable: ears were blocked. Hearing, listening, and paying attention to the outside world was greatly diminished for most people by either ear buds or cell phones. Instead of being able to catch someone’s eye to smile and mention the gorgeous sky or to wish them a good morning, people were focused on their technological gadgets. No spontaneous conversations were to be had on the crowded subway, because the ear buds precluded conversation. Human contact, warmth, empathy, connectedness, camaraderie, joy, curiosity–all rich emotions to share with others, strangers or not–becomes diminished when we choose to block out the world. Each and any opportunity to share these emotions with others will enrich our lives, that moment, because we have chosen to be engaged in the world, not in technology.

Of course cell phones and ear buds have a place in our world. I am not that naive. All I am saying is that there is an appropriate time and place for them. Consider enhancing your day by looking around when you are amongst other human beings, enjoy the smile and small talk from a fellow traveler on the subway, spread joy by pointing out the spectacular clouds contrasting with the blue sky to the guy standing on the corner with you waiting for the light to change, allow a toddler to elicit a smile from you, you will be better for it.

Can you see the possibilities?

Sticking to the program while traveling: is it possible?

In my home environment, I have a routine: regular exercise, healthy meals, and time to quiet my busy mind. In familiar territory, this works well. Whew.

Visiting in Washington, DC, I am experiencing the challenge of maintaining my typical healthful behaviors–I am out of my routine. For the past few days, I have thought often of how to enjoy this working vacation; how to balance sightseeing in the nation’s capital, business meetings, humid weather, and restaurant meals.

Here are some of the strategies that I have utilized thus far:

1. Walk, walk, walk! Most urban vacations provide an opportunity to walk versus renting a car or taking public transportation. Take advantage of this whenever possible. We must have put in 5 – 8 miles each day. Although walking does not evoke for me the same “exercise response” as riding my bike does, it ramps up metabolism, maintains a high level of energy, and helps to burn the excess calories in case those restaurant meals are larger than usual. If you are enjoying a more rural vacation, there will be hiking trails to keep you active. Walking considerations include:

  • staying well hydrated
  • wearing comfortable shoes (do I sound like my mother?!)
  • being prepared for weather

This morning, I “went for a walk”. This was an intentional exercise session: 1 hour of more vigorous walking in a lovely park near the hotel.  The other option is the hotel exercise area. All hotels have a gym nowadays; stationary bicycles, treadmills, elliptical machines. A half hour here will be a terrific contribution to your health and support your usual routine.

Eating out each meal may seem a bit daunting, but it need not be! I would encourage staying away from buffets, especially the breakfast buffets that offer white flour bagels, sweet rolls, commercial yogurt (check for HFCS in the ingredient list), and toaster waffles. These processed foods will quickly elevate your blood glucose level, leading to a “crash” a couple of hours later, that will leave you hungry, grumpy, or both. Not a pretty sight.

Try to find fresh fruit, whole grain toast, eggs, good quality yogurt, milk or cottage cheese, or a small bowl of oatmeal to start your day. Carry water with you to stay hydrated during the day as you are out and about. Stick an apple in your backpack to share with your travel mate mid-morning to maintain your energy, blood glucose, and metabolism. Look for a salad at lunch, with a protein added, such as a scoop of tuna or a half chicken breast. Or share a sandwich and add a cup of soup into the selection. Think about having a mid afternoon snack, such as an orange or fruit sweetened popsicle, to avoid over-eating at dinner. Dinner, ah yes, the big challenge. You might consider skipping the bread. A sacrilege, I know! Good bread is so, so delicious BUT we have a tendency to overeat if we have bread while studying the menu. I am merely suggesting this as a consideration, particularly if you are having an alcoholic beverage. Perhaps you would like to order a spinach salad or other greens before dinner. Suggest to the waitperson that you would like the dressing on the side or ask for olive oil. Sharing an entree is a possibility, as the portion size will likely be quite adequate. Eat slowly, savoring the flavor, enjoying the conversation, and after 10 (ten) minutes you will be delightfully pleased with how satisfied your stomach feels.

Dessert is an option of course. You are on vacation after all! Did you walk a lot during the day? Or have time to go to the exercise area in the hotel? What were the rest of your food choices like for the day? What’s planned for tomorrow? These are but a few considerations to mull over prior to the dessert menu being offered. Sharing a dessert is an excellent strategy to minimize the calorie intake. Remember my suggestion of taking small bites, putting down the spoon, taking a long moment to roll the yummy flavor around your mouth, delight in the texture, and swallow completely before you pick up the spoon again!

Travel is a real treat. Whether you are in the mountains, at the ocean, in a sprawling city, or a national park, you can remain committed to your healthful routine of eating well, staying physically active, and taking a few moments to sit quietly and relax, without compromising a fun, lively, and interesting vacation.

Where are you going to travel to next?

Get Moving! Build Muscle, Burn More Fat

Let’s face it: we all have fat burning on our mind when we exercise. That reason alone is what motivates many people to engage in routine physical activity.  Were you aware however, that by increasing your lean muscle, you can burn more fat all the while—even when you are folding laundry, carrying in groceries, or taking the stairs to your office? Not to mention the fat burning boost you will get when you are purposefully exercising.  The more muscle you have, the more fat you will burn!

Resistance training is beneficial for several reasons: increased skeletal muscle strength, improved balance, and increased lean muscle mass to name a few. Resistance or strength training need not be accomplished in a gym, but can be easily and safely done at home.

Push-ups are my favorite strength and muscle building exercise. If your upper body is not quite ready for an on-the-floor push up, you can start with a wall push up. Place your hands on the wall at your shoulder level, shoulder width apart, fingers pointing upward, while maintaining a soft elbow. Step away from the wall, at least 18 inches; the farther back you stand, the lower your hands will move below the shoulder height, and the more muscle workout you will enjoy. Keep you feet about 12 inches apart and maintain a soft knee. Engage the abdominal muscles by drawing in the belly, below the umbilicus. This action will support the lower back with the additional benefit of including the abdominals in the exercise. Read the rest of this entry »

Eat Often, Eat Well: Enjoy 5 smalls each day!

Sound too good to be true?

It is true! Eating often is a healthy approach to food intake—but keep the key concept of this healthful way to eating in mind: SMALL portions.

When we eat often, our body is better able to regulate the balance between blood glucose and insulin. When we eat infrequently and/or take in too much food at one meal, the balance of glucose and insulin is adversely affected, leading to weight gain in the short run, and an increased risk to develop Type 2 diabetes in the long run.

Glucose is the marvelous source of fuel that is derived from eating carbohydrates, and which is used efficiently by our body as energy. Our brain needs energy to compose a piece of music, pay bills, or write a business proposal and our body requires energy to unload groceries, walk up stairs, or ride a bicycle.

Carbohydrates are digested into glucose (sugar) and packaged up to be used as energy. Eating carbohydrates often throughout the day will allow for a relatively stable blood glucose level, keeping our brain and muscles well fueled. A stable blood glucose level will also diminish the chance for becoming ravenous, which may lead to a too-large meal being eaten in response.

Insulin is the hormone, manufactured in the pancreas, which moves glucose into the cell so it can be used as this effective fuel source. When the pancreas is stimulated frequently due to eating small meals often, it releases a regulated amount of insulin—just the right amount required to aid in the proper metabolism of the small meal that was just eaten.  The balance between glucose and insulin is maintained. Read the rest of this entry »

The joy you bring to your work is wonderful…

“With you guiding me through the HeartMatters program, I was able to achieve a level of physical fitness that made regular and focused exercise feel more like a natural part of my day. I had slipped into a malaise that meant exercise could be ‘put aside’ for work or other important activities. Getting past this is a subtle but powerful accomplishment.

I really enjoyed playing and exercising with you outdoors (my preferred MO for our time together). The joy you bring to your work is wonderful. This flexibility put a kind of structure into my day that helped me ‘choose’ again – showed me how to take back some control of my schedule for important things like meditation and exercise.  It was also part of my journey of re-learning how to say NO to things. This represents additional forward movement for me.

Thanks Robin – I have really benefited from your work in more ways than just the obvious fitter, leaner, stronger me.”

—J.E., Northern California,  Communication Consultant

"There aren't many people with your combination of medical expertise and caring for the whole person. Your incremental approach to helping me develop better health habits really works. I never feel judged and always feel encouraged and cared about. Thank you!"
---S.R., Nevada County

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