Robin 2012_resized

Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

Exercise

A Calm Within the Storm

A marvelous occurrence: 5 + inches of rain has fallen within the past 72 hours. It’s not so much the ferocious storm that has made this time special, as it is the calm and slow pace that I gave myself permission to create and enjoy in the midst of the storm.

Friday’s plans for a snowshoe outing were canceled due to weather and suddenly, on Thursday night I realized that I had a weekday looming–without commitments!

Admittedly, my mind went to all the work-related items I could accomplish! Eight hours of unexpected and suddenly available time can create the space for many To Do tasks to be checked off the list. I thought about it for just a moment when my next thought was NO! Just hang out. Take advantage of the day and of the storm and stay warm, dry, and quiet–right at home.

At that moment, I gave myself permission to just be.

For the past 72 hours, I have not gone out of the house, except to take Grace for a walk. Twice a day for the past three days, I have donned my rain-gear and enjoyed a 1/2 hour of bliss–walking through the storm, cozy and warm in winter clothes, experiencing the fierce wind and rain, senses stimulated by the sights, sounds, and smells of the storm, and I’d return home with a joyful heart and a smiling dog.

I’ve sat quietly and have felt grateful for that quiet. I have baked dozens of mini-loaves of cranberry and coconut-pumpkin bread to be shared next week as holiday love. I have savored the aromas wafting from my kitchen. I have watched the flames in the woodstove. I have made soup and roasted squash. I have had fun on FaceBook and yes, I have even answered a few emails. I have watched the great trees bend and sway in the powerful winds. I have enjoyed seeing the birds braving the elements to stay well-fed from the feeders. I have slowed down.

I gave myself permission to be calm within the storm.

Hoppin’ for a Happy Holiday

Gift yourself big this season with the intention of moving your body in some way, everyday! You can bring balance to this hectic time of year by taking time each day to ramp up your heart rate and respiratory effort, work up a light sweat, and move the big muscles in your body to elevate your energy level, mood, and stamina.

The faster-paced schedules, fitting in many more activities than usual, as well as parties and goodies everywhere, can raise the level of catecholamines (stress hormones) in your system, leading to fatigue and irritability, for which routine physical activity is a perfect antidote!

It doesn’t have to be an Olympic effort…going for a walk is the most fun and accessible activity, and the price is right! Don’t let winter weather get in the way–walk up and down stairs for several minutes, or find a stationary bike to ride or a treadmill to walk on; you get the idea!

Just Do It, as they say. Hoppin’ for a Happy Holiday will be the best gift you receive!

A (very) Humid Run

Whew! Running in 85 degree weather in Fort Lauderdale feels a whole lot different than the 85 degree summer runs I enjoy where I live, in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Don’t get me wrong, I like the sweat that comes with the incredibly high humidity–somehow it makes me feel as if I am exercising harder.

Near the hotel at which I am staying is a neighborhood park, with a mile-long paved loop around a man-made “lake”, complete with a par course, soccer fields, and huge swimming pool. I was able to stay on the grass along the path for most of the run–a good thing as I am used to running the dirt trails at home, but I did zig-zag off the grass to make way for several duck families. Sweet, baby ducks are just too cute! I didn’t want to get too close to them.

I saw some of the usual Florida birds; ibis, egrets, and herons but the HUGE score was the burrowing owl that was just hanging out on a fence post. How cool is that?

In Support of PUB (push-up buddies)!

Build more muscle, burn more fat: http://tinyurl.com/yepvt4m was written and posted by me last fall. Perfect timing now to re-post as part of the PUB program (push-up buddies)! Join the fun!

A virtual fitness program, this small commitment will add to your intention of optimal health. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday: 3 sets of push-ups. Start with what you can comfortably accomplish, 3 or 5 or 10 push-ups–using either a wall, bent-knee, or plank position–3 sets total with a brief rest between each set (click on the link above to read more about proper and safe technique). Send me a message on Facebook capturing your desire to participate, then send three times per week updates of your progress with this fun little exercise. Ready?

6 AM ride on the American River Trail

It was foggy, wet, and humid. Oh, and it was dark, very dark. I used a borrowed bike light for the first time ever. Sally and the Princess took me right from their house, 2 blocks onto the AR Trail — another first for me, a flat trail ride.

What a great workout and quite the sensory experience! The lights cut through the fog, but visibility was limited, especially with the condensation on my glasses. Eerie and surreal, to see other bike lights coming out of the mist, as well as head lamps worn by the massive amount of runners. I am all for early morning exercise, but I have to admit that I was impressed by the sheer volume of folks out early, in the dense fog, running and riding.

Bunnies darted out from the fields on either side of the trail, and light slowly replaced darkness, massive oak trees were silhouetted, the river silently flowing, deer could be seen nibbling on the grasses, birds awakened and welcomed a new day with lovely song.

We rode back in full light, at a fast clip, feeling strong, alive, energized, and grateful for the opportunity to be out, enjoying my body, my companions, and my life.

Exercise stimulates the senses, the mind, and the body

A run, after the rain

Late in the afternoon, I was fortunate to find thirty minutes to run with my dog. After the torrential rains, the bits of blue sky visible between the dark clouds lured me outside. The sunrays were beaming towards the ground, creating steam from the wet earth, warming.

Senses alive, I savored every moment of the waning afternoon. The smells are what I noticed first, they were so incredibly rich: an earthy aroma of wet dirt and leaves, a crisp freshness in the air, sweet wood smoke.  I so love that smell, it is somehow soothing in its’ association with the Fall season.

The visual beauty was astounding: raindrops clinging to tree limbs and leaves, catching the sunlight, creating prisms of color; subtle variations on green—the dull green of the oak leaves, the deep green of the cedar and pine boughs, and most amazing of all is the iridescent greens of the mosses. I have long been fascinated by the mosses, particularly after a rain. What hearty life form this is! Dry and dull after a hot summer, having turned stringy and brown, but after a good rain—it’s a miracle! The moss comes alive, turning a gorgeous vibrant color, plumping up with water, resilient and quietly powerful. Other stimulating sights were the reds and yellows of the changing liquid amber tree leaves, the downed branches from the high winds, and most exquisite was the deep red of the madrone trunk, glistening in the afternoon light. Simply beautiful.

I was serenaded by many birds, their melodic songs seeming to celebrate the end of the storm, were music to my ears: piliated and acorn woodpeckers (yes, they have a distinctly different sound), chickadees, kinglets, house finches, and goldfinches. And the sound of the wind in the tall trees, swaying.

My sense of touch was stimulated as the gentle, fresh breeze ruffled my hair and caressed my skin, by the water drops from the tree limbs, plentiful leaves softening the trail, and by the incredibly supple yet tough feel of the mosses and lichens.

The dust is gone, perhaps for the year now, and that is a welcomed transition. I splashed through puddles on the trail. My heart, on a physical level, was working hard for me, responding well to being engaged in exercise. My spiritual heart was filled with joy for the abundant beauty of the woods after a rain storm, and gratitude for my desire to be out in that natural beauty, moving my body, appreciating that movement, and seeing my dog smile.

Target Heart Rate and Range: optimize your workout

Exercising within your target heart rate range will not only ensure an effective workout in terms of a fat and glucose burn, but also will provide an important aspect of exercise safety.

Key Phrases:

Resting heart rate: the heart rate at which you are at resting metabolic function. As in your heart rate upon waking luxuriously on a Saturday morning, and before moving much.

Pre-exercise heart rate: the heart rate immediately prior to initiating an exercise session. This heart rate will be faster than the resting heart rate.

Target heart rate range: the heart rate range between which you will gain a safe and effective exercise workout.

To calculate your individualized target heart rate range, you will need to find your pulse to determine your pre-exercise heart rate. Start with your index and middle fingers and place them gently on either your radial or carotid artery; either the artery that lies 3 inches below your thumb (radial), or on the neck, 1 ½ inches from your Adam’s apple (carotid). Find and feel your heartbeat, look at a second hand watch, then count how many heartbeats you feel in 15 seconds; multiply that number times 4, to know your one-minute heart rate. Example: 17 heartbeats felt in 15 seconds equates to a heart rate of 68.

My preference to calculate target heart rate range is to use the Karvonen Formula. As opposed to the standard 220 – your age formula, the Karvonen takes into account your pre-exercise heart rate, affording you the opportunity to dial in a specific and individualized target heart rate range for your exercise session.  The formula is as follows:

220 – age – pre-exercise heart rate x 65%, x 85% + pre-exercise heart rate

For a 50-year-old woman with a pre-exercise heart rate of 68, it looks like this:

220 – 50 = 170 (max heart rate)

– 68 = 102

x 65% = 66;              x 85% = 87

+ 68 = 134;               + 68 = 155

target heart rate range = 134 – 155

Several external factors may affect heart rate: hydration status, level of fitness, adrenaline (stress) response, certain medications, and caffeine to name a few. Someone who is new to exercise and therefore may be “deconditioned” (less than optimal fitness level), will likely note that their resting, pre-exercise, and exercise heart rate is higher than what is age predicted.

When writing an exercise prescription for this 50-year-old woman beginning an exercise program, we would start at the 65% level of exercise intensity, so that her exercise heart rate stays around 134 beats per minute. As she works up to 5 – 6 exercise sessions per week over the course of 6 – 8 weeks, her exercise prescription will be modified, allowing her to increase her exercise intensity to work at higher heart rate response, at 155 beats per minute.

As the heart muscle becomes more conditioned, each contraction becomes more efficient, so that ultimately fewer heartbeats per minute are required to pump the same volume of blood. In the real world this translates as a lowered resting and pre-exercise heart rate, as well as a lowered exercise heart rate response, ultimately allowing the exercising person to increase their workout to achieve a higher heart rate response.  Conditioning takes several months to achieve.

Another valuable aspect of determining the effectiveness and safety of your exercise program is to assess your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).  This is a subjective response, and it basically allows you to assign a numerical value to your exercise intensity. I use a modified scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being the amount of energy required to sit up in a chair, and 10 being a marathon effort. An RPE of 3 is moderate, 4 is somewhat hard, and 5 is hard. 3 – 5 is the range of perceived exertion that I include in an exercise prescription.  (6 is very hard, 7 is very, very hard, and so on). An RPE of 6 and above is correlated with an anaerobic level of exercise; anaerobic means “without oxygen”—oxygen feeds the muscles and aids in fat burning, thus the presence of oxygen is favorable while exercising (and most other times as well!).

As a side note, athletes who are conditioned to train for competition are often at their anaerobic threshold; for most of us who exercise to stay in shape and optimize our health, maintaining an aerobic exercise program is suggested.

Future articles will address additional exercise considerations: frequency, type, duration, and how to mix it all up.

Have at it!


Connect

“When I began to work with Robin as a client, she immediately recognized that my success involved more than treating issues relating to my heart. Her knowledge and caring has given me the opportunity and confidence to improve my overall health and mental outlook for the future. I have received excellent care from many doctors but what may be more important is that Robin has made me want to do more for myself.
—Pat G., Client

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