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PostHeaderIcon 13 Ways to Improve Your Health for Better Aging

We all want to stay vibrant, active, and healthy in our senior years. Unfortunately, that rarely happens through luck alone. It takes effort and dedication all year long to ensure today’s good health lasts into the future.

 

The keys to healthy aging aren’t a scientific mystery. Adopting a lifestyle that includes good diet and exercise habits—and excludes substance abuse, social isolation, and chronic stress—can prevent many disabling health conditions. Unfortunately, while most people understand these principles, many struggle to execute them.

 

If you want to improve your health for a better aging experience, try these 13 practical solutions for a healthier lifestyle.

Eating a Healthy Diet

Specific diet recommendations change as you age, but the principles remain the same:

Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, and fish. Avoid ultra-processed foods, and too much sugar, salt, or saturated fat. Older adults should take extra care to maintain a healthy weight, stay hydrated, and get enough fiber, calcium, and vitamin D.

 

Changing your diet is hard work, but the benefits are worth it. A balanced diet not only promotes a strong, healthy body, it also sets the stage for good mental health. These tips will help you make sustainable changes for healthier eating:

  1. Make small changes; gradual adjustments are more sustainable than crash diets.
  2. Make a grocery list and stick to it. If you can’t resist impulse purchases, use grocery delivery or online ordering with curbside pickup.
  3. Eat well despite obstacles. If you face mobility challenges, try a meal delivery service that delivers either meal kits you cook yourself or pre-made meals that only need to be reheated. Homebound and food insecure seniors may be eligible for meal delivery through Meals on Wheels.

Preventing Substance Misuse and Abuse

Substance-use disorders are more common among seniors than you might think. Not only are seniors vulnerable to alcohol abuse, in part due to declining tolerance to alcohol, but they’re also susceptible to prescription drug problems. Keep yourself free from dependence and addiction by following these tips:

  1. Don’t drink more than three drinks on a given day, or seven drinks in a week, per NIH recommendations.
  2. Manage medications. Avoid taking too much, too little, or triggering a dangerous drug interaction.
  3. Keep a list of your medications and provide health care providers with an updated copy.
  4. Don’t change how you take a prescription without talking to your doctor.

Staying Active

Physical activity is great for both physical and mental health at all stages of life. Older adults should aim to be active every day for a minimum of 150 minutes per week. These tips make that benchmark achievable:

  1. Exercise for 10 minutes at a time. Short workouts are easier to commit to when you’re starting out.
  2. Adapt exercises for safety. Many exercises can be done using a chair or wall for support.
  3. Schedule workouts to encourage follow-through. Exercise with a friend if it helps your motivation.

Nurturing Social Connections

Spending time with friends probably isn’t what comes to mind when you think of health-promoting activities. However, research has proven that social connection is highly important for good health. Social connectedness reduces stress and negative thinking, increases your sense of purpose and self-worth, and even protects your physical health. If you need more friends in your life, take this advice:

  1. Schedule time to call friends and family to maintain connections.
  2. Join a hobby group or religious community, or start volunteering to meet new people.
  3. Connect online. While not a substitute for face-to-face interaction, the internet is a great tool for reinforcing established relationships and forming new ones. However, be wary of online scams. Stay Safe Online names some of the most common scams.

 

Changing long-standing habits is never easy. But when it comes to your health, it’s always worth it. When you make these important changes to your lifestyle, you’ll be rewarded with better health throughout your senior years.

 

Image via Unsplash

PostHeaderIcon Making Fear Work for You

It was about 15 years ago. I was a new mom looking towards a career change. I wanted to be a personal trainer and I was confiding in my cousin via messenger. I told her I was a bit scared, since I sacrificed and spent so much money on acting school, then I stopped pursuing show business. Now I was going to invest what little money I had on my more education in a new field.

She told me I was being negative. Looking back, maybe I was being negative but the truth is, we are always scared when we embark on something unknown. Fear is just our mind telling us that we are doing something that is unusual and to approach with caution.

Fast forward fifteen years and I’ve lived a full life as a Certified Personal Trainer. My career continues to grow. I became a fitness instructor, a yoga instructor, a sports/fitness nutritionist, a corrective exercise specialist and much more. I lived my dream and helped thousands of people along the way.

The point of this story is you’re going to get scared when its time to make a change. I always do. But that doesn’t mean you won’t do it. One definition of the word “courage” is to recognize one’s truth. The other definition is to be afraid, but to go ahead and do it anyway. Confidence only comes from experience. Until you get to that level, you must rely on courage. This means, you just have to journey into that great unknown with fear in your heart and pretend that it doesn’t phase you.

If you want to change any direction of your life, be it health, relationships, career or anything else; be prepared to feel fear. If you’re not afraid to feel fear, if you enter into your quest with the fool hardy notion that everything will come easy and things only happen to those who are always confident and perfect, you will be more likely to fail. The most successful of us fail several times before we get it right so be prepared for obstacles. If you’re looking to lose weight, there are weeks that may not go so well. Something might happen that will pull you out of your diet or training regimen. At this point most people give up, but if you are prepared for obstacles, you will soldier on and meet success.

Fear just may be the greatest motivator to excel in life, as long as you use it to take action and not to hide behind a rock. It’s not easy, planning classes in many formats, including workshops. I have to get in front of large groups of people and keep them entertained and motivated, most of the time for an hour or more. I have nightmares that I miss my class or that no one listens to me or does the exercises. I am afraid that I’m teaching things that may be wrong or out of date. I’m terrified that my clients will not make their fitness goals.

How do I handle these fears? I make sure my classes are prepared and thought out. I keep up to date with all the latest information in fitness, nutrition and motivation. I plan and practice everything until it looks effortless. I take good care of myself so my body can handle the challenges of my job. When I do screw up, and it will happen (especially if you are doing something new and different) I look back to see what I could have done to make it better. Then I try again and do a better job. If it weren’t for fear, I wouldn’t care. I’d half ass everything and that is not a formula for success.

You Don’t  Have To Be Perfect:

One other related message I want to convey is that you don’t have to be perfect. That is one of the greatest lessons I’ve had to learn. For so long, students have been asking me to make them a yoga video and I never did because I struggled to find the right camera or production team to make it awesome. Someone finally told me to just film myself as if I was teaching a class. “It doesn’t have to be perfect.” I swallowed my fear and did just that, all in one take from my laptop. I made a yoga and pilates video for the students who asked and they said they loved it. I had to start somewhere.

This is true for everything I’ve ever done. I’ve had to just do it and learn along the way. I know the first class I ever taught was not perfect, but I had to keep teaching and learn from my mistakes before I became he kind of teacher that people told each other about. My first class had two people in it. It took several months to build it up to an adequate amount. To tell you the truth, I was fired from my very first job teaching yoga because I wasn’t a very good teacher. It took me a long time to gain the kind of experience that taught me to excel. Now my yoga classes are packed. But I had to start somewhere. Shoot, I had to get out of the house after having a baby and start taking yoga again.

Everything is a great act of courage and I want to encourage everyone to be brave. That doesn’t mean you’re not scared. That means,  you do it anyway. Deep down inside our timid, insecure selves is something very special that we have to let out. We have to give the world our knowledge, our special way of being. Imagine if I let my fear of starting a new career path stop me fifteen years ago? I could have taken the safe, unchallenged path. Imagine if my teachers did the same thing, and all our teachers before them? We owe it to the world to go out in spite of our fear, even if we’re not perfect.

So what do you have to lose? You can always go back to what you were doing before. Nothing is guaranteed, but if you feel a pull towards a certain path, do it. If you’ve been looking to try out yoga or dance or fitness or dance, try it. You’ll be the beginner. That’s scary but its also exciting. It means there’s so much for you to learn. It may just change your life completely.

There are so many quotes about courage, but instead, I’d like to share a poem I found which I wrote when I was a teenager. Every once in a while, my father would take me to the sand dune to train for the cross country team. It was the hardest workout but when I reached the top, I took in the most awesome view of the ocean horizon.

A Hill of Sand

A hill of sand dared I to climb

With sinking foot, fast beating heart.

I’d slip and trip from time to time,

Yet from that slide would never part

I claimed I’d make it if I cared

With fortitude, moved on, stopped not.

Without a doubt and not a care

Could falter me to take my shot

I climbed through wind, through dust, harsh heat.

I looked back not, there wasn’t time,

Ignored my thirst, my aching feet,

Seeing the peak of that hill shine.

Then reaching it, though breathing hard,

I turned about in awe to view

The past I left behind so far,

And all below who never knew,

Knew that their necks needed to strain

So hard to mark that I so high

With oh so much there climbed and gained

Few followed me, most stayed behind,

For some preferred to walk a path

Unlike a hill but flat and dull.

Others preferred a hill of grass,

No sinking feet to lift and haul,

Then some would have a hill less steep

Where movement was in simple ease,

While others never reached their peak,

Like those who never would be pleased,

But I atop my sandy hill

Beheld great freights, broad rocks and trees,

And views those cowards never will.

For this steep hill was made for me.

–By a 16 year old Rhea Morales

 

PostHeaderIcon Managing Pain and Injuries

Last September, I hosted my first DIY alignment and pain relief workshop, where I taught some basic corrective exercise concepts to help people with their chronic pain. While self massage and exercise techniques can cure and relieve many muscular weaknesses and pain issues, looking at our lifestyle and what has caused this pain is a must for success. Here are some things to keep in mind:

 

HABIT AWARENESS:
Chronic pain can often be attributed to overuse injuries. One example of this is running way past your pain threshold until the tendons start to fray, causing knee pain or shin splints. Another example is hunching over a laptop several hours a day causing impingements in the neck. When we overuse muscles without allowing them to recover or move them in a dysfunctional way, overtime, we may start feeling pain.
Corrective exercises are implemented to counter damage caused from unhealthy patterns. However, if you keep doing the things that cause pain, corrective exercise may not be enough, we need to change our dysfunctional habits.

During our workshop, I asked the class to be very aware of their patterns and habits. We are often unaware that what we do everyday adds up to pain. One thing you need to ask yourself is if there is an unhealthy physical pattern you are doing, such as hunching over a desk (steering wheel, texting device etc.), wearing inappropriate shoes, doing an exercise with improper form or working one muscle while neglecting the opposing muscle (ie.building up the chest but not the upper back)?

For tips on proper lifting click here:

General Tips For Proper Lifting

Habit research shows that the best way to be successful is to replace that habit with something else. Ask yourself what you can do to change this habit and visualize yourself doing it. You might have to change the ergonomics of your desk, learn to lean back and put your head on the head rest of your car when you drive or even change your exercise routine. Maybe you just need to make time to rest and recover.

PSYCHOSOMATIC PAIN:

Is there something in your personal life that may be a source of pain (a relationship, job situation or grudge you refuse to forgive?) More often than not, physical pain is just masked psychological pain.

Have you been ignoring it? Can you change your situation?
If not, change your mind set.

Sometimes our pain is just telling us that its about time we change our situation. Is there a career change you have wanted but have been putting off? Are you in a dysfunctional relationship you should have ended long ago? Have you been lying to yourself or someone else and its about time you come clean? Do you have a medical condition you have been ignoring and its about time you get medical help? The solution may be right around the corner but you have unconsciously chosen to live in pain instead.

But if there seems to be no logical solution, research on mindset has shown that simply changing your perspective can relieve mental anguish. For example, believing you are the only one who has trouble fitting in can cause anxiety but when a psychologist started a study that convinced college freshmen that they are not alone in their insecurities, these students did better in school and the drop out rate went down. Our point of view on how damaging stress itself can be can make or break us. Mindfulness meditation experts have found that simply accepting that there is pain can at least ease some of the anxiety that makes the struggle hard. For more information on this research, click here:

Great News About Stress

NUTRITION:

What we eat can build and nourish our body or it can poison it. Are you eating in a way that nourishes your body and mind or are you slowly killing it with a junk food diet? For example if you don’t have enough carbs to fuel an intense workout, your muscles will fatigue which may cause them to use improper form, adding pressure to your joints.

We need adequate protein to repair and build. If you are doing strenuous exercise but not consuming enough protein to build back your muscles, bones and connective tissues, then you are just breaking down your body.

Micronutrient deficiencies can be the cause of pain. For example, muscle cramps can be the result of a vitamin B or D deficiency. It is also the side effect of a lack of minerals such as calcium, magnesium or potassium. If you are not sure about your diet, talk to your doctor about getting tested for vitamin deficiencies. For more on diet, click here:

The Best Diet for You

APPLY WHAT YOU LEARNED

During the DIY Pain Relief Workshop, we learned how to assess common postural and muscular weaknesses in the body that could be causing pain. We learned self massage techniques, various stretches and other exercises that help to fix these deviations. For example, if your pelvis tilts forward, it can cause lower back and hip pain. Exercise and a change of habit can fix the problem. I encouraged my students to take the one most important thing they learned from the workshop and apply it to their lifestyle.

The DIY workshop covered a lot, so I am having another workshop on this subject in February. We will review the basic tenants of the last workshop and maybe add more exercises for those who have been applying what they learned and want to take it to the next level.

For More information on the next DIY Pain Relief Workshop, click this link:

Special Events

For more information on how to relieve hip pain, click here:

Much a do About the Hips

For information on relieving shoulder pain, click here:

Release Neck and Shoulder Tension

More related articles:

What Pain Has Taught Me

What To Do In Case of an Injury

How I Cured My Muscle Pain

PostHeaderIcon How Discipline (Yoga) Brings Freedom

The literal definition of “Yoga” is “Yoke.” A yoke is the harness that attaches Oxen to the plows that they pull. It is the thing that attaches them to their work. Some define Yoga as work. I think “discipline” is the best translation. The yogis and most of our greatest philosophers believe that discipline is the only thing that can free us from suffering.

Yet how can a harness possibly free us? Well, without the yoke, the oxen are wild and uncontrolled. They fail to benefit us. They will roam the farm, trample the crops and create more damage. If we can’t harness our impulses, they will destroy us.

 

Think of it this way, if you want freedom from your physical limitations or pain, you need to do hatha (physical) yoga. This consists of physical therapy, mindful exercise and proper breathing. All of these actions, if done diligently and habitually have been scientifically proven to reduce pain, increase strength, increase endurance, lower the risk of disease, lengthen one’s life and prevent mental illness. If we want these things, we must discipline ourselves to do our hatha yoga. I will use the term hatha yoga very broadly as I believe that any exercise done with  mindfulness can be seen as hatha yoga.

Without a habitual exercise habit, high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, weakness, disease and pain set in. We become a victim of our own lack of discipline.

Look at the most skilled dancers, athletes and acrobats. Its as if they can fly. We often wish we can move with just as much freedom. We forget to account for all the hours of discipline it took to achieve that level of mastery. Athletes of this caliber did not mindlessly move to achieve this level. They have had to focus on every element of their art and use their minds as well.

This brings us to Jnana (mindful) yoga. This is the yoga of knowledge. We must constantly be educating ourselves or fall in the trap of ignorance. Ignorance, our inability to know what is real; can harm our relationships, make us more susceptible to scams and ruin our opportunity for a better life. Disciplining our mind helps us focus which is great for alleviating stress and helping us improve any skill. Lack of knowledge or mindfulness might cause us to act stupidly and do things that we regret which brings me to the next type of discipline or yoga.

Karma (action) yoga teaches us to be mindful of what we do as everything has a consequence. If we want to be free from poverty, we must discipline ourselves to work at a job that pays us well. We must also watch that we aren’t spending more money than what we earn. if we want people to like us, we have to take actions that are kind and not rude. Knowing which actions to takes a certain level or jnana yoga. After all, most people don’t intend on doing harm. Many do it unconsciously.

Karma yoga can go much deeper. Ghandi came up with a method of karma yoga called satyagraha. This was a way of resisting unjust authority without enacting any violence. Ghandi disciplined himself to accept going to jail and even abuse as he worked in his quest to end racism and free India from English rule. When the government wronged him, he did not retaliate in violence, he instead allowed them to victimize him until they they realized their own wrong doing. This path of action was very well thought out and it took a ton of discipline to see it through.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a follower of Ghandi and used this exact same method to end segregation in the U.S., disciplining his people do peaceful protests. They trained themselves never to fight back. As a result, the media was able to record many blacks being abused at the hands of white law enforcement without them fighting back. It made the government look awful, the way they abused peaceful people and it brought sympathy to the blacks, who were once thought of as the barbaric race.

Ghandi was the only one who succeeded in overthrowing a government without having to go to war. This is a tremendous achievement as it taught us that violence isn’t the only answer. MLK used this same method of Karma yoga to bridge the great divide between whites and blacks and to make our laws more just during a time when everyone thought that civil war would break out.

In order to achieve “freedom” from an unjust government, these men had to be extraordinarily disciplined in how they acted and reacted, so disciplined that they didn’t even fear death.

The fourth style of yoga is bhakti (devotional) yoga. This is the yoga of the spirit. Sometimes the only way to overcome great odds is to connect with our own spirituality, whatever that may be for you. Ask anyone who has had to battle addiction or found hope  under extremely trying circumstances. Life can be terribly complicated. We are often plagued with questions we may not have the answer to and we have to rely on a higher power to find them. Whatever your spiritual views, we all have to meditate on our values in order to make sense of our lives. Without our moral foundation, we succumb to our lower selves. This can be a trap that can lead to unhappiness. We can’t always control the slings and arrows that life throws at us but we can control how we respond to it, as Ralph Waldo Emmerson said, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

In the classic Yogic text, “The Bhagvad Gita,” Arjuna was lucky enough to get the advice of Krishna, the human carnation of a Hindu God. Arjuna was very hesitant and unsure of what he was about to do, go to civil war as a last resort against a very corrupt government. Krishna told him that he should freely follow his path. He could do it because he had been practicing yoga. Because he diligently practiced strong physical health, mindfulness, right action and spirituality, he had the tools he needed to make the right choices.

Without discipline, we are lost. We live in a culture where it is so easy to let go of one’s health, to lose touch with one’s loved ones and where the incidence of mental health is skyrocketing out of control. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who are unhappy and have fallen into terrible physical health because they stopped being mindful of what they were eating or how they managed their lifestyle. I’ve seen people lose their families because they failed to be mindful about what was truly important to them. We have tools such as smart phones to help us sort through our lives yet I’ve seen people become slaves to the very tools that were supposed to free them in the first place. Without mindfulness, yoga and discipline, we become slaves to our own culture. Freedom is possible, but it takes diligent practice and great discipline.

If you can’t come up with a resolution this year, a good idea is to look at the different paths of yoga practice. Are you still mindful about your physical health (hatha yoga)? Are you doing your best to keep your mind focused and learning new things (jnana yoga)? Are the actions you take day to day benefiting your life and those in your sphere of influence (karma yoga)? Do your thoughts and actions vibe with your deepest spiritual values (bhakti yoga)?

Someone once said that regardless of your beliefs, the definition of a “spiritual person” is someone who is just trying to be the best they can be. When I teach class, I’m fully aware that everyone is at different skill and fitness levels, but I encourage my students to just to their best. This is why I take some time to be mindful of my practice especially at the end of the year. I’m not the same person I was a few years ago. Every year, I chip away at myself and try to be the best I can be and I’m hoping that this encourages others to do their best as well.

Happy Holidays. Looking forward to an awesome New Year!

If you are interested in learning more about the different paths of yoga or learning more about the deeper philosophies of yoga, check out these blogs:

What is Traditional Yoga? (The Original Styles of Yoga)

Yoga and the Eight Fold Path

Meditation (A Running Into Reality)

Meditation: THE ILLUMINATED PERCEIVER VS. THE AFFLICTIVE MIND

Demystifying the Chakras (from a hormonal perspective)

 

PostHeaderIcon Great News About Stress

I started reading more about the mindset of stress after hearing about the ground breaking study that interviewed thirty thousand adults. They were asked how much stress they had and if they believed that stress was harmful to their health.

After eight years, the records were checked to see who had died. It turned out that those who were stressed and believed that stress was harmful to them had an increased risk of dying by 43 percent. People who reported high levels of stress but did not think stress was harmful had no increase in mortality. In fact, they had the lowest risk of death of anyone in the study, even lower than those who reported very little stress.

You can read more about this study here:

Does the Perception that Stress Affects Health Matter? The Association with Health and Mortality

As you may already know, I’m always reading the latest findings on health and fitness. One subject that has greatly interested me is that of the new field of epigenetics, the science of how our environment affects and changes our genes. I became interested in telomeres, repeating segments of non coding DNA that live at the ends of cells. They wear down as cells divide. Scientists are saying that these telomeres are a great indicator of health and how long one will live. If they are short and worn down, it is a sign of deterioration. I read a whole book on this phenomena called “The Telomere Affect” by Elizabeth Blackburn PhD and Elissa Epel PhD. I learned from this book that the worst thing one can do to one’s telomeres is to be “stressed,” but their research also found that those who stressed about stress being bad for them were in far worse shape than those who had a “challenge” mentality. Those who responded to life’s hardships with an attitude to tackle it as a challenge had longer telomeres than those who reacted with fear and worry.

In Kelly McGonigal, PhD’s book, “The Upside of Stress,” she explains that two hormones can be released when faced with a “stressful” situation: Cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). While both hormones are released by the adrenal glands, they serve different roles. Cortisol helps turn sugar and fat into energy but also suppresses biological functions such as digestion, reproduction and growth. DHEA, on the other hand, helps your brain grow stronger from the stressful experiences. It also counters some of the effects of cortisol. It speeds up wound repair and enhances immune function. The ratio of these two hormones can influence the long-term consequences of stress.

For example, Alia Crum, PhD, psychology and mindset expert, conducted an experiment in which half the participants were shown a video that opened with the message, “Most people think that stress is negative… but actually research shows that stress is enhancing.”  The other participants were shown a video that started with, “Most people know that stress is negative… but research shows that stress is even more debilitating than you expect.” Both videos cited real research, so in this sense they were both true. But each video was designed to activate a specific perception of stress.

Next, the participants were put through a mock interview wherein the people they were supposed to impress acted very indifferent and critical. After this ordeal, saliva samples were taken. While all the subjects had a similar rise in cortisol levels, those who had watched the positive stress video had higher levels of DHEA, which has been linked to reduce the risk of anxiety, depression, heart disease, neurodegeneration and other diseases we typically think of as stress-related.

I was excited when I read about this experiment because it gave physical evidence of why our mindset is so powerful, something I have always encouraged in my students. Other studies have confirmed this idea such as research that hanging on to stereotypes about aging can effect older adults’ behaviors, IQ and even their health; a phenomenon known as ‘age-based stereotype threat’ (ABST).

You can read more about that here:

Old Age And Stereotypes

The wonderful thing about Crum’s experiment is that it shows that our environment can immediately change our mindset which can immediately change our biology. It’s as easy as choosing which video to watch.

According to Kelly McGonigal, the best definition of “stress” is that which arises when something you care about is at stake. Her book and many other studies points to the fact that people who say they experience a lot of stress have more meaningful lives. You don’t stress about things you could care less about. So, people who have a positive stress mindset, the kind that actually contributes to better health, believe in finding meaning in their stress and learning to grow from it. This doesn’t mean they sugar coat the horrible things that happen to them. It simply means that they try to use their experiences to make them better people. We all know people who have been destroyed from horrible circumstances, but we’ve also seen people who have grown from them and have used these situations to find strength, resourcefulness and empathy for others in the same situation.

I also learned that it’s usually better to capitalize on that fight and flight response. It’s there to make you perform better. More research shows that trying to calm down when your blood is racing usually doesn’t work. But what you can do is tell yourself that this is a good thing. Use that surge in hormones to help you score that goal, ace that test or wow that audience.

To quote McGonigal, “We get stressed when our goals are on the line, so we take action. We get stressed when our values are threatened, so we defend them. We get stressed when we need courage. We get stressed so we can connect with others. We get stressed so that we will learn from our mistakes. The stress response is more than a basic survival instinct. It is built into how humans operate, how we relate to one another and how we navigate our place in the world. When you understand this, the stress response is no longer something to be feared. It is something to be appreciated, harnessed, and even trusted.”

So what else can we do to create a mindset that helps stress work for our health instead of against it?

Limit the amount of news you watch. According to a major U.S. survey, exposure to the news was one of the most commonly reported source of daily stress. 40 percent of those who reported high levels of stress said watching, reading or listening to the news was a major contributor. This increases a sense of hopelessness. Studies also show that it creates post traumatic stress disorder in the viewer, whether they witnessed the situation being aired or not.

Be open about your problems and look to others for help. Try to reject the viewpoint that other people are a source of stress. When we isolate ourselves from others, we take away many coping mechanisms like realizing that someone else may have been in a similar situation. It also takes away our ability to share and help those in need. Research has shown that helping others is actually a great stress reliever as it counters that feeling of hopelessness and gives our life purpose.

Find time to exercise. Of course I would add this as my final thought. I’m a fitness professional. Lol! But everything I study points to the fact that exercise is that magic pill, if done properly and at the right amount. It also gives us time to unwind or clear our minds. When I go to the local Y or teach a yoga class, it also gives me a sense of community. This past year, there were two deaths in my family. During these times, it was very difficult for me to come to class and motivate others but when I expressed the fact that I had to take some time off to be at funerals or memorials, some students and colleagues shared similar stories with me and I realized that I wasn’t alone. So, while I may not be free of stress, my life is full of meaning. Thank you to all of my students, followers and clients for sharing this journey with me, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

Btw, this December is Live Healthy month at the Porter Ranch library. I will be teaching a pilates class on Saturday December 8 at 1:30pm. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, click here:

Special Events

If you enjoyed this blog and would like to read more about mindset and belief, here is my very first blog ever written about mindset:

Empowering and Disempowering Beliefs

For more motivation on exercise, the magic pill, click here:

The Limitless Pill

My thanksgiving love blog to all my students who give my life so much meaning:

You Inspire Me

PostHeaderIcon How I Cured My Muscle Pain

I always loved fitness, but the one thing that motivated me to become a professional more than anything else was pain. I remember my physical therapist telling me that I was too young to have back pain and if I wasn’t careful, my spine would just keep getting damaged. He didn’t tell me what being careful entailed. Does being careful mean staying in bed and never running again or lifting my baby boy again? I loved to run and I honestly wondered if I would ever be able to do it ever again.

I had no idea what was causing the pain, but having a background in mindfulness made me look back at all the times in my life when my back was healthy. Coincidentally, these were the times that I was consistently fit. The times when my back was in the worst shape were the times when I was the least fit or had a sit down job. Since all other health options weren’t working, I decided to get fit again. This was not easy. I had a bad back. I started by just doing my physical therapy and some low impact cardio like walking or light aerobics. After a while, the pain subsided but it still came and went. It turned out I had two degenerated discs in my lower back. The best advice anyone could give me was a physical therapist who was also a pilates instructor. She told me to keep moving and stay fit. She said if I wasn’t opting for surgery, my best bet was to strengthen the muscles that protect my spine.

What made the back pain permanently vanish? Well, that’s quite a journey. I became a fitness expert. I learned how muscles and bones worked. I learned that there were specific muscles in my core, hips and even shoulders that weren’t working right. For example, my tight shoulders caused me to have to overly arch my back in order to stand up straight. I can now spot this in my clients or students instinctively. Sure, I was told I had degenerated discs in my lumbar spine but re-establishing mobility in my tight shoulders took a huge burden off my back.

Some muscles of my hips were much more flexible or stronger than others. In fact, it turned out I had a very strong core but was overcompensating, using my back to do all the work because I had weaknesses in my legs and butt. My core wasn’t weak. It was overburdened by taking all the weight my hips couldn’t bare. I also had very tight hip flexors which pulled on my back.

I want to share this with you because I’ve seen a trend in our health care system. Insurance companies only pay therapists to work on the “one” body part that needs it. So, if your back is in pain because you have tight shoulders, you’ll get a lot of therapy for your lower back when you should be opening your shoulders. This is only an example. My knowledge in corrective exercise has taught me that it could be your feet causing pain in your knees, hips or even back, yet our health system is structured to focus on one muscle group at a time.

I was surprised when my son’s pediatrician told me that they don’t refer out people with pronated or “flat” feet to physical therapists. They just suggest orthotics. When I became a corrective exercise specialist, I learned how to re-build the arches of the foot. The reason why feet go flat is because they are out of shape. Walking in shoes and on flat surfaces with no variety has caused the arches of our feet to atrophy. Much like sitting in chairs all day can atrophy the muscles of our back, most of our chronic muscle pain is due to inactivity more than anything. Wearing special shoes or a back brace is like leaning on a cructh. You’re relying on an external object to make up for your own weakness. There are exercises you can do to fix muscular skelatal problems.

Unfortunately, like obesity, the greatest cure can’t be taken overnight. If you have surgery, it might cure a skeletal issue but if you don’t keep your muscles strong, that part of your body will just get re-injured. If you use liposuction to suck out your fat, but continue to eat more than you are burning, that fat will creep back on. The only pharmaceutical drugs prescribed to lose weight only work along with “diet and exercise”. We can cleanse the damage we do to our heart, blood and organs by detoxing on a high vegetable diet, but if we go back to our old way of eating, those problems come right back. We need to start getting real about how we maintain our health.

These days I’m back to doing all the things I love. I run, practice martial arts, jump and hike. But I also keep up a steady practice of muscle strengthening and stretching. The frailty of old age happens when we lose muscle and bone but all of this can be prevented if we take proper care of ourselves. My job requires me to be in top athletic condition and I sometimes get little tweeks in my knees, or other joints, but the good news is that I know what to do if these obstacles arise and they are usually ironed out in a few days. I’m currently in the best shape of my life because I’ve taken the time to address my weaknesses and work out smart.

A lot of people come to me after class, asking about their aches and pains, so I’m having a workshop specifically on corrective exercise in September. If you are interested in taking this workshop, click here for more info.

Special Events

 

PostHeaderIcon Why Run, Walk or Dance against Cancer

I never thought supporting the American Cancer society and Stand Up To Cancer would be such an amazing experience. Last month I participated in The Rugged Maniac obstacle course run, and the Night Nation Run (which was really an unbelievable music festival).
I want to share my experiences because I think everyone should do this at least once. If you don’t like running or obstacle courses, the Night Nation Run is more of a dance party than anything. Really, anyone could do it. Here’s why:

These Events are super inexpensive:

Early registration or groupon registration is as low as $29. I’ve seen other races that go for over $100. If you want to donate to the fight against cancer, you have the option of paying more or starting a fundraiser page to get sponsors, but all of that is optional and isn’t pushed on anyone. Plus, they are fully refundable, unlike other events.

It Appeals to all Fitness Levels:

If you’re a crazy athletic type who likes to get rugged, you can participate in the Rugged Maniac Run. If you’re not competitive at all and just want to have a workout or an all around good time, the Night Nation Run is for you. If you’re a night person, do the Night Nation Run. If you’re a day person, do the Rugged Maniac Run. You even get to choose the time you run. If you are a serious competitor, then there’s a special run for you but you can also run for fun.

The experience is thrilling and amazing:

At the Rugged Maniac Run, I got to participate in 25 obstacle courses on a 5k course. You can also do a 10k if you like. Some of the obstacle courses are akin to what you would see in the military, like climbing over walls and crawling under wire but there were also inflatable water slides and a warped wall like in the show Ninja Warrior. Everyone was super supportive. It was a hot day, but the course had lots of water and mud so it kept me cool. There’s also a festival with contests and prizes involving a mechanical bull, a pull up contest and a plank contest. I won a free t-shirt from winning the pull up contest and one for almost winning the plank contest. I participated with my son and we both received a ton of free stuff. Here I am leaping over a fire pit!

The experience is awesome and inspiring:

At the Night Nation Run, I felt like I was a part of something larger than myself. It was humungous! There was a huge stage and a dance party. It took place at Angel Stadium. Everyone got free neon necklaces and other glow in the dark paraphernalia. There were selfie stations everywhere. They riled you up before you ran, DJs and entertainers were everywhere, making it fun and throwing out free gifts. You don’t even have to do the run. You can enjoy the atmosphere, people watch or participate in the huge dance party. The run took us on an amazing tour of Angel’s Stadium. Some people walked, some jogged, some ran. There were dance stations and music everywhere which was motivationg. You could just stop and dance anytime you liked. We got to see the enormous stadium and go into the dug out, feeling what it must be like to be a professional base ball player. After the run, the party continued. Famous DJs kept us dancing. I probably burned more calories from dancing than I did from doing the 5k. Free glow in the dark toys were tossed everywhere. I did this run with  my husband and it was one of the best dates we have been on. This is also a family event. Unfortunately, all my pictures were accidentally erased. :( But here’s one from the website:

Life’s too short not to:

We’ve all had friends and family who either survived or passed from cancer. As hard as it is on all of us, I’ve learned that life is just too short. We get caught up in our ruts and routines and we forget to truly live. Remember to take the time to do something different, even if its not one of these events. Sometimes its hard to break from routine, but once I do something like this, I feel so much better. Life becomes more meaningful and I’m glad to have spent quality time with my loved ones and fellow human beings. Isn’t that what life is really all about?

It Fight’s Cancer:

While all the proceeds from these events goes to fighting cancer, it fights cancer in other ways. First, it brings people together. Evidence has shown that people who have a strong support group are more likely to survive the disease. Secondly, it forces us to get exercise. Numerous studies have shown that exercise helps prevent many kinds of cancer. Third, it gets us out which means we’re not inside getting depressed as depression can lead to more chronic health ailments.

It’s Fun:

I don’t like to think of exercise as a work out. I like to think of it as play, a way to move, to get out and to connect with others. I also think of it as a meditation and as an experience that teaches us to overcome our many  obstacles. People who suffer from cancer also need to overcome many obstacles. Let’s lift them up by being there for them and doing something that makes us positive about living.

Here’s a link to the Night Nation Run website, where there are events all over the World. There’s also a virtual event:

NightNationRun.com

Here’s a link to the Rugged Maniac website, where there are events all over the US and Canada:

RuggedManiac.com

I’ll be participating in the Night Nation run in LA in July 21 and in the Rugged Maniac run in SoCal, Temecula on November 17. Let me know if you’d like to join us. :D

PostHeaderIcon Does Your Time Perspective Affect Your Health?

How we view reality is subjective. Just ask your parents or siblings how they remember certain events in the past. You will find that everyone remembers these events very differently. Studies on eye witness testimonies have shown that most memories are false. This is why lawyers are not allowed to “lead the witness” while questioning them. Hinting or suggesting certain view points can lead someone to remember something completely differently, greatly skewing the real truth.

For more information on how our beliefs control our reality, click here:

Voodoo, Beliefs, Health and Society

We all wear tinted colored glasses that shade our world in a way only we can see. Modern psychology has examined how these attitudes can promote success or lead to failure. Experts on Time psychology (such as, Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D and John Boyd, Ph.D, authors of “The Time Paradox”) study and break down our relationship with time. They say that time is money as we are often paid for our time but I think that time is priceless and have always struggled with my relationship with it. We all only have a limited amount of time in a day and how we spend that time is so crucial. Yet no one really knows how much time we have in a life. I could die tomorrow in an accident or many years from now. This mystery just makes time even more valuable. I think that’s why I enjoyed reading “The Time Paradox” so much.  Much can be said about how we view the Past, Present and Future.

 

THE PAST:

As stated before, we can’t always trust our memories to give us an objective reality about what really happened in the past. There are many sides to one story and our side is highly influenced by our attitudes. Some people believe in a golden age, when life was innocent and simpler. Other people say our history is full of horrors and we are living in the best times ever. Yet, how we see the past can directly affect our success in the future. if we are constantly focusing on our failures and disappointments, we have created a general attitude that we are losers. If this is so, we will go about our lives with a chip on our shoulder, not expecting success and always expecting failure. We could be sabotaging ourselves without even knowing it.

In contrast, if we focus on our little successes, we have proven to ourselves that we are capable and will have a more positive attitude towards our endeavors.

Studies have shown that the act of rumination, of constantly thinking about the negative aspects of the past can lead to depression and other chronic diseases that stem from emotional stress such as heart disease. Being depressed will cause us to try less, to take less risks and to attract more disappointments and failures. If we don’t change how we think about our past, we become trapped in this cycle.

Past negative attitude: I shouldn’t have eaten that cookie! This is why I never reach my fitness goals. What’s the point of trying? I’m just gonna stay fat and die early. I’m gonna wallow in my sorrow, stay home and eat a gallon of ice cream

Past positive approach: I didn’t reach my goal of losing 10 lbs in one month but that’s because I cheated by eating a few cookies. I did lose 7 lbs. That’s a huge success! I’ve never lost 7 lbs before. I just have to keep at it and I’m certain to reach my goals soon. Better not miss my muscle pump class.

These examples show two different ways of looking at the same exact situation. Which mindset do you think will lead to success? We can find happiness focusing on all the good times, or we can wallow in depression by ruminating over the bad.

For more information on using awareness to influence our free will, click here:

Science, Yoga, and Free Will

THE PRESENT:

There are three major ways of viewing our present situation; Present Fatalistic, Present Hedonistic and Holistic present.

Present Fatalistic people have a deterministic attitude towards life. They don’t believe anything they do now could change future outcomes. This is common in people who come from backgrounds of poverty, little opportunity and insecurity. The attitude goes something like this: “What’s the point of trying? I’m going to die anyway,” or “I’ve always been poor. That will never change.” Such attitudes sabotage us from making pro active decisions in our lives. So if you are overweight or come from a family of overweight people with chronic health conditions, there is little you will do to change this situation because you have little belief in your ability to make a difference.

Present Hedonistic people love to live in the moment and think little of future consequences. They are usually the life of the party, encouraging everyone to give in to their indulgences, which can be great for you’re health if your enjoying a Zumba class or a nice outdoor run. But this attitude may also lead to more drinking alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs or emotional eating with little thought of how this behavior will effect the future. Present hedonists tend to gamble more and be more promiscuous. The positive of this approach to time is that present hedonists tend to have more fun. The negative is that their inability to consider future consequences can still lead to health problems, addiction and failure to commit and follow through due to lack of planning.

The Holistic Present approach is living in the utmost present, the way we do when meditating or writing poetry. Buddhism and many other philosophies have preached the beauty, peace and serenity of living in this state. It’s also known as “mindfulness”. Many who reach this state even say that time becomes an illusion and the mental disorders that come with negative viewpoints of time drift away. This is the state we are in when we are meditating, enjoying a sunset, painting or writing a poem or completely focusing our mind on the task at hand. We see time as one holistic whole and live in one-ness with our place in the grand scheme of things. We let go of the pain of the past, the addictions of the present and the demands of the future. It’s a very clear and calming place to be. If we take the time to reach this state on a regular basis, it can have many positive affects on our mental and physical well being.

If you’d like to learn more about meditation and focusing on the present, click here:

Meditation (A Running Into Reality)

THE FUTURE:

Do you plan for the future? People who create goals for themselves are more likely to do well in school, be on time, succeed in losing weight and be financially well off. They save their money, plan their meals and workouts, do the work needed to finish future projects and tend to be more successful in all aspects of life. They know how to delay gratification, often choosing to make present sacrifices so they can be more successful in the future.

The negative of always living for the future is becoming so engrossed in what needs to be done tomorrow that we forget to enjoy today. Relationships might struggle due to lack of spending that quality time with those we love. This perspective can also lead to a type A personality, someone who is always worried about getting things done, always planning to fill the calendar and finding that we never have free time to live in the moment. This can lead to fear of not living up to expectations and such stress contributes significantly to cardiovascular disease. Feelings of anger and fear have been known to harden the arteries more than a high fat diet. So one must strike a balance between planning for the future and living in the present.

Since people who plan for the future, are good problem solvers, they can easily fix the negatives by planning their schedules to include fun time for themselves and their loved ones.

For more instructions on how to plan out your fitness goals, click here:

How to Make Your New Year’s Resolution

In Conclusion, we all have very different relationships with time and taking a moment to examine how we relate to it can help us with our health, our finances and relationships. Do you dwell on negative memories of the past and find it hard to forgive? If so, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Try taking some time to focus on fond memories and past successes and see how this can shift your attitude and positively change your outlook.

Do you believe that the choices you make in the present have some sway over your future? If not, then you are probably letting your environment decide the life you should be living rather than living the life you choose to live. Do you over indulge in the present moment, giving little thought of what you say or do can effect your future? Such impulsive behavior could interfere with future success.

Are you so focused on ambition and future outcomes, that you have become a big ball of stress and have forgotten how to relax, smell the flowers and make time with your loved ones? This can lead to frustration which can greatly affect your health. Therefore, taking the time to contemplate your time perspectives and learning to balance how you view your past, present and future can help you positively change your life and your health.
“You can choose how to reconstruct the past, interpret the present, and construct the future. You can choose to remember a wonderful glass of wine that you had yesterday, and forget the special bottle of wine that you spilled last week. Today you can choose to see the glass as half full and savor its flavor. And you can choose to expect the glass to be completely full tomorrow. In so doing , you make the most of your time by choosing happiness over despair, joy over heartbreak, and pleasure over pain.
The greatest gift that you can give to others and yourself is time. Embrace the gift of time whether you give it or receive it. Allow yourself to be fully present and to choose happiness. The past is gone, and the future will never arrive. The present is all that you have. Give yourself permission to enjoy the present and to pursue happiness in the future.”
–From “The Time Paradox” by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd

 

PostHeaderIcon What Can I Eat if Everything is Unhealthy?

What Can I Eat if Everything is Unhealthy? This is a common question I’ve been hearing a lot from students and clients recently. This confusion stems from the fact that much of the mainstream information we are getting on nutrition do not come from experts or scholars but from journalists putting a doomsday, fear mongering spin on nutrition (fear sells in journalism) or from salespeople trying to push a supplement or diet program for their company. Because of this, much of the information we get on nutrition is biased or false, so before you freak out that eating apples are bad for you, ask yourself this question: Who gave you this advice? Was it a friend with no credentials on nutrition? Was it a sales representative whose job it is to push their product, or was it from a blog or news source that sites no studies or specific sources? Be careful when you hear the generic term, “experts say.” Who are these experts? Unless there is a specific study cited from a reputable scientific journal or a reputable scholar, that can mean anything. Also, studies and experiments need to be repeated many times before we really understand them, and some have more merit than others due to the way the study was conducted. Was it a double blind controlled study? Were the methods of measurement accurate? You would have to be a bit of an expert to understand why some studies are better than others.

Diet information can be run by fads. If a recent study indicates that high fat diets improve the sleep patterns of diabetics, everyone will go on that diet, even the non-diabetics, and they’ll assume it will help them lose weight, even though the study was about sleep patterns. These days it doesn’t have to be a study. It can just be something someone posted on social media that looks interesting and goes viral.

All my certifications are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the gold standard in the United States for assessing professional competence. All the information I have been taught come from the most comprehensive scientific studies and advancements. I am also required to continue my education and update my certifications every year. The classes I take are taught by people with advanced degrees in the field, often by professors with Ph.ds who have dedicated their lives to science and research. However, there is a lot of crap out there. I’ve seen articles that have completely misread or made assumptions about expert advice to put a spin on things that have made me cringe.

Recently I opened an article on my browser’s home page about how nutritional experts are misunderstood. It said that we nutritionists say fiber is bad for you because it can cause gastrointestinal distress. This was taken out of context. On the contrary, fiber is an essential nutrient. We recommend that the average person get at least 20 grams of fiber each day. It can help prevent gastrointestinal disease. However, if you are an athlete who wants to take advantage of the carb boost gained from eating carbs right before or during a workout or event, it’s probably better to pick a less fibrous form of carbs so you don’t get gastrointestinal distress during your performance. The article kept saying “experts say” but it wasn’t written by a nutritionist nor did it quote any experts or site any literature.

Recently someone said to me, “if you aren’t speaking out against the quacks, you might as well be supporting them,” so I just want to clear this up to my followers.

On supplements: Fitness supplements are harmless to some, a shady business to others. Since supplements aren’t well regulated by the FDA, you can give someone a water pill and say that anything is in it. It amazes me how many people will buy anything if they are told it will help them build muscle or lose weight without even thinking about consulting their doctor. I’ve met a few people who were so sold on supplements by their gym or trainer, who got Crohn’s disease as a result and had to stop working out. I know a dietician who often meets patients with gastrointestinal problems due to the sheer number of nutritional supplements they have consumed, this includes bars and powders. Please remember that supplements are not meant to replace food.

Before you buy just any supplement, please check out the warning and regulations on the USDA’s website here:

https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/dietary-supplements

If you are discovering my website for the first time, I recommend this blog on different types of diets for different reasons. These specific diets are the ones that have the most long standing research. Fad diets are not included here:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=999

Remember the overlooked obvious, to cut out the junk food and eat a diet rich in variety and nutrients, such as the one described in the food plate here:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=385

So you don’t get fooled by marketing found on food labels, please read my blog on how to read them with discernment here:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=824

If you’d like to follow more articles written specifically by fitness and nutritionist experts, check out my twitter page where I post articles regularly

https://twitter.com/HeroesTraining

P.S., I’m sorry I haven’t blogged in so long as this year has been extremely busy for me. I’m still here and hopefully I can post more in the future.

PostHeaderIcon With Loving Kindness

It’s December of 2017 and what a crazy year this has been throughout the world! Earlier today, I asked one of my clients how she was feeling. Instead of telling me she felt stressed or frazzled, which is a typical response, she said, “I’d say I’m stressed, but there are so many people far worse off than I am.” The fires here in Southern California are finally dying down. While I experienced a bad power outage and had to be evacuated from one of my jobs, this is nothing compared with those who have lost there homes; it’s nothing compared to the hurricanes that hit the Caribbean and most of the southern states, the devastating earthquakes that hit Mexico, Iran and other parts of the world, the tragedy of the worst mass shooting in history, and just the general social unrest regarding race, assault and harassment.

You’d think we’d all be bitter and cynical, but what I saw, especially in the fitness community, was a lot of gratitude for what we do have, as many of us have looked for ways to raise money and help those who are not as lucky as we are. Suddenly, our own problems become miniscule and money becomes less important.

At this time of year, I try to take some time to contemplate my new years resolutions. Sometimes I just take some time to reflect on what’s important. In the past I’ve focused more on gratitude and character, but this year, I’d like to raise my glass to compassion, pure, selfless compassion, also referred to as love.

I noticed, this year, that whenever there was a tragedy, not only did we become more grateful for what we have, we become suddenly aware of what is really important. Our heart goes out to people, whether we know them or not. We sympathize and automatically want to help. We become aware of the fact that we aren’t alone. We are all in this together.

People often ask me how I have the energy to teach and train so many people. Looking back over my career, I honestly think its because I receive just as much as I give. My clients and students have taught me so much. You have shared your lives with me, and I realize I’m not alone. No matter what is happening in my life, I can go teach a class or train a client, and for the time I’m doing it, I forget about me. I’m there for you, and there is something truly healing about that. You’ve all been through so much. Many of my students and clients had to be re-located due to the gas leak a couple of years ago. Some have been affected by the fires. Many suffer from chronic illness or take care of loved ones, but you still show up and live your life. Some of you might have taken some time off to deal with your own lives right now. Maybe I haven’t seen you for a while but it doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking of you and wishing you well. I’m so moved by stories and I have listened to so many stories of you living life, overcoming adversity and still showing up to train, and to greet me with your bright faces.

So, this holiday I’d just like to say Namaste. I just want to bow to you and send out my love and kindness as you have all done for me, whether you realize it or not. My life has truly been touched by your beauty.

 

christmas 2017