Healthy Living

Physical Wellness

Physical wellness involves aspects of life that are necessary to keep yourself in top condition. Optimal physical wellness is developed through the combination of beneficial physical activity/exercise and healthy eating habits. Components of physical wellness include building muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular strength and endurance and flexibility.

Are you engaged in physical wellness in your life? Do you have an established exercise routine and get an adequate amount of sleep?

Physical wellness is a cornerstone to your overall wellness. Not only does exercise improve your physical well-being, studies have shown exercises improves mood, cognitive function and quality of sleep. Sleep is also a key factor in your physical well-being. Sleep, or lack of, affects our bodies from an increase in inflammation, reduced immunity, depression, weight gain and raised cortisol (stress hormone).

Here are some tips to increase physical activity at work.

  1. Stand instead of sitting, this burns more calories – want a little extra burn, get an aerobic step for your desk do some steps or calf raises while working.
  2. If you do sit, sit on an exercise ball at your desk, instead of a chair (this builds core strength).
  3. Keep some small hand weights at your desk
  4. Get up and walk around after sitting for 30 minutes
  5. Stretch!

Can you do this??

stretch

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Wellness at Work

My job requires me to be at my desk all day. I am grateful that my workplace values wellness and has equipped every office with desks that raise to standing height, so I spend much of my day standing.

I found a way to keep myself entertained at work while trying to stay active. I grabbed  four of reams of copy paper and stacked them two up, side-by-side. I am using them for calf raises and for step ups.

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It could be a tad higher for step ups but I risk the paper shifting and me falling down, which would likely be frowned upon by HR in the instance of a workplace injury. I’ve decided I need to purchase a fitness stepper for my office. I have purchased some resistance bands that I intend on using, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Over the next two months I am going to really try to improve the strength in my legs and my cardio capacity for a hiking trip that I have planned in August. I am looking forward to climbing the tallest mountain in Maine, something I have always wanted to do. Once I got my MS diagnosis I knew I needed to make it a priority, while I am doing fine now, the uncertainty of this condition is always at the back of my minds.

 

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New, new, new

I’ve recently moved and there is a gym that is close to my house. Close enough that I could walk or ride my bike, if it weren’t so cold! So far April has been colder than March here in Maine. I am going to the YMCA campus closest to my house instead of my regular YMCA location. There are pro’s and con’s to doing this.

The biggest plus is that I can finish my workout and go home and shower in my own warm bathroom (those locker rooms are always so cold!). The other upside is when it is warmer I look forward to riding my bike there.

Now for the downsides, bigger gym, more people. My old location usually had one or two other people I had to work around. We all pretty much knew each others routines and worked quietly around each other. Now I need to be prepared to change up my routine on the spot if I can’t get what I want. This gym also has different equipment, it is newer and nicer, which is great but I have to learn this equipment and again make some adjustments. They don’t have a lying leg curl machine so I’ll have to find an alternative to that one.

Overall, it is a great change. Making adjustments is sometimes necessary and welcome, not only in fitness and health, but life in general.

 

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Bodybuilding and de-loading

De-loading is a term that I’ve read a lot about in various bodybuilding and fitness magazines. De-loading is a planned reduction in volume or intensity of your workouts, usually for one week. The purpose is to allow the body to dissipate fatigue and allow you to recover. I’ve learned that de-loading is valuable tool to have in my routine because weight training also puts stress on the joints, ligaments, connective tissues, and the central nervous system (aka where my MS lives).

Incorporating this into your schedule can be done in different ways.

  • Continue with your normal routine and normal volume (sets & reps) but reduce the weight you use by about half of what you normally use.
  • Use the same weight as you normally would, but drop your total volume (less sets & reps).
  • Decrease your lifting and increase your cardio
  • Take a week off completely

Normally I just take a week off, usually planned around vacations. This week I am on an unplanned de-load. I had every intention of continuing with my training this week; however, I have a new schedule with my children and I haven’t yet figured out how to incorporate my training days into this schedule. I also haven’t actually taken a week off since maybe Christmas, or it could have been my vacation in September, I don’t remember.

I feel so much guilt for taking the week off. I feel like my muscles are slowly deteriorating, an exaggeration, yes.

I know that I need to take time and listen to my body and enjoy some rest and healing, from the physical stress I put my body through and the emotional and mental stresses of life.

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Survey Says

I just read an interesting article  regarding a survey of how MS patients warrior’s perceive diet, exercise and drug treatments. It shows weight training as the least cited exercise routine among MSers.

Exercise routine

At first I was really surprised by this statistic until I got to thinking about it a little more. Everyone’s MS is different and everyone has different abilities, yet I wonder how many think that it is impossible. I just KNOW there is a way to modify and substitute exercises to meet the abilities of each individual.

As the article states there are multiple benefits to weight training. Maintaining muscle tone will help reduce weakness, improve strength, decrease fatigue and depression.

A strong body is a strong mind.

I hope that bottom bar on that graph grows and I look forward to having a part in helping others find their abilities.

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Checking Your Form

I had a video that I wanted to share of yesterday’s Deadlift session; however, the lighting is really bad and the quality is low and well I’ve determined I need someone to follow me around the gym each day and video my lifts.

All kidding aside though, I don’t just take video because I enjoy watching myself, or because I want to share it on social media, I use it as a tool for checking and analyzing my form.

I’ve studied various bodybuilding and exercise videos over the past year and while I think I perform every exercise correctly, watching the videos is extremely helpful to see where I might need work.

Those who train with a partner have the benefit of getting on the spot critique on what they should be doing (hopefully the partner is aware of the actual mechanics) and they can help them get corrected right away. Proper form is very important when strength training for several reasons, one you reduce the chance for injury and two you want to ensure that you are actually working the desired muscle group.

My favorite website for studying proper form is bodybuilding.com. They have so many videos in their exercise database that are helpful when you are just starting out, or need to revisit when you discover your are not lifting properly.

Get detailed instructions on Barbell Deadlift. Learn correct technique with their Barbell Deadlift video, photos, tips and reviews.: Bodybuilding.com – Barbell Deadlift 

 

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Never Miss a Monday

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When I first started my fitness journey, I saw these memes all over the Internet and they made sense to me. I think they are actually really good  rules to live by  and promises I’ve made to myself, I try really hard to keep them. Sometimes, due to certain circumstances, they must be broken.

This morning I really didn’t feel like going to the gym when my alarm went off. That being said; I don’t feel like it, is not a good enough excuse for me.

Somehow, starting off my work week by pushing myself makes for a good day and a good week. This first day of spring is a snowy mess in Maine today, which can be a little de-motivating, but tomorrow will be better!

Get up, go get those endorphins!

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Mix it up

I am a huge fan of variety – usually, I say usually because sometimes I will find something that I like and stick to it for fear of not liking whatever the new items is, or the new item not working as well. Toothpaste; for example, I have been using the same toothpaste forever. It works well and tastes good, why risk changing to something that might taste gross or be too foamy and gritty, I hate gritty toothpaste.

Where am I going with this? It is time to change up my training (and diet) routine. I’m reluctant because I love my routine and it has been working for the goals that I had set for myself, build muscle.

Some people change up their routines to avoid boredom, however, it is necessary to challenge your body. When you do one routine for too long of a period your body adapts to that cycle and no longer needs to work to get better. If you change up your routine every few weeks you are signaling your body that it is time to work again and re-adapt to the new situation.

There are various ways to change up your routine. If you are doing cardio on a stationary bike for 30 minutes you could try increasing the intensity (tension) or increase the amount of time you are doing the exercise.

In weight training you can increase the number of sets (the number of times you perform the exercise) you do and decrease your rest time in between sets. You can increase the number of repetitions you, or you can go heavier on the amount of weight you are lifting. So while I do like routine, what I love about weight training is the variety of different types of exercises you can do and how you can do them.

I’m beginning to work on my summer slim down, which means goodbye to beer and junky foods and increasing the intensity of my work outs. I do this by increasing sets, reps and reducing the amount of rest time in between sets to keep my heart rate pumping. Another thing I’ve begun doing is taking a lap around the track at the gym in between my sets, it keeps my heart rate elevated, in turn keeping me in that fat burning zone.

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Fitness Friday

I am in a fantastic mood. The sun is shining here in Maine, it’s going to be a nice weekend and I am looking forward to getting outside, maybe some walking, tennis, not sure, but definitely outside.

I am taking a CPR class on Sunday, which I am excited about. This is a pre-requisite to taking my ACE Personal Trainer certification exam. I don’t have to take my exam until this summer, but I’m antsy and I am trying to absorb as much information as possible, I’m ready to get going!

Today’s training at the gym was a bit compromised by the new tattoo on my hip. Squatting was a tad uncomfortable, but as a gymaholic, I couldn’t not go. Friday has traditionally always been a leg and glute day; however, as I’ve realized my upper body is lacking in strength, I am now trying to include some upper body movements in all of my training days.

My Fitness Friday

Legs & Glutes

  • Barbell Squats –  4 sets of 12 reps
  • Barbell Hip Thrusts – 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Plie Dumbbell Squats (stand on top of two benches for added depth) – 4 sets of 12 reps
  • Calf raises on a smith machine – 4 sets of 12 reps. I stand on a step platform, these babies burn!

Shoulders

  • Smith Machine Military Press  – 3 sets of 6 reps. I use the smith machine because I don’t have a spotter and I don’t want to drop the barbell on my face. (I’m clumsy like that)
  • Upright Barbell Row – 4 sets of 10
  • Arnold Dumbbell Press  – I love to do drop sets with this exercise. I lift until failure and then I drop the weight 5 pounds and immediately lift to failure again. This really sets my shoulders on fire.
  • Finally, I finish with an nice isolation exercise, the Front Plate Raise , 4 sets or 10.

When I’m done, lifting my arms above my head is a chore. I cap off the morning with a 15 minute walk at a fast pace on the treadmill.

Happy Friday everyone, stay on track this weekend with your fitness goals, get out and move!

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Bicycle, Bicycle, Bicycle

The weather in Maine is starting to improve, with temperatures reaching the 60’s briefly this week. I cannot wait to get outside and get active again. The winter and the darkness is really hard on me and I am aching for some sunshine.

I have to add in some more cardiovascular exercise to my training, reluctantly, I might add. For the most part I find it boring and I’d rather stick to weight training. Unless you are doing a circuit routine, weight training is anaerobic, meaning it uses a different energy system and does not work to improve the body’s cardiovascular health.

Cardio is necessary and has many benefits. Your heart is a muscle and needs to be worked just like the rest of your muscles in order to improve and maintain it’s capabilities. Getting your heart pumping with cardiovascular exercise also helps increase your lung capacity. Oxygen is the ingredient muscles use to convert carbohydrates and fat into energy, thus burning calories. 

The key is finding an activity that will get your heart pumping that you will actually enjoy. Last year I took up tennis for the first time (I’m terrible at it but it get’s my heart going). This year I am going to start biking a couple of days a week. Who know’s maybe I’ll enjoy it so much I’ll participate in Bike MS this year!