Fitness Meme of the Week: Train your brain.

In honor of Code.org’s upcoming Hour of Code, here’s a meme to get you thinking. Literally.

Try something new. Try something that's just a little harder than what you've done before.
Try something new. Try something that’s just a little harder than what you’ve done before.

Have a great workout and a great weekend. See you next week.

Yesterday’s Every48 workout: A speaking engagement I’d been looking forward to all year, so I was on my feet a lot. Other than that, a REST DAY.

Throwback Thursday: What’s a workout, really? Ask this NFL coach.

I really wish I had a baseball-themed post in the can for Throwback Thursday after watching Madison Bumgarner’s amazing performance last night in Game 7 of the World Series. This post from June, in which an NFL coach illustrates what a workout really is, will have to do. Congratulations to the Giants and the Royals on a spectacular series, and to the Giants for a tour de force win to cap off the season.

Inspiration Week! An NFL coach on what a workout really is.

[Originally published on June 17, 2014.]

What is a workout - really? Look below for one NFL coach's thoughts. (Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
What is a workout – really? Look below for one NFL coach’s thoughts. (Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

This week, I put out a call to my friends for thoughts that keep my friends going when they’re toughing it out in a workout. I received a gem of a response: this meditation on what a workout really is, from former Washington Redskins coach George Allen.

The link below is from the Championship Coaches’ Network.

What is a workout?

A workout is 25 percent perspiration and 75 percent determination. Stated another way, it is one part physical exertion and three parts self-discipline. Doing it is easy once you get started.

A workout makes you better today than you were yesterday. It strengthens the body, relaxes the mind, and toughens the spirit. When you work out regularly, your problems diminish and your confidence grows.

A workout is a personal triumph over laziness and procrastination. It is the badge of a winner – the mark of an organized, goal-oriented person who has taken charge of his, or her, destiny.

A workout is a wise use of time and an investment in excellence. It is a way of preparing for life’s challenges and proving to yourself that you have what it takes to do what is necessary.

A workout is a key that helps unlock the door to opportunity and success. Hidden within each of us is an extraordinary force. Physical and mental fitness are the triggers that can release it.

A workout is a form of rebirth. When you finish a good workout, you don’t simply feel better, YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF.

- George Allen, Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee

Ever since watching the implosion of many athletic careers up close during various drug scandals of the last decade and a half, I’ve been careful about not lionizing athletes and coaches as perfectly wise human beings, despite their often-stunning physical accomplishments. Reading up on George Allen this morning, I can tell you that the quote above made my day…and yet he doesn’t particularly sound like he was the healthiest person on earth, with 16-hour workdays and a devotion to football that, according to his children, resulted in a tunnel-vision focus that excluded his family. That just does not feel like a healthy way to live (and yet today we still revere NFL coaches who work so hard that they sleep in their offices).

I often hope for a more balanced world…but I’ve also realized that the one person whose life balance I have complete control over is my own. That is really our call to action in life, to take care of ourselves so that we can do the work of our own days. I do love what the above quote reflects about workouts. I never finish a workout feeling anything other than great.

Well, maybe once or twice I dragged the whole time and was happy to finish. But just once or twice.

One more from NFL world today – a quote on success from Vernon  Davis of the San Francisco 49ers, Peter King’s guest MMQB columnist this week:

If you know the formula to be successful as a football player, you know the formula to be successful after football. You have to be relentless.

- Vernon Davis

Now get out there and get your workout on.

[And back to real time: October 30, 2014]

Yesterday’s Every48 workout: That nice BIKE ride at the gym that I wrote about yesterday, ’cause it was done before 8 a.m. Yay.

Science Wednesday: A reblog on the antidote for constant stress. (Take a guess.)

I’m reblogging a post from September 2014 today because it’s relevant, hugely, to this particular week in my life. I would have loved to be able to finish that long run on Sunday (status update: shoulder still sore, but I’m okay otherwise) and just keep on humming with my normal schedule, but the detour you take when you’re hurt, injured, or sick can be an opportunity to get creative. After two days of rest, this morning I got to the gym before 7 a.m. (I would pat myself on the back, but my arm can’t do that right now…) and rode an exercise bike for 45 minutes. Getting creative around here. What exercises do not involve any arm movement? I’ll be doing lots of those in the next few days.

The solution to constant stress? Take a guess.

[Originally published on September 17, 2014.]

No joke: Chronic stress is a killer. And, no joke: exercise and eating well are hugely helpful in combating the effects of chronic stress.

This is your brain on constant stress: always slightly anxious, fearful, tired...or all of the above. Guess what you can do to combat constant stress? Read on. (Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
This is your brain on constant stress: always slightly anxious, fearful, tired…or all of the above. Guess what you can do to combat constant stress? Read on. (Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

I’m thinking about stress right now because I’m developing training tools and keynote talks on this subject for 2015, and I’m aware just by reading the news every day as I look for articles on the latest health studies that it is entirely possible for us to live our lives in a constant state of low-level chronic stress. And that means we’re basically constantly sick, tired, and really, really distracted.

There are just so many causes of stress out there in the big, wide world.

I think most of us wake up every morning worried about something. Whether it’s the job we may not be super-happy about going to…or not having a job to go to and wanting one…or caring for a family…or wishing we had a family to care for…or navigating difficult situations…or just being inundated with bad news. We are confronted, day in and day out, with happenings that could cause a whole lot of chronic stress.

Here’s how the American Psychological Association defines stress:

“[A] feeling of being overwhelmed, worried or run-down. Stress can affect people of all ages, genders and circumstances and can lead to both physical and psychological health issues. By definition, stress is any uncomfortable ‘emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral changes.’ Some stress can be beneficial at times, producing a boost that provides the drive and energy to help people get through situations like exams or work deadlines. However, an extreme amount of stress can have health consequences and adversely affect the immune, cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and central nervous systems.”

From “Understanding Constant Stress,” at APA.org

I’m always amazed when I see workplaces that just get it all wrong about how to help their people be productive, happy, and satisfied with the contributions they are making in the world. I have seen “screamers” who yell at people, thinking that motivates them, when all it does is make them not want to engage. Chronic stress: having to report to a job where you could be yelled at, at any moment.

I have personally had a manager tell me I wasn’t “hurting” financially and so didn’t deserve a raise after creating a significant amount of value for his company over the previous year. (Note to all managers who make compensation decisions: Employees don’t get compensated based on whether you have an opinion – informed or uninformed – about whether they are “hurting.” They get compensated based on their value to their employer, and their skill set. If you tie compensation to your opinion about whether that employee “needs” the money, you’re going to lose that person. You’ll never get their best work again, even if they stay in the job, because you will have lost their trust.) Chronic stress: having a job where you feel undervalued.

I have had to break the habit of reading the news first thing in the morning. As a trained journalist, I know that the adage “if it bleeds, it leads” tends to be true. And there can sometimes be attempts to sensationalize the news, too, so that skimming the headlines makes it sound like the world is coming to an end, on a daily basis. Chronic stress: being inundated with the world’s problems, knowing that we don’t have the power as single human beings to solve all of those problems at this exact moment. (In groups, we can do a lot to help. But not first thing in the morning, alone with our coffee or tea and our thoughts and our just-waking-up worries about our own lives.)

That’s your brain on constant stress. Guess what the answer is?

Yes. This is the answer.

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

And this:

(Image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
(Image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

And this:

(Image courtesy of stay2gether at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
(Image courtesy of stay2gether at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

There you go. Movement is the answer to chronic stress. Sweat. Miles. Laps. Dance tunes. Reps. However you measure your exercise progress, whatever type of exercise you like to do. Move, and things start to happen in your brain, in a really good way.

Want the science? This is your brain on exercise (just one of many wonderful points made in this article from the American Psychological Association, The Exercise Effect):

The exercise mood boost…offers near-instant gratification. Therapists would do well to encourage their patients to tune into their mental state after exercise, [Michael] Otto [a professor of psychology at Boston University] says — especially when they’re feeling down.

“Many people skip the workout at the very time it has the greatest payoff. That prevents you from noticing just how much better you feel when you exercise,” he says. “Failing to exercise when you feel bad is like explicitly not taking an aspirin when your head hurts. That’s the time you get the payoff.”

The entire article is well worth your time. It’s utterly amazing what exercise does for stress reduction, brain health, giving us a healthy and positive outlook on life…it’s a miracle drug. There’s nothing else like it out there.

Now get out there and get your workout on.

[And back to real time: October 29, 2014.]

Recent Every48 workouts: Yesterday was a needed REST DAY. With a very large midday nap involved. Body has to heal. Today, a BIKE RIDE at the gym: 45 very vigorous minutes. Feels like I’m coming back to life after that little mishap on Sunday. Yay.

Tuesday Workout of the Week: Brain Power

So it’s a little slow going here at Every48 due to a slightly unfortunate training accident on Sunday. I must say, my skinned knees would make any hard-core rugby player proud, and there might just be a bottle or two of ibuprofen that gets noshed in the next week or so around here (anti-inflammatories). But nothing’s broken. Counting blessings, once again.

And that brings us to the Workout of the Week:

Brain Power!

Brain power! Remember to work out your brain as well as your body by continually trying new things and learning new skills. Mine this week: building a website from scratch. (Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Brain power! Remember to work out your brain as well as your body by continually trying new things and learning new skills. Mine this week: building a website from scratch. (Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

There’s a new website up for the Wellness Playbook as of yesterday afternoon, and it’s a doozy:  a complete rebuild that was created on a local drive, then uploaded to the live site. The fun part? I did it all by myself. (Well, almost – I had a few “yikes” moments and checked in with a couple of WordPress badasses to make sure I was on the right track.)

There were a couple of hairy moments: some database tables weren’t exporting properly, some login information had to be manually adjusted in a .php file or two, and of course there are the ubiquitous broken links that happen when your site goes from thinking it lives on a local server (the equivalent of Little Red Riding Hood’s house in the woods) to going big-time and moving into a condo in Manhattan. Here I am, world! Oh, whoops, there’s a broken link. And another. And another…

(Solution: SQL queries).

So today’s Workout of the Week is a little different than the usual fare:

Work out your brain.

Work out your brain. Learn new stuff. (Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Work out your brain. Learn new stuff. (Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

I’m not sure when I got the idea that coding and doing this sort of fairly technical work was beyond me. Dropping my first computer science class in college, which I tried to take (for a grade, as opposed to pass/fail) as a fifth-course elective probably didn’t help.

(And, hello, where were the advisors to, ahem, advise me that it would likely be a better idea to stay with a normal course load so I had enough time to enjoy the course and really get into it? Hmmm.)

Anyway. We’re beginning to get a really good idea about what intellectual curiosity and some small tiny issues such as, you know, whether you get dementia, might possibly be interrelated. Staying intellectually curious and never, ever saying “I’m too old for that” (unless “that” happens to be, say, enrolling in nursery school – because if you’re reading this, yes, you are too old for that) is actually a key marker of healthy aging.

Vigorous physical exercise keeps our circulatory systems humming, including the blood vessels that course through our brains. But then we gotta use ‘em. Study a new language. Learn a new skill. A fiftysomething friend of mine is putting the finishing touches on her Ph.D. dissertation this month, for goodness’ sakes. There is no age limit, as long as we make that decision to stay intellectually curious.

So, get out there and learn how to build a local website and upload it to a live server. Or learn French, or Italian, or Farsi. Or try the upcoming Hour of Code from Seattle nonprofit code.org if you want to try your hand at computer science and see how it’s taught today. (Waaaaaaaay differently than when I was fighting with Pascal and pointers back in the day, I tell you.)

Get curious. Stay tough. I did have a few hairy moments with that database upload yesterday. But I stayed with it and figured it out. I’m sure I bought myself another few healthy days of life when I’m 95 or so, just by challenging my brain at age 42.

Moral of the story: work out your brain.

Yesterday’s Every48 workout: A very calm and contemplative WALK around the local park, making sure to keep all fallen tree branches far away. I’ll be back at full strength soon. Something tells me there’s a lot of cross-training on a spinning bike coming up in my near future.

Monday “What Went Well”: Crashed into a brick wall. And won.

Oh, life. You humor me so much sometimes. One moment we’re just rocking out to great tunes and running down a mid-autumn road in the sun-dappled morning the day after a big windstorm…and the next moment, we’re kissing a brick wall because we just tripped on one of those fallen tree branches from said windstorm – and we live to tell the tale.

Ah, a tree-lined street. It all looks so innocent, doesn't it? Add in some fallen tree branches from a windstorm and, well, things get dicey. Read on. (Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Ah, a tree-lined street. It all looks so innocent, doesn’t it? Add in some fallen tree branches from a windstorm and, well, things get dicey. Read on. (Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

This is a story about safety, and about why being strong counts in real life.

First, safety: I have no idea why I walked outside yesterday for that run without my cell phone. I almost always have it with me when I run alone, for exactly the reason I needed it yesterday: once in a while, stuff happens. I was running happily when all of a sudden, my foot hit a branch – and suddenly, I was no longer in control of my body. I skidded, fell to my right side, and hit a brick retaining wall by the sidewalk. My right arm braced the fall, so today I have a seriously sore right arm, but no fractures or head injuries. A few scratches on my chin from where I hit the sidewalk, but I think because I braced the fall, I didn’t make contact anywhere near as hard as I would have if my body wasn’t strong enough to fight the speed of that fall (I really was hurtling through space for a moment there), and to win.

But I couldn’t keep running and I was about a mile from home. There are many Good Samaritans out there, and about four of them stopped to see if I was okay. I wound up accepting a ride home from one of them who stayed with me to make sure I was okay and let me use his cell phone to call my husband. (Thank you, Mark in the black BMW. Much appreciated.)

So, cell phone. Check. I won’t forget that again.

But even more importantly…I really do think my strength played a role in what didn’t happen.

What didn’t happen: crashing head-first into that brick wall. That’s not just scary; that’s potentially deadly. You hit your head, you get to an emergency room, stat. Brain hematomas can kill you.

I could literally feel my right arm and shoulder fighting the force of the fall so that I didn’t hit the brick wall with my head. For a split second, I thought I’d broken my arm (in reality I just strained every muscle in my right side, so today I’m mighty sore). But in the next moment, I realized there wasn’t really any lasting damage. A couple of really cool skinned-up knees that I’m sure will turn into lovely multicolored bruises before too long, but other than that? It was all okay in the end.

I stopped running. I got home safely. I counted all of my lucky stars (there were quite a few of them). I even made blueberry-banana pancakes for breakfast with my hubby, bum shoulder and all. I’ll be really chill this week about my exercise – I’ll probably go for a walk today. (A slow, deliberate one, watching out for tree branches.) And my body will heal.

Remember: cell phones, and stay strong. You don’t know what you’re preparing for with all of that fitness training. Yesterday was a day when being strong mattered.

Yesterday’s Every48 workout: I was about a mile and a half into that RUN when circumstances overtook my ability to finish. Bummer. Today I’ll take a walk midday. Looking forward to getting outside again.

Fitness Meme of the Week: Earn Your Rest

Today’s fitness meme comes from blackrockfc.com:

10_24_14_Rest That Is Earned Meme

This is a trap I fall into once in a while…giving myself permission to take “rest days” I haven’t really earned, because I haven’t really been kicking my butt in my workouts. Rest days are there to help our bodies regenerate and grow, AFTER we’ve given them the stress of a hard, sweaty workout. That’s when we build all those new capillaries and our muscle fibers repair themselves and grow stronger in the process. Rest is a very necessary part of the fitness equation. It just works best when we use it the right way.

Happy Friday and best wishes for a hard, sweaty workout today – or a rest day, if that’s in your plan. See you next week.

Yesterday’s Every48 workout: A solid TREADMILL RUN (it was raining and I just don’t like running in cold rain when I can avoid it). A one-mile warmup, followed by three 800-meter repeats at fast tempo pace, followed by about two miles at my goal marathon pace, followed by a quick cool down and stretch. Total of 5.75 miles.

Throwback Thursday: Planning Workouts 101

After a couple of busy-busy days (and, full disclosure, not getting my planned workout in yesterday – yikes), I thought it best to do a Throwback Thursday post on the basics of planning our workouts. Yesterday was a doozy: late to bed last night (meeting of my regional professional speakers’ association), early to rise today (photo shoot for my new Wellness Playbook website, which will be live soon soon soon), and lots of rain and driving and running around. That meant I needed to rest yesterday – and I need to plan for today. That is all.

So in that spirit, I offer up a post from May 2014 on the importance of planning your workouts. Simply put: when you plan your workouts and healthy meals (and especially when you write down what you intend to do), you follow the plan.

Yes! That's what it feels like when you eat well, then have a super workout. What's better than that? (Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Yes! That’s what it feels like when you eat well, then have a super workout. What’s better than that? (Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Planning Workouts 101: We interrupt this blog for an important message

[Originally published on May 21, 2014]

It’s Wednesday of Planning Workouts 101 week at Every48, and this post was originally supposed to be about pairing your workouts up with activities you want to do (such as listening to your favorite music only when you go for your power walk) to make them something you’re looking forward to doing.

But then on Monday morning, I suddenly, finally had a decent 7-mile run pop out, after weeks of feeling lethargic, and wanted to share what I think is going on around here. So I’ll write about the magic of “pairing” tomorrow.

Here’s what happened to me in the last 48 hours:

Sunday: Ate really healthy meals. Monday: Lots of energy.

Coincidence? No. I do not think this is a coincidence.

Sunday: Good nutrition. Monday: Good energy. Hmmm. I think this is what is known as a "no-brainer." (Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Sunday: Good nutrition. Monday: Good energy. Hmmm. I think this is what is known as a “no-brainer.” (Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

It’s not been a major major theme of Every48 so far in 2014, but it’s starting to bubble up to the surface more and more often: the absolutely undeniable link between solid nutrition that fuels our bodies, and sustaining an energy level that makes it possible to, say, run 7 miles first thing on a Monday morning. You know what I’m saying?

Have you ever seen an unhealthy-looking person sitting behind the wheel of a fancy sports car? (I know, that image just screams “midlife crisis,” but I do know some people who just love awesome cars – and who, in a lifestyle choice that has always puzzled me, don’t really take great care of themselves.) What is going on there?

We know how to take care of our cars. We learn it early (or we don’t, and blow out the engine on our first car at age 24 because we didn’t replace the oil cap when we tried to change the oil ourselves, causing $4000 worth of damage, which at that age feels like it’s going to take a break-in at Fort Knox to pay for the damages – but I digress).

We know what to do for regular maintenance. Gas. Oil changes. Fluid top-offs. Air in the tires. Belts checked. Air filter replaced every so often. Tune-ups at 50,000 miles and 100,000 miles. Et cetera. We know we’re riding on a machine that costs a pretty penny to fix if it croaks, so we care about it.

But when it comes to our bodies, sometimes I think we miss the memo. Exercise alone cannot “fix” poor nutrition – even though it can mask poor nutrition for some lucky folks among us who can just exercise a little more to lose weight.  Good nutrition – and by that I mean the Michael Pollan variety (eat food, not too much, mostly plants) – does incredible things for our bodies. In my case, I finally got a shot of adrenaline that translated into a super workout on Monday.

This is an important topic, one that I want to make sure gets addressed a lot this year at Every48. It’s not “just” about exercise. It’s about a whole vision of health, where we take breaks from work regularly, keep moving throughout the day, have healthy foods conveniently available to us for snacks and meals (that means the candy jar goes out the door and the fruit bowl comes in the door, for example), and we have a reasonable amount of time to spend with our families, and we get enough sleep on a regular basis. That’s good health. Exercise is a big part of that puzzle. And so is nutrition. It’s not an add-on. It’s a “whoa, I have the energy to exercise because I ate well yesterday and slept decently too.” It’s a system.

Back in the saddle, indeed! Best wishes for your own great day of nutrition and a super workout too.

[And back to real time: October 23, 2014]

Yesterday’s Every48 workout: An unplanned (ahem) REST DAY. I shall remedy the situation today.

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