Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Take Charge of Your Health

You are in charge of your health.  Many of the decisions you make every day have an impact on your health, wellness and ultimately your quality of life.  There are some aspects of your health that cannot be altered or are outside your control.  Such as, family history, genes, and age.  But, by-in-large living a healthy lifestyle and choosing wellness are within reach for most of us.

Try this exercise.  Stand tall and look boldly in the mirror, do you like what you see?    Look at your reflection.  Consider whether or not you have a health behavior, a positive or negative health practice or attitude, you would like to modify or change completely.  Perhaps you want to lose or gain weight or develop muscle strength or flexibility.  Maybe you want to quit smoking or moderate your alcohol intake.   Whatever health behavior modifications you want to make, think through some strategies you might incorporate into your lifestyle that may help create the adjustment.  For example, develop a list of the pros and cons surrounding the behavior you would like to alter.  Ask yourself, “Why do I behave this way?  How does it benefit me?  How does it harm me?”  Challenge yourself to answer these questions honestly and bravely.  Intentionally move towards determining why the behavior reigns in your life.  Analyze your discipline tactics.  Where are you weak in discipline and where are you strong?  Take a good look at the busyness surrounding your daily life.  Are you using your time efficiently?   Talk to someone who can support you in your attempts to enhance behavior modification.

Many, when doing this mirror exercise, are challenged to change their level of physical fitness. It is true that the higher the level of physical fitness, the better the overall physical wellness will be. Physical wellness provides the ability to live life fully, with vitality, free of injury and illness.  We all want that!  But getting there, becoming physically fit and staying physically strong is demanding.  It begins with choice and ends with discipline. 

Setting goals and developing a personalized plan will help you get started and keep you on track.  Here are some ways to do that.

1.       Start a health journal – Keep a record of the way you live.  Activities often happen without much thought.  It is time to start paying attention!  Write down:
a.       What activities you participated in
b.      Where and when they happened
c.       What you were doing
d.      How you were feeling at the time
2.       Analyze patterns in the data you collect
a.       What triggers, prompts, or initiates overeating or poor food choices?
b.      What thoughts or behaviors or relationships surround those triggers?
c.       When does exercise best fit into your day?
d.      What triggers prompt skipping exercise?
e.      Note connections between your feelings and external cues such as time of day, locations, situations, relationships, etc.
3.       Set SMART goals – Goals that are too challenging can sabotage change.  Make them:
a.       Specific – Avoid being vague.
b.      Measurable – If goals are quantifiable they are easier to track
c.       Attainable – Set them within your physical limits
d.      Realistic – Be real! - Most goals worth achieving take time
e.      Time Bound – Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to reach your goal
4.       Develop a strategy – Create a plan of action
a.       Identify resources that can help you - Gather what you need
b.      Modify your environment – Control the triggers and reach towards the targets
c.       Control related influences, habits, or relationships that sabotage
d.      Reward yourself – Pat yourself on the back for a job well done each time you step closer to the goal
e.      Make a personal contract and sign it with a witness – Accountability works!

Even with the best intentions and the greatest efforts there will be obstacles along the way.  Don’t be surprised by them.  They are inevitable and they are frequently innocent.  They show up as a late night out, making getting up the next morning to exercise next to impossible.  Or they materialize as a holiday treat on your desk begging you to taste just a little.  They may come in the form of a phone call or a conversation or a craving or a bad day.   Even though obstacles are inevitable, they are not an excuse to give up.   In fact, it’s a good idea to expect problems, to work time for glitches into your plan, and to occasionally step back and analyze how you’re doing.  

Go back to the mirror.  Stand tall, look boldly into the eyes of your reflection and analyze your progress with your very own self looking back at you.  Reconfirm why you want to change the health behavior that got you here in the first place.  And give yourself a break.  Give yourself some grace.  Don’t quit when the plan takes an unforeseen turn.  Regroup.  Life happens.  Every new day, following a day of disappointments and dissatisfactions, is a good day for a do-over.  These setbacks are reasons to overcome not give up.  Stay with it.

Here are some ways to do that.
1.       Take a good hard look at your social influences – Are the people you’re counting on really supporting you?  If they come up short in support, connect with others who will be more encouraging.
2.       Commit – You won’t make real progress until your inner passion leads you to make lasting change.
3.       If your plan is not working, modify it – if you’re falling behind in your running schedule for instance, maybe it is because you don’t like running.  An aerobics class may suit you better.
4.       Be alert to games you might be playing with yourself.
a.       Don’t procrastinate - Start.  Go.  Do.
b.      Don’t make excuses – Rationalization stops forward progress.
c.       Don’t blame others or yourself – Blaming is a way to take the focus off the real problem.  Denying responsibility for your actions removes your power to change.
5.       Manage your stress – Stress is real.  It could be temporary like a cold or a term paper or it could be ongoing.  If you have hit the proverbial wall, look at the sources of your stress.  You may want to alter your plan before strengthening your efforts.

The first attempts at making behavioral change may not go past the mirror exercise.  But, at least you have started the inner dialogue and have begun to take personal responsibility for making important modifications.  Remember, you are in charge of your health!  You can make change a priority.  Once you’ve started, don’t stop.  Look forward not back.  Choose to live your life fully with vitality, vigor and intention.  You can take charge of your health in a dramatic and meaningful way, ultimately forever affecting the quality of your life.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Swimming Looks Easy

Watching a good swimmer swim makes swimming look effortless.   Their swim strokes look simultaneously strong and graceful.  They appear to move through the water with undemanding ease. They glide far and long with every stroke. 
And then… there is everyone else.
People often ask me, “Why does swimming require so much energy?” The simple answer is, water is nearly a thousand times denser then air.  It takes considerably more energy to move through the dense environment of water then to move in the light backdrop of air.  The more complicated answer however is that our human shape is not that of the fish.  We are land based mammals and applying our land based instincts to the water world of the fish, seldom works easily.  To become an effective swimmer, you must change the way you think about movement in the water.
Swimming faster and more efficiently can be accomplished by decreasing drag in the water and increasing propulsion.  Sounds easy, right?  Wrong.  It is not easy because we approach the water from our land based perspectives.  For instance, if we want to run faster we simply increase our cadence.  But in swimming, if we circle our arms faster because we want to increase our pace, the water just pushes back against us creating drag and slowing us down.  Drag while swimming is the hindering force created by the water movement around the body.   The solution instead is to streamline the body on the surface of the water, increase stroke length by slowing our arm circles down, and pulling with greater force under the water.
Swimmers who swim closest to the water’s surface and swim with the longest strokes produce the greatest results.  Reducing stroke count as apposed to increasing it (like we would do while running) is the surest way to improve our swim times. 
Becoming the swimmer who makes swimming look effortless takes practice.   The age old adage, practice makes perfect, is true in this case.  When it comes to improving swim times, getting in the pool just once a week is not enough.  Three swim sessions spaced evenly throughout the week are probably a minimum, and more is better. 
We do a lot of swim lessons at the Palm Desert Aquatic Center.  Lessons for all ages are available year around.  If you are one of those swimmers who wants more out your swim stroke, call us!  We would love to help.

Friday, December 19, 2014

New Years Resolve

Approaching a new year this 2015 has been a reflective experience.  I have been thinking long and hard about what it means to make a new year’s resolution.  What it means to resolve to start something, change something, or finish something.  I have always been someone who makes new year’s resolution on the first day of the New Year.  And this year, I plan to do the same.  But, instead of setting an independent goal and stressing over accomplishing it, I have decided to take a unique approach.

I recently read a book that directed the reader to set their life up as a story.  The premise was that if you live life as a narrative, life will be more fulfilling.  While I’m unsure that premise holds completely true, I found it useful as I approached my 2015 resolutions.  Here is what I have decided to do.  I share this with you so that you might join me in this “new” way to resolve. 

Instead of looking into the New Year as a time to accomplish something that, in the past, has been unattainable, decide to set some goals for the fun of it, for the story of it, with the achievement results being the byproduct of the goal rather than the focus.  For example, instead of setting a resolution to lose 20 lbs., only to hopelessly fall short; or to work out for an hour a day, every day, all year long, only to quit after fatigue sets in on the third day; or to stop eating sugar all together only to revert to sneaking it when others are not looking; try this.  

Sign up for a local fitness event (a triathlon, a 5K walk/run or a sports tournament) taking place later in the year. Invite a couple of friends to do it with you and plan a party to celebrate completing the event.  The focus becomes the story, the experience and the party.  Weight loss, eating right, and exercise are the byproduct of getting prepared to participate in the event.  The story becomes bigger than the goal.  The story becomes the motivator.

I’m trying it in my life and I invite you to attempt it with me.  Let’s do it together.  Let’s resolve to bigger things in life; things that are fun and fulfilling, things that make good stories and encourage lasting results like friendships, memories and wellness.

For more ideas call Karen at the Palm Desert Aquatic Center 760-565-7467 or go online 



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Holiday Health

The holiday season is in full swing, which means more parties, more food and a greater chance that a few pounds might creep on.  Making exercise and healthy eating choices a priority during the hectic holiday is the key to starting the New Year feeling healthy and happy.  But, with all the season socializing and event invites coming at you from all directions, how is that possible?

Well, here’s the place to begin.  If you are constantly doing things to please others, it is likely you put yourself on the back burner.  Stop feeling bad about saying no, even during the holiday rush when demands are high, and start carving out some “you” time to exercise and stick to your goals.  Here are some helpful holiday hints. 

Remember, even when you’re short on time, something is better than nothing.  Try exercising first thing in the morning.  That way if your day gets hectic at least you know you’ve already done something positive for yourself.  Aim to do at least 30 minutes of activity 3-5 days a week to maintain your fitness and overall wellness.

Plan ahead.  Exercising before a big holiday meal offers the body numerous benefits and can actually make it easier to control your hunger during the festive feast.  Stick to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise like, take a walk, go for a jog, swim some laps, or lift lighter weights in the gym.  A moderate workout will leave you feeling energized but not starving.  It will improve your mood and boost your self-esteem and body image confidence.

Pick you indulgences wisely. You will not get a lump of coal in your stocking because you have a goodie here and there.  Just be smart in what you choose and how much you choose to eat.  One of Grandma’s homemade Christmas cookies, for instance, is a better choice than blowing your diet on cookies out of a box from the supermarket.

Nutrition and exercise are the foundations of fitness.  Your body is made to move and you must eat nutrients to survive.  It takes a good dose of motivation, determination and persistence to get through the holidays without over indulging.  But you can do it.  Make exercising and healthy eating choices your priority.  Come New Year’s, you’ll be glad you did!

For more holiday eating and exercise tips call Karen at the Palm Desert Aquatic Center 760-565-7467 or go online 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Surgery? Yes... or No...

Did you know that more than 600,000 knee replacement surgeries and more than 300,000 hip replacement surgeries are performed per year in the United States?  Just those surgeries alone could keep every public pool in America busy.  Aquatic Therapy is thought to be the safest form of rehabilitation, especially for weight bearing injuries.   The statistics I shared above tell me that over 900,000 people a year could use a pool to gain strength, flexibility, and range of motion during post-surgical rehabilitation.

In pool therapy, the water offers buoyant support for the body, resistance for the muscles and joints, a natural reduction in pain and a relaxing environment.  It fits perfectly into a well-designed post-surgical therapy program and provides gradual guided motion that does not overly stress the joints.

But post-surgery is not all pool based exercise is good for.  Water rehabilitation is known for its almost magical ability to strengthen and repair injuries before surgery.  I’ve seen some clients, by exercising in the water with diligence and consistency, avoid surgery all together and often without even getting their hair wet!

It works like this, when water surrounds the exerciser, during the entire exercise routine, it makes resistance three-dimensional in a virtually gravity free environment. Depending on the force exerted, the speed of movement, and the surface area presented, the range of resistance obtained will adjust and add to the strength and flexibility of the joint or limb.  All this happens without nearly the impact and trauma experienced when exercising on land, thus giving the body time to heal. 

If you are struggling with an injury and considering a surgery, go to the water!  I  believe by starting movement in water early in a rehabilitation program, the damage that occurs after an injury - stiffening, loss of circulation, loss of muscle size, and a growing involvement of other body parts surrounding the injury - can be prevented.

If you want more information about the benefits of water exercise and post or pre-surgical rehabilitation, or if you are looking for a year around heated pool where you can improve your health, come to the Palm Desert Aquatic Center.  Ask for Karen.  I would love to talk to you more about the benefits and reasons to incorporate water into your wellness routine.  Call 760-565-7467.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Burning Calories

How many times have you thought “I really should not eat that?” or “How many calories are in that?” If you are anything like me you have had these thoughts often.  I love to eat!   I promise I am not going to criticize your eating habits.  What you eat is completely up to you.  But giving you a baseline, about how and where to begin making sensible eating habit and activity choices, makes sense to me. 

Everyone has a Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) which, in simplistic terms, is the number of calories you burn per day just by being you.  If you know that number then adjusting your caloric intake and activity level to match your weight goal is possible.  Think calories in versus calories out.  It’s simple.

Exercise is easily the most adjustable variable in total daily energy expenditure.  As your activity level increases you burn more calories.  An obvious way to lose body fat is to decrease the number of calories you consume.  But just as true, you can lose body fat by increasing the amount of physical activity you do.

To get a baseline of calories you should consume per day, begin by figuring out your resting metabolic rate.  There are a variety of RMR formulas online that estimate your caloric burn when at rest.  This one is fairly simple to calculate without having to get online.

Male (imperial): RMR = [(6.25 x WP) + (12.7 x HI) - (6.76 x age) + 66] x 1.1
Female (imperial): RMR = [(4.35 x WP) + (4.7 x HI) - 4.68 x age) + 655] x 1.1
WP = Weight in Pounds          HI = Height in Inches              age in years

Plug in your specifics and the final number is the calorie estimate you need to consume to stay your current size with no activity component included.  If you include physical fitness in your routine, calculate the calories burned by the activity and add that number to your RMR.  If you want to lose weight reduce your caloric intake or increase your activity level.
Swimming, running hills, and skipping rope are all obvious high caloric burning activities.  But did you know walking, office work, and even standing burns calories as well.  It’s simple, know you RMR and combine activity with sensible eating and you can reach your health and wellness goals.
For more information contact Karen at the Palm Desert Aquatic Center 760-565-7467

Monday, September 15, 2014

Energize Your Day!

It’s true that the last thing I feel like doing is exercising when I am fatigued, but often that is the very thing that really restores my energy.  When fatigue, or the mid-afternoon doldrums, can no longer be blamed on a weak cup of coffee or the summer heat, the cure may be as simple as moving the body, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing.
Feeling energized does not have to come at the price of a long intense workout.  The reality is that low intensity exercise like taking a quick walk in the middle of the day, peddling a recumbent bike while catching the news, or bypassing the elevator to take the stairs, improves feelings of fatigue and often wipes away the doldrums completely.   Even very simple exercises enhance the blood flow carrying oxygen and nutrients to muscles improving their ability to produce more energy. 
You might be surprised at how popping in a workout tape for 30 minutes in the morning can change your whole day; or how walking during your lunch hour can invigorate your afternoon; or how taking a swim class can increase your stamina.  Adding a little exercise into your day can make everyday tasks like carrying in groceries or climbing stairs easier to accomplish.

We live in a society where people are always reaching for the next sports drink, energy bar, or cup of coffee to give them the pick-me-up they are craving so they have enough gusto to get through the next meeting or the rest of the day.  But it may be that lacing up the tennis shoes or putting on the swimsuit and getting out for some physical activity is a better alternative to provide that spark of energy that we are all looking for.
Choosing an energy boost workout gets the endorphin levels up, encourages cardiovascular health, improves sleep, and definitely adds to a sharper focus.  I challenge you to give it a try this week.  When you are feeling the slump of fatigue, standup, stretch and work some exercise into your day.  I’m positive you’ll be glad you did!
To get started in a consistent exercise habit or for more exercise tips call Karen Creasey, Personal Trainer and Fitness Coach, at the Palm Desert Aquatic Center 760-565-7467.