Friday, June 15, 2012

Be the change...

Last night, I had the opportunity to watch my baby fall asleep in my arms…something that is quite rare now that he is a bit older and wants to stay awake for as long as possible, only giving in when all lights are out and he can fight to stay awake no more.  My little guy, he doesn’t want to miss a thing.  As he lay there sleeping my heart and spirit beamed with joy and love at this little being who is so perfect and innocent and pure.  But as stood there, perfectly content and happy watching my little baby sleep, I couldn’t help but wonder: what is his life going to be like?  What do I want his life to be like?  What am I doing to help create a better life for this beautiful, amazing, little being?

I must be in a reflective mood this week because this actually ties in perfectly with what I had decided to talk about this blog; earlier that morning I was struck, again, by the message on one of my favorite coffee cups:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” ~ Gandhi.

As I mentioned, this is one of my all-time favorite quotes.  But, for some reason today it really got me pondering what exactly I want to see in the world and questioning what I am actually doing to help create it. 
Two of the topics I thought about are:
 1) I want our future to be friendlier and more connected and
2) I want my family, friends and general population to have optimal health. 

I want to actually know my neighbors, to say ‘hi’ to people walking down the street, and overall have a sense of community.  In addition, I want everyone to feel good, have energy, and feel vibrantly healthy.  But what am I actually doing to help create this environment?

We live in a very fast-paced, information-overload era where we are all pressed for time, having more and more to ‘do’.  Now, don’t get me wrong, technology is amazing, what we are able to do with cell phones, computers, tvs and other technology is amazing…but what about actual person to person connection?  What about actually sitting down for a family dinner?  What about actually taking the time to savor good, healthy and nutritious food?  What about taking the time to exercise and strengthen our body, mind and spirit?  We have so much going on in our lives and all around us, how can we take the time to do these too?

What do you want our future and our world to look like?  I am calling out to all of you to ponder this question and then write down what you can (and will) actually do to ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’. 

Here is my stand, my commitment to creating a friendlier, more connected, and healthier world.  As you will read, I don’t think any of these are huge, earth-shaking actions but as I’ve said before, all the little things really add up.

I will wave at every car and person that drives or walks by my house while I am outside
I will do the ‘steering-wheel-hand-wave’ to other drivers and individuals as I drive through neighborhoods
I will actually spend time out front of our house (instead of holing up in the back yard)
I will know my neighbors names and actually talk to them
I will smile, say hello, and chat with people while I’m out and about (at the grocery store, waiting in lines, etc.)
I will be a good listener
I will open doors for others
I will always do my best to be friendly, optimistic, and positive both while I’m alone and toward others
I will use manners such as please and thank you (and mean it)
I will make sure to spend time to connect and talk with my family every day (even if it means sitting down at the table together at 11 o’clock at night, like we did last night)
I will keep the tv and cell phones off for family dinners
I will eat organic, local foods as much as possible
I will make sure to eat my fruits and veggies every day
I will provide nutritious meals for my family every day
I will do something to exercise and strengthen my body every day
I will take time to relax, breathe, and calm my mind, body, and soul every day
I will write my blog (and someday books) on achieving ‘vibrant health’
I will support local businesses
I will work hard to be able to provide for my family and support my children so they can explore the world, get a great education, and achieve their dreams and goals
I will be a loving mother and wife
I will teach my children about work ethic, follow through, integrity, and having a strong character
I will be an example of determination and perseverance
I will believe in others
I will believe in myself, and all that I can do with my life

These are just two of the topics I am committing to living the change I wish to see and I know there is more that I can and will do.  My lists will evolve with time and I will continue to add to them and reread them so that I will stay strong in my commitment.  I encourage all of you to do the same.  And please, share with all of us what change you wish to see in the world you are going to live so that all of us can be inspired along with you.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ab Exercises for a Hot Middle

Summertime is here and that brings swimsuit season!  So, this week for our exercise tips we are going to focus on the core.  Two of my favorite core workouts are mountain climbers and bicycle crunches.  The mountain climbers will target not only your rectus abdominis (‘6-pack muscles’) but also your transversus abdominis (internal support ab muscles).  In addition, these wonderful mountain climbers will also work the muscles in your chest, shoulders, arms and legs due to the balancing position you must hold for the exercise.  The bicycle crunches will develop your abdominal and oblique (side) core muscles.  Level II and Level III of the bicycle crunches will also work the muscles in your legs.  

How To – Mountain Climbers
Get into a push-up position (also known as ‘plank’ in yoga), making sure your shoulders are over your hands.  Working through your body, feel your hands strong against the ground, your arms pulling up out of your hands, elbows slightly bent, shoulders pulling up out of your arms lifting your chest.  Head is up, neck extended.  Belly is pulled in toward your spine.  This is important!  Keep your belly pulled in toward your spine!  This makes sure you are using your core muscles to support the position rather than your lower back muscles.  Glutes (butt) are tucked under, legs are strong, and your feet are flexed with your heels extending toward the wall.  This in itself is an excellent workout.  To add in the ‘climbers’, alternate bringing your right and left knee to your chest while maintaining the position we just went through.  Many people say to touch your foot to the ground when you bring the knee in to the chest; I actually don’t like this method because it causes the body to bounce up and down rather than holding a strong core.  Instead, do not bring your front foot to the ground and simply pull your knee up into your chest as far as you can.

Have your goal be 3-5 sets of 30 second rounds (with about 30 mountain climbers in that amount of time (NOTE: 1 on each side = 1)) with a 30 second rest period in between (this is a great time to work on those squats!).  That said, do a trial round first to determine where your starting point is; if you can get through 20 seconds, or 20 mountain climbers, before you begin to break your position, great, this is where your starting point.  Then each week try to increase the number and/or time.

How To – Super Bicycle Crunches
To make these bicycle crunches ‘super’, we’re going to add a weight (a medicine ball would be perfect here but really you can use any type of weight, even something as simple as a can of beans). 

Level I -- Get yourself into a sit up position while holding the weight to your chest.  While keeping your feet on the ground and your knees pressed together, lean back slightly while keeping your belly pulled in toward your spine.  Again, this is important!  Keep your belly pulled in toward your spine.  And now twist, side to side.  The farther your twist, and the father back you lean, the more of a workout you are going to get. 
Level II – Lay flat on your back holding a medicine ball to your chest.  Extend your legs keeping all the muscles engaged while keeping your belly pulled in toward your spine (important!) and your neck relaxed and lengthened.  Maintain this position as lift your legs off the ground.  Now you are going to bicycle your legs (alternating bringing your right and left knee in to your chest) and twist your upper body (twist left toward left knee and right toward right knee).

Level III – This combines Level I and Level II.  Start in the Level I position but this time instead of keeping your feet on the ground as you twist, you are going to bicycle your legs as you do in Level II.

Again, have your goal be 3-5 sets of 30 second rounds (with about 30 mountain climbers in that amount of time (NOTE: 1 on each side = 1)) with a 30 second rest period in between.  And this time, jog in place for that 30 second break.

Do this every day, or even every other day, and you’ll be developing a hot, hot, mid-section!
Cheers to great abs to all of us this summer!