Keeping Your Mind Fit

keeping your mind fit
Pixabay

It would be awesome if you could pluck just one activity from a bunch of options and do that one thing to stay fit.  In reality it’s not quite that simple.  To me, fitness is a whole bunch of interwoven components.  Diet, exercise, good mental health and a fit mind all play a part in overall fitness and wellness.  Today I’m focusing on keeping your mind fit.  Below you’ll find several of my favorite activities to do just that:

Reading

Reading is one of my favorite ways to keep sharp.  I can escape in the pages of a book and even learn a thing or two while I’m at it.  Reading can be both stimulating and relaxing so it provides dual benefits.

Learning

Continued education is a great way to keep your mind fit.  There are so many resources you can utilize to keep learning both free and paid.  Smartly has become a favorite place for me to kill a few minutes while learning something new.  Their free business courses are broken down into little chunks that are well thought out and presented in a fun and easy to understand format.

Seeking formal education through online or in-person classes can be another great method for keeping your mind fit.  Whether it’s just a course or two or you jump in and commit to a whole degree formal education can be the perfect way to help you stay sharp.

Relaxing

It seems like everyone has a hectic life anymore and even if you really don’t have that much going on the constant notifications on your phone, continuous news feeds and other tech-related distractions can be enough to make anyone’s mind race.  Taking a break and unplugging mentally can be a huge help for keeping your mind fit.  Great ways to relax include yoga, meditation, walking, journaling or even coloring.  Find something that you enjoy and make sure you spend at least a few minutes a day giving your mind a break.

These are just a few ways of keeping your mind fit, but this list is not all-inclusive.  What are some ways you like to stay sharp?

About the Author
Alicen Ronan is a Kansas City personal trainer, fitness coach and writer. She has been a certified personal trainer since 2009 when she decided that she wanted to help others make positive lifestyle changes. She is available for personal training and fitness coaching 7 days a week both in the Kansas City metro and virtually.

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Afraid to Exercise After Surgery

Afraid to Exercise After SurgeryMonday was the first day since having my hysterectomy that I followed a planned exercise routine. To be honest, I’ve been afraid to exercise after surgery. I was worried that it would hurt or I would hurt myself. I’ve been lacking motivation too.  Mostly I was just afraid that something bad could happen.  After dealing with issues for so long it’s nerve wracking to do anything that might possibly leave me feeling like I did before.

Exercise, especially bursts of intense activity like sprinting, was often a trigger for intense episodes of pain.   I would have terrible lower abdominal pain and other issues that could last for days. My physical therapist attributed this to sudden, intense muscle contraction that would provoke irritated areas. After seeing fibroids and endometrial bits lurking places they shouldn’t have been it makes sense.  Maybe this tissue got fussy when jostled.

There seems to be no concrete scientific reason as to why this type of issue happens to some women. Some sources blame hormones, but polyps and fibroids are also potential culprits.  Because so many different things can be contributing factors each case is likely to differ in cause and needs thorough investigation.  In my case this was just one of many issues so it took lots of treatment trial and error before deciding on surgery.

A huge part of my fear lies in doing something that creates any kind of issue like I had before.  While all the offending parts have been removed, I would be incredibly disappointed if the problem wasn’t fixed.  Unfortunately, I think that the only way to get over this worry is to actually get back to regular activity.  So here I am, very slowly adding a planned routine back to each day.  I’ve picked modest activities and lighter weights and plan to progress to more activity as tolerated.  I am nervous, but also excited to get back to doing something I know is beneficial.  While I have been afraid to exercise after surgery I’m slowly going to tackle this issue at my own pace.  I know that eventually things will get back to normal. Hopefully my new normal is one free from the pain that plagued me before.

Disclaimer:  This post is based on my personal experiences only and is not a recommendation to engage in exercise post-surgery.  You and your doctor need to thoroughly evaluate your specific situation after surgery to determine when and what activity may be right for you.  To ensure your health and safety you should not engage in fitness activities until you get the all clear from your doctor or surgeon.

About the Author
Alicen Ronan is a Kansas City personal trainer, fitness coach and writer. She has been a certified personal trainer since 2009 when she decided that she wanted to help others make positive lifestyle changes. She is available for personal training and fitness coaching 7 days a week both in the Kansas City metro and virtually.

If you liked this article please share it with your friends! Use the share buttons to post it to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and more.

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This post may contain affiliate or sponsored links. Any link which leads to items/services for purchase outside this website may result in a commission or flat rate payment to Former Fitness Flunky, LLC or it’s owner.  This does not impact the price you pay. Please read the Affiliate Disclosure for additional information.

Back on Whole30

Back on Whole30July seemed like a great month to get back on Whole30 so here I am, already on day five of my fifth round. Since having surgery in April I’ve found myself eating like a machine. While I think it’s been somewhat part of the recovery process I feel like I really need to break the pattern and get back to eating better food. Despite my grumblings about past Whole30 rounds I am convinced that it’s the best way I know to reset my eating habits. It’s really nice to take a break from food/drink that I enjoy, but doesn’t necessarily do me any favors (I’m looking at you beer!)

Starting a Whole30 so close to a holiday is probably not the best idea and I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for a beginner. I figured I had enough experience to navigate those waters safely enough. We did a shrimp boil sans sausage and no corn for me. I made my own dipping sauce with approved mayo and hot sauce and it was awesome. I skipped the angel food cake and ate some frozen banana slices instead and was perfectly happy.  I’ll admit I did sniff the cake though.

In going back on Whole30 I am hoping to regain a grasp on eating less processed food.  I’m also hoping to get back to better snack control.  I know that snacking is discouraged and while I don’t always follow that to the letter I find that snacks and mindless eating are greatly reduced just because of what’s available to eat.

To ensure I am fairly prepared for eating I have made mayonnaise, Mel Joulwan’s Magical Tahini Dressing and a knock off of Chipotle’s tomatillo salsa.  Later today I am whipping up a batch of the Domestic Man’s Perkedel and some grilled chicken drumsticks coated in ghee and hot sauce.  As with previous rounds I am 100% certain the being well prepared is one of the greatest factors in making it through the 30 days.

If you’re starting out on a Whole30 be sure to check out my 25 Tips for Surviving Whole30 for info and advice on making it to the end.

About the Author
Alicen Ronan is a Kansas City personal trainer, fitness coach and writer. She has been a certified personal trainer since 2009 when she decided that she wanted to help others make positive lifestyle changes. She is available for personal training and fitness coaching 7 days a week, both in the Kansas City metro and virtually.

If you liked this article please share it with your friends!

Want to see more Whole30 posts? Check these out!

Disclaimer: This post chronicles my personal experience while working through the Whole30. This is not a recommendation or suggestion for you to do the same, nor is it an endorsement of the Whole30 program. Before you begin this or any diet or exercise program you should discuss it with your doctor or qualified health care provider to determine whether it is safe for you. This post is based on my personal situation and is for information purposes only. Anything contained herein should not be treated as guidance or advice.

How Cold Therapy Can Help You Burn Fat

Cold Therapy
Credit: Photodune

Today’s article on cold therapy was written by guest author Jon Newby. If you’d like to contact Jon please check out his social media and contact info at the end of the article.

In recent years there has been encouraging evidence that a practice called cold therapy has many potential health benefits, not the least of which is natural weight loss. Uncomfortable as exposure to the cold may be, research suggests that doing so can help us tap into deep, natural mechanisms of burning fat.

The key to understanding weight loss via cold therapy is how brown fat cells work. Until 2009 we were only aware of white fat cells in humans, but Harvard Medical School found that we also have brown fat cells. Simply put, white fat cells store fat while brown fat cells burn fat and continue to do so even after strenuous exercise! So, while both cells serve important functions, managing the ratio of white to brown fat cells is important. This study also suggests that the hormone irisin, which is released during exercise, may help to produce brown fat.

Increasing brown fat cells is the goal, and fortunately we have evidence for how cold therapy can help us do just that! Researchers at UC Berkeley discovered a protein called Zfp516, which is essential for the formation of brown fat. Two mice were both given a high fat diet, but one mouse was injected with a boosted level of Zfp516. Amazingly the mouse injected with this protein gained 30% less weight compared to the wild type, or control mouse!

The study also found that the mouse with the boosted Zfp516 had on average 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit higher body temperature than that of the control mouse when both were exposed to 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours. It appears that the conversion of white fat to brown fat is induced by cold.

We know that babies have a higher level of brown fat and that it tends to diminish with age. It’s a matter of “use it or lose it”. The modern comforts we enjoy probably aren’t helping much either. Compared to our ancestors, we’re able to get food and stay warm almost without lifting a finger (except to feed ourselves)!

The good news is that our bodies are still amazingly adaptive to the cold. We’ve just got to take advantage of this process, but how exactly?

It’s hard to put precise figures on the temperature and duration of cold therapy vs calories burned. However we now have the evidence that cold therapy works for weight loss! A study at UCSF explains that simply sitting in room at about 61 degrees Fahrenheit without a jacket will have you burning fat.

While there are certainly a lot of ways to get chilly, there are three methods I read about which I really like. Please bear in mind that if you’re unsure cold therapy is for you, then you should by all means speak to your physician first.

Cold Showers

Water draws heat from your body many times more efficiently than air does, so taking cold showers is a great method of cold therapy. It’s something you’re already doing every day, which makes it an easy habit to develop. Of course, getting doused with freezing water is not fun, unless you’re watching it happen to someone else (think ice bucket challenge). You’ll probably start breathing quickly, but there’s no need to panic. That’s the immersion reflex, which helps you take in more oxygen which is important for thermogenesis. And remember, you don’t have to make it excruciatingly cold in there, but it’s got to wake you up! You might also find that you get a healthy boost to your mood when you’re done.

Cold Workouts

As we know, exercising produces the hormone irisin, and exposure to the cold increases the protein Zfp516, both of which are used to make brown fat cells. Exercising at home in a chilled room or simply going out for a run in brisk weather may compound your effort to lose weight. Just remember to warm up your muscles first!

Ice Baths

If you’re feeling a little more daring, then you might fill your tub with cold water and ice and then slide in. There is less control over the temperature here, so be careful to not overdo it. Be sure to monitor the temperature with a thermometer. Ice baths are more intense but are nonetheless effective for stimulating the production of brown fat and even soothing injuries.

Please consult with your doctor before beginning any fitness or exercise program, including one using cold therapy, to ensure you are safely able to participate.

Author Bio
Jon Newby is a writer at National Fitness Outlet, which provides education, inspiration and tools for fitness success! You can follow National Fitness Outlet on Twitter or Facebook.

Exercise through Gardening

I’ve been getting a ton of exercise through gardening the past couple of weeks.  With temps soaring well into the upper 90’s here in the Kansas City metro the bulk of my heavy lifting has been carrying water to thirsty plants.  Carrying five gallon buckets and watering cans filled with water is a great way to build up strength and endurance.  There’s also been lots of raking, pulling, plucking, trimming and grooming that comes along with early season gardening.

Exercise through Gardening

Exercise through Gardening

WebMD credits gardening with burning 200-400 calories per hour.  Pulling, pushing, bending, lifting and reaching are all activities that you might do when gardening so there is a lot of room for activity.   To up the benefit you can opt for a hands on approach to your garden.  Water by hand instead of using sprinklers.  Mow with a reel mower or non-self propelled mower.  Rake, till and shovel by hand rather than using powered options.  Anything you can do to get more hands on will give you a calorie-burning boost.

Exercise isn’t the only benefit you’ll get with gardening.   The availability of fresh, home grown food is obviously one of the biggest boons to having a garden.  Gardening can also provide an amazing boost to your overall well-being by contributing to your sense of accomplishment.  I’ve found that tending to my plants has even been relaxing and therapeutic for disengaging from the stress of a busy day.

Last year was my first real foray into the world of gardening on my own.  There have been ups and downs.  There was hard work that yielded little result for some crops.  There were also victories in the form of sacks and sacks of produce.  So much so that it was given away to feed others which I found incredibly rewarding.

This year things are going well.  The heat seems to have drastically accelerated production over last year.  There are tomatoes on every plant and even scores of tiny cucumbers starting to pop up.  I am waging a tense battle with horn worms munching on the tomato plants and have resorted to a light spraying of Bt as of last night.  The heat has nuked the strawberry plants, but hopefully they will rally if the temp gets back down to normal or we get some much needed rain.  The peppers are a bit sparse, but I don’t seem to have much luck with peppers at all.  The herbs are flourishing, though cilantro has already decided to bolt.  I’m already looking forward to picking and enjoying those first veggies.  Until then I’ll continue to enjoy my exercise through gardening and all the benefits it has to offer.

About the Author
Alicen Ronan is a Kansas City personal trainer, fitness coach and writer. She has been a certified personal trainer since 2009 when she decided that she wanted to help others make positive lifestyle changes. She is available for personal training and fitness coaching 7 days a week both in the Kansas City metro and virtually.

If you liked this article please share it with your friends! Use the share buttons to post it to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and more.

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This post may contain affiliate or sponsored links. Any link which leads to items/services for purchase outside this website may result in a commission or flat rate payment to Former Fitness Flunky, LLC or it’s owner. Please be advised that this does not impact the price you pay. Please read the Affiliate Disclosure for additional information.