Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category

This post is about 6 weeks overdue, but I think it’s worth it…12 in 12

As the calendar flipped over to 2012, I was resolved not to resolve; no resolutions for me! I haven’t had a successful New Year’s resolution since I was about 8 years old and resolved to stop biting my nails. But then I came across a brilliant idea from Fitarella: 12 in 12. Basically, take on just one goal (or resolution, if you prefer that term) each month for the year, 12 goals in 2012. Focusing on something each day for a month is likely to make it a habit, yet you’re making your goals much more manageable by taking on just one thing at a time. At the end of each month, you can choose to continue that goal while you move on to your next monthly goal, or not. Your choice. Either way, at the end of the year you’ll have completed 12 resolutions…when was the last time you can say you did that?

I haven’t planned out my entire year’s worth of goals yet, but I did complete January (floss every day) and have begun February (clean/organize for at least 15 minutes a day). I plan to also have months where I journal every day, go completely vegan, workout every day, etc. I love the variety, the possibility, the feasability. I think ahead to my month and choose a goal that I know I can achieve, regardless of my travel schedule, holidays, etc.

How are your goals for the year coming along? Would you be more likely to succeed if you break it down into smaller segments (monthly, weekly, quarterly)?

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Is there truth in the old saying that “laughter is the best medicine”? This article from Ode magazine examines the idea that laughter can heal a number of ailments, from the mental to the physical. I’ve been trying out this theory lately, and whenever I’m taking myself too seriously and getting worked up, I try to turn to something fun that will make me laugh, whether it’s one of my favorite TV shows, like “Modern Family,” or checking out someone’s funny tweets (if you’re on Twitter, check out @sh*tmydadsays. There is some profanity, but it’s harmless and highly entertaining).

My no-fail laughter maker the last week or so has been this Old Spice commercial. I dare you to watch it and not laugh.

– albledsoe

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Ah, the winter months. There’s no way to sugar-coat it; I’m sour grapes about winter weather as soon as the holidays are over. I have no patience for it. January hits and I just want fun in the sun. Unfortunately for me, that’s when things really start to kick up and in the midwest.

Last week we had our first real snowfall of the year with a side order of single-digit temps. I knew we were expecting some snow, so I set the alarm an hour early to ready my brain and body to deal with the snow, traffic issues, etc. First things first, shovel the drive and clear the snow off of our vehicles. So, I bundled up like little Randy on The Christmas Story and headed outside, shovel in hand, ready to tackle the driveway.

As I was diligently shoveling the driveway that morning, trying to remind myself to be thankful for having a driveway to shovel, it clicked. My early morning rendezvous with the snow shovel probably gave me a pretty significant jumpstart on my calorie burn for the day. As soon as I came inside and thawed out I checked out the handy calorie burn counter over at SparkPeople.com. My reward for 40 minutes of shoveling: 288 calories. Not too shabby for 6 a.m.!

The truth is, there are some everyday activities that really do add up quickly. Yardwork and other outside chores are at the top of the list. I’m not saying that you should ditch the gym for the snow shovel until the end of winter. But, during this time of year when it is much easier to snuggle under the covers instead of exercise, any extra “workouts” you can sneak into your day deserve acknowledgement. Just think about the easy things you can do to lead a healthier lifestyle. It’s as simple as saying goodbye to the elevator and hello to the stairs. Once I realized I started my day off with a mini-workout (I log most of my sweat sessions after work), I felt great about staying on track with my food and exercise goals for the rest of the day. Is it actually possible that my snowy encounter put me in a good mood for the day? That sounds like crazy talk…

Since I’m sure we have several more snowfalls ahead of us (at least the midwestern F2BT readers) before we get to check the calorie burn on lawn mowing and leaf raking, grab your shovel and make the most of that snowy driveway. It just might be the jumpstart you need to point your day in the healthy direction.

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This year, the Christmas season just couldn’t get here fast enough for me. I was one of those ridiculous people who actually started listening to Christmas music right after Halloween. However, even with my zealous attempts to get to the holiday season just a little bit sooner, I had to wait for Thanksgiving to put up the tree, hang the lights, etc. Thus squashing my allotted Christmas ramp-up into a mere 28 days. Between travel, work, guests, parties and, oh yeah – working out(!) it’s been a stretch to actually sit back and soak in that holiday spirit.

So, to remedy that, I filled up my iPod with some of my favorite Christmas tunes and hit the gym. We know that if you are movin to the music you will be in workout mode. My tunes had to perform double duty – get me through a tough workout AND lift my spirits enough to make me feel nice and Christmasy in this hectic whirlwind of go-go-go.

My playlist:
White Christmas – Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters
Baby It’s Cold Outside – Dean Martin
Deck The Hall – Nat King Cole
Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) – U2
Christmas Vacation – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Step Into Christmas – Elton John
All I Want for Christmas – Mariah Carey
Chirstmas in Killarney – Anne Murray
Run Rudolph Run – Chuck Berry
Rockin Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty
Little Saint Nick – The Beach Boys
Trim Up the Tree – The Who Village Choir
Mele Kalikimaka – Bing Crosby
Joy to the World – Anne Murray
White Christmas – Otis Redding
Silent Night – Sarah McLachlan

This mix starts off slow with a classic by Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters, and then gets kicked up a notch with tunes by U2, Elton John and Mariah Carey to put you into full-on-workout mode. All of these are fun sing along songs, so I probably would have enjoyed jamming out to these in the comfort of my home even more! For a cool down, I included two of my very favorite versions of the slower classics, White Christmas (again – can you tell it’s a favorite?) and Silent Night.

The verdict: Workouts + Christmas Music = Holiday Cheer!

What are your favorite holiday songs? Have you updated your playlist this season?

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About two months ago, I was sitting in my doctor’s office after 10 days of feeling horrible. I was exhausted, dealing with pressure at work, dreading the colder weather that was upon us, not seeing enough of my overworked husband, feeling a financial crunch, and very decidedly NOT happy. As I flipped through the current issue of Ladies’ Home Journal, I was thrilled when I came across the “7-day Happiness Makeover: Our Weeklong De-Stress Plan.”

Just reading the tips made me feel calmer, and I was anxious to try it out. The tips are broken down into seven days, beginning with Monday. You’re given six tips to follow as the day goes on, such as Midday and Afternoon Treat, as well as De-Stress Homework. Hold on a second…homework in a de-stress plan? I was immediately skeptical.

Monday, however, was surprisingly easy. The morning tips involved live plants, and I already have tons of plants in my home and office. So maybe that was cheating, but whatever. To make it even better, my mom happened to surprise me at lunch with a gorgeous, gigantic bamboo plant, just because. Sweet! Do I get extra credit? Another tip (“midmorning treat”) included hugging someone, which the visit from my mom helped me accomplish, but what if she hadn’t been around? There’s not really anyone else in my office that would be appropriate to hug, and everyone’s a little nervous about catching something these days. Not sure how practical hugging is, but I get where they’re going with it. The rest of the day was a breeze: research travel, pet a dog, clean out your purse (I purged my email inbox instead, my purse stays pretty clean), write down things that make you feel calm. So far, so good. Checking items off throughout the day made me feel calmer, but I’m not sure the tips had much to do with it.

mikey & zoe, my dogs

Two of my de-stress tools helping me unwind

Tuesday was a little better. I started my morning with a LUSH showerbomb that smelled delightful and made me feel a tiny bit luxurious right from the start. I had to switch the time of day on some of the tips for practicality reasons. (Yoga class in the middle of the day? Not gonna happen in the town where I work.) But I laughed a lot during lunch with my department, watched a chick flick (substitute for reading a good book). My favorites were writing down five things I was grateful for as well as an inspirational quote to read the next morning. Giving thanks for my amazing marriage always makes me feel better and put things in perspective, and I love this quote:

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Christopher Robin.

It made me smile the next morning, always a great way to begin the day!

love my marriage!

I'm grateful for my marriage, and that makes me happy!

By Wednesday, I admit, I was losing some of the skepticism. Could it be I was (gasp!) happier? Well, I didn’t hit 100 percent of Day 3’s tips, but I made the decision that trying to fit them in would just stress me out more, so I gave myself a break and did the best I could. I was finally starting to realize I should appreciate the ideas for the concept, I didn’t have to get every detail exactly right. Anyone who knows me understands what a victory that is! I did a seek-and-find in the morning, emailed an “old friend” that I’d recently reunited with, and got outside for some fresh air at lunch. The De-Stress Homework for the day made me rethink my morning routine, presumably to start the day off in a calmer state. I think it’s already helping.

I haven’t completed the rest of the days yet, but I plan to finish up this Thursday-Sunday. So far, I think the goal is to take moments throughout the day to think about yourself and what you need. Seems simple, but how many of us do that? When was the last time you paused and thought, What would make me feel better right now? Try it tomorrow, whether it’s one of these specific tips or not, I think you may just find you’re smiling a little bit more.

– albledsoe

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Combat Car Disease

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend I hit the road and headed south. My husband, mother-in-law and I spent the holiday with our family in Florida. The trip takes about 14 hours without much traffic, and closer to 16 when you come across those orange barrels along the interstate. Seth and I both took turns driving, but any way you slice it, that’s a long time to be in the car.

So, to try and combat the oh-so-familiar car disease, I decided to seek out some tips to make the drive a bit more comfortable. Here’s what I found: Drivetime Yoga. I didn’t get a chance to check out her book that features all of the moves, but between her website and blog, I was able to test out some of the pointers she offers. My goal for the trip was to ease achy muscles and improve my overall driving chi. My favorite moves she listed on her blog were the shoulder push-pull and the tailbone tuck. Both moves are things that are simple to do while driving or riding as a passenger. Other tips included stopping each hour and taking advantage of rest areas to do more in-depth stretches. We didn’t make hourly stops, but when we did stop, I tried to make the most out of our time out of the car.

My methods for rest areas and gas stations were a bit less yoga centered than she suggests, because my long legs needed more intense stretches. I did a lot of the same stretches I use before running and I did a lot of lunges while walking to and from the car. I’m sure I looked a little kooky, but my legs and buns sure felt better afterwards. I would also jump in place like I had an imaginary jump rope. I think this one helped keep me awake more than centered and at one with the road, but either way, I always felt a little bit better when I hopped back in the car.

The F2BT bottom line – I don’t think there’s much you can do to feel fantastic during a 14 hour road trip in a small car, but maintaining a regular routine of deep breathing and stretching did help my mental state. When I attend regular yoga classes I always feel like I’m more in tune with my body, and I think this was also true for Drivetime Yoga. Even though I still battled tired muscles during the road trip, making a conscious effort to do some mini-stretches along the way made the long ride a lot easier. I think I may have even been a bit more forgiving of the other holiday drivers on the way too!

Do you have any favorite exercises you do when you are on the road?


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Movin’ to the Music

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted-One moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?

Adam and I were driving to visit his family last weekend when Eminem’s “Lose yourself” came on the radio. I teased him that he needed to pull over so I could get out and start running. This song, perpetually included on any triathlon video or photo collage, is one of those that gets me moving every time. I’m like Pavlov’s dogs when I hear music from my workout playlist; I MUST MOVE.

That’s why I love to listen to my iPod when I’m cleaning (not to mention trudging up a hill). It helps me stay on my feet, have some energy, and get things done a little quicker. My brain is just conditioned to move my feet when I hear those songs.

I’m not claiming that my taste in music is impeccable and that every artist on my playlist has talent. My only requirement for workout music is that it helps me keep chugging along, whether it’s with motivating lyrics or a fast, steady rhythm.

Other than “Lose Yourself,” just a few of the songs that make me pick up my pace every time they come on include:

  • “Mr. Brightside” – The Killers
  • “Break your heart” – Get Set Go
  • “Runnin’ Down a Dream” – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • “Check Yes Juliet” – We the Kings
  • “Here it Goes Again” – Ok Go
  • “Move Along” – The All-American Rejects
  • “Bleed it Out” – Linkin Park
  • “Waking Up In Vegas” – Katy Perry

I’m always looking for fresh songs to change up my mix a little bit, so I’d love to know: What gets you moving?

– albledsoe

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My mom and I were recently discussing how overwhelming it can be to try to be healthy, because there is so much information out there, much of it conflicting. Do you drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, or half your body weight in ounces, or something else entirely? Is soy a great veg source of protein, or does it screw with your hormones? The influx of information can be mind-boggling and often paralyzing. Even if you have the best intentions, it can sometimes feel impossible to know if you’re actually doing and eating the right things.

Here at F2BT, we attempt to wade through the unreliable information, bring you the most up-to-date advice, and deliver our real-life results, good or bad. Here are just a few places I regularly turn for health-related info and ideas. There are hundreds of others out there, and we’d love to hear your suggestions as well.

Runner’s World and Women’s Health magazines. I’m a magazine addict anyway, and these two (both by Rodale) are high-quality, info-packed reads every single issue. Both have great websites as well. I especially love the Newbie Chronicles by Mark Parent in RW for it’s honest, hilarious take on being a beginning runner. Warning: Runner’s World may inspire you to do crazy things, like run a marathon.

MapMyRun.com. This site allows you to plug in any starting point and map a running route which you can save, share, etc. You can set up a profile to track your runs, search for other runs in an area and more. Sister sites include mapmyride.com and mapmyhike.com.

Dr. Andrew Weil. I’ve referenced Dr. Weil several times before, but this Harvard-educated physician has proven to be one of the most reliable sources I’ve found for all things health. He believes emotions and spirit play a bigger role in our well-being than most people acknowledge, and he believes some things are best treated by conventional medicine, and other things are better treated in a more natural manner. I always check out what he’s written on an issue before I take any action.

Self magazine. I had to include another mag, since Self has topped my pile for years. The print issue covers everything for cancer survivors to fashion and celebrities to the best new gear, and I love the editor, a triathlete and mom with a great blog of her own. We at F2BT also check out the Eat Like Me blog at self.com, where a registered dietician photographs and posts every single meal she eats. Great stuff!

iTunes. This isn’t very original, but I check out iTunes for inspiration for workouts, both music and podcasts. I love the sports mixes that include “coached” workouts. I own Lance Armstrong’s and Kara Goucher’s. It’s also inspiring to see the top Power Songs (“Eye of the Tiger” anyone?). And I’ve gotten some great podcasts with workouts, yoga and meditation, etc. Check out Mayo Clinic and Dr. Weil there for medical advice, and listen to interviews with top athletes to keep you motivated.

Ken Combs Running Store. This of course will vary depending on where you are, but your local running store is a great resource. For the most part, the people working there love to run, bike, or whatever, and they want to help the endurance community grow (read: free advice). All running stores I know of also get involved in putting on races, are very active in giving back to the community, and generally have ties to running groups (or coordinate their own). I love Ken Combs in Louisville as well as Swag’s and the Trail Store.

– albledsoe

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Earlier this week, Sara wrote about avoiding germs at the gym. Tonight, I’m serving up my tips for keeping allergy and asthma issues at bay so you feel well enough to get outside or to the gym for your workouts. This time of year, especially with the leaves falling and weather changing back and forth, my allergies always seem to flare up. Which makes my asthma go crazy, which makes workouts not very comfortable.

This weekend after an afternoon of raking leaves (which I’m allergic to), I decided to enact every tip I’ve learned to avoid a sinus headache-y/itchy/sneezy/watery-eyed/runny-nosed Sunday, like I would normally have after spending that much time outdoors snuggling with things that grow. And it worked, because I’ve been breathing easy every since!

Here’s what I did:

Showered immediately and washed my clothes. Ideally I would have worn long sleeves, but it was actually pretty warm Saturday, so my arms were exposed to the leaves and quickly welped up and began itching. No big deal, I just washed them every once in awhile during the process and took a shower as soon as I was finished. That helps get rid of any allergens that might cling to your skin and hair.


neti pot and saline packets

Used my neti pot. I used to be skeptical of neti pots despite rave reviews from friends and family members who’d tried them. If you aren’t aware, a neti pot looks like a genie’s lamp; you fill it with water and a saline mixture and pour it into one nostril at a time to flush out your sinus passages. I finally tried it last year (I bought mine at Walgreen’s for a few bucks) when I had a sinus infection and my doctor recommended it. She told me at the time it could help prevent infection in the future, because it keeps the sinuses clean. I find it’s simplest and least messy to use my neti pot in the shower.

Took Quercetin. I swear by this plant-based supplement I learned about from Dr. Andrew Weil. For years I’ve used it seasonally during high-allergy times to keep myself from getting sick, and I recommend it to everyone. I went through the whole allergy shot routine when I was younger, and I feel like Quercetin is almost as effective, and it doesn’t leave me drowsy and groggy like many allopathic allergy medicines can. It’s an anti-oxidant, anti-histamine, and anti-inflammatory found in the skin of apples and onions. I take it in capsule form before bed (it works best on an empty stomach). I’ve even seen in marketed lately to boost energy and sports performance. I don’t know if it directly impacts that, but I know being able to breathe usually leaves me with more energy and better performance!

I also used some drops in my eyes to keep them from getting dry and uncomfortable, drank some hot tea to soothe my throat, and made sure I got enough sleep so my immune system would cooperate with me. I’ve heard many tips through the years to deal with allergies and asthma, but these help keep me healthy and active for the most part. What works for you?

– albledsoe

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As soon as I hear that cough and sneeze from the gym-goer next to me, I cringe. Thinking about their sick germs latching on to that treadmill makes me want to run right out of the gym for the entire cold and flu season. But, we all know that’s not an option. You have to find a way to fight the germs and keep your immune system up.

Towel, please! Any towel will do, but in there is a fancy new gym towel available just in time for the holiday season. What’s so special about it? Well, it is designed to help keep all of those funky gym germs off of you. One side of the towel says face and the other says gym. So you always know which side is mopping up your sweat and which side is mopping up everyone else’s. Very clever, but it’s also a little pricey. It comes in around $15 plus shipping. I’m not totally sold on this miracle towel, but it did make me think about how to avoid the dreaded gym-to-face contact.

Three solutions:
– Use the free towels you get in swag bags at races or conferences for your workouts. They usually feature the logo of a vendor on one side and have no writing on the other. Perfect for knowing which side is for your face.
– Mark your territory; summer camp meets your gym bag. Buy your gym towels on sale, and break out the Sharpie. Just write your initials on one side of the towel and you’ll be in good shape. You won’t have to worry about confusing one side from the other.
-Better yet, bring two different colored towels to the gym. One for the machines and the other for your body.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Since sickness-causing germs and bacteria can live on gym equipment several days, it’s very important to minimize your risk. In addition to the towel trick, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your gym bag and always wash your hands thoroughly before and after a sweat session. This time of year instead of singing “Happy Birthday” in my mind while washing, I usually go for a Christmas tune. One verse of, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” will help you to get a good 20 second hand washing in and fill you with holiday cheer.

BYOB (water bottle, that is). Avoiding water fountains at the gym can help eliminate the spread of cold and flu germs, so please arrive armed with a water bottle of your own. You know how important it is to stay hydrated, and this allows you to do so while avoiding the germ-fest happening at the water fountain.
– Make sure you are washing your refillable water bottle after each use.
– Avoid refilling your water bottle at the water fountain.
– Don’t toss your water bottle in with your gym bag. Remember, that’s where you keep your shoes…

Do you have any tips/tricks you want to share about how you stay healthy during the winter workouts at the gym?

On a side note, my lettuce has sprouted! I’m a little concerned that it’s not getting enough sunshine, but I’m still hopeful that I’ll get a homegrown salad before we get snow in St. Louis.


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