Monday, January 26, 2009

Refocusing on the SWEET Life

The previous entry, entitled “Exercise vs. ESL” basically concluded with the SWEET Life. The more completely you live the SWEET Life, the healthier and more fit you will be. Since I’ve had other goals in the past few months, I haven’t been tracking my SWEET Life. In the past month, I’ve had a hard time shaking off a cold completely, so I decided to refocus on living the SWEET Life in the next month. What do I need to improve in the SWEET Life in order to enhance my health & fitness?

SLEEP: I’ve been going to bed too late for the time I need to wake up, so I need to make sure to go to bed 8 hours before I need to wake up.

WATER: I don’t know how much I’ve been drinking, so I need to pay attention to drinking 8 cups of water a day.

EATING: I probably eat more than I need to and too many sweets, so I need to focus on eating a variety of nutrients and controlling portion sizes (1 cup and ½ cup measuring cups help a lot).

EXERCISE: I get a workout during the fitness classes I teach, but I need to add more of my own workouts in order to exercise 5 times a week, which makes a big difference in my health & fitness.

TRANQUILITY: I haven’t felt really stressed since the holidays, but it’s good for me to focus on getting 30-60 minutes of relaxation & stress-relief every day.

For me, it’s a matter of focus. I just need little adjustments, nothing major, but it will all add up to a much healthier, balanced life, the SWEET Life!

(I started out well: On Sunday, I woke up and exercised in our hotel room with my resistance band! Today (Monday), I fully lived the SWEET Life, now that I’m concentrating on it!)

Which aspects of the SWEET Life do you do automatically already? Which ones are very difficult for you to do? There’s probably one or two that you do sometimes, but not regularly; which? What changes do you, personally, need to make in order to live the SWEET Life?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Exercise vs. ESL

I’ve been thinking again about how Personal Training is similar to teaching English as a Second Language, which I’ve done for 16 years. On a very basic level, people are trying to improve themselves, through either fitness or an additional language. They know there are benefits, even though they don’t have to do it. It also means long-term, hard work.

My most successful ESL students were international students, in the U.S. on a student visa, with nothing else to do but study English. They didn’t have family here; they couldn’t work on a student visa; their friends came from all over the world, so their common language was English, and they were surrounded by English in their everyday lives. They spent 20 hours a week in English classes, plus homework. A comparable fitness situation would the The Biggest Loser or a health spa for 3 months. With nothing else to do but focus on health and fitness, you are bound to be successful!

My least successful ESL students were those who only came to class. Either in their own country or in the U.S., they spent no time outside of class on English. They lived and worked with other speakers of their native language; they were surrounded by their native language in terms of TV, newspapers, books, movies, music, etc. Since they were so busy with work and family life, they didn’t have time to do homework.

A comparable fitness situation would be someone who exercises a few times a week, but otherwise doesn’t live a healthy lifestyle. S/he eats too much, drinks too much caffeine or alcohol, eats unhealthy foods/beverages, doesn’t sleep enough, doesn’t control stress, and doesn’t do anything active outside of workouts.

With both ESL and fitness, some effort will lead to some improvement, but the more one puts into it, the faster and better the results will be. Plus, there’s the spiral factor: are you spiraling up or down? Not seeing results can lead to a downward spiral, leading towards giving up on health & fitness, while experiencing success motivates one in an upward spiral, leading to more effort and success. Which direction is your health spiral going?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Checking Things Off my To Do List

I’ve been trying hard to complete things on my To Do List, and I’ve crossed off 17 things! Talk about accomplishment! Every day I’ve been reviewing my To Do list and prioritizing the things I need/want to accomplish each day. Each weekend, I try to catch up, if needed. I’m happy to be ready to retype my To Do List because so much has changed on it!

Some of the things I’ve accomplished are keeping up with daily things like laundry, changing sheets, keeping the house tidy, watering plants, etc. Other things I was happy to cross off my To Do list forever! For example, finishing off a few last, late holiday gifts; making dr. appointments; picking up dry cleaning; finishing off putting away the holiday decorations (finally!); etc.

The problem is that I haven’t been focusing on things that take a long time to complete. I’m really behind on studying for my Group Exercise Certification next month. I need to spend a lot of time on that, alone, without interruptions, which is what makes it difficult to do. If I spent an hour a day on it, I’d be caught up, but it’s hard to find an uninterrupted hour every day.

I feel good about accomplishing a lot and having less hanging over my head on my To Do list. It lets me feel that I can look ahead more.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What Have I Accomplished, Daily?

Well, in the first week and I accomplished 4 things and had my fingers in a lot of different pies, which I tried to finish on the weekend. I was glad to have started working on a lot of things, beyond the usual, but I was not quite finished with a lot of things that I had started.

Monday, I was frustrated not to succeed in my accomplishment nor in just my daily things to do. So I didn’t set an accomplishment for Tuesday. Wednesday I completed my accomplishment, but it took 2 days. Thursday I mostly finished my accomplishment, and Friday I didn’t. That weekend, I was catching up on all the things I hadn’t quite finished: I did a lot of putting things away from Xmas and our New Years Eve party, but I didn’t have time to finish putting all the Xmas decorations in the boxes, which I first had to dig out of the basement. I hadn’t had time to retype my Xmas planning & New Years Eve Party planning notes. However, I bought paint, painted picture frames, loaded the photos I’d printed last weekend into them, wrapped them and delivered them, finally, 2+ weeks late. It was amazing how many steps were involved in what seemed like a simple idea: print photos for friends.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Adjusting to a New Routine

It is good to have revamped my Before Bed Routine; I’m trying to follow it, and me and my house stayed much tidier and organized all week because of it! I also kept up with laundry (one load per day, including folding & putting away, which is where I usually fall off the wagon) and watering plants 2x/week. However, the house fell to pot on Saturday. The influence of Nick being home all day? A laxing of the routine on the weekend? Probably all that and more. But the housecleaner comes tomorrow morning, so we have to tidy up today.

I’ve finally come to realize that I typically live on New York time: I often work 6:30-2:00, which is 9:30-5:00 N.Y. time. That’s why I’m exhausted by the time I’m finished at 2:00: I’ve already done physically demanding work for almost 8 hours! And I still have 5 more hours with the kids until Nick gets home!

There’s some getting used to our new schedule; it didn’t help that Maya got sick and missed preschool one day because that threw off the new routine. I realized I have to accept that I’m very busy on Mondays and can’t plan on accomplishing anything more than making it through the day. I work 6:30 a.m. -9:00 p.m. with a 3 hour “break” in the afternoon, when I do laundry, water plants, empty the dishwasher, play with my girls, etc. On the other hand, I have 7 hours free time on Thursdays! The girls both have preschool for 3 hr in the morning and a babysitter for 4 hr in the afternoon! Wow! That’s also something to get used to! So that’s my “catch-up” day.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Word for January 2009 is: Accomplish

I want to do more than just tread water in life; I want to swim, to make progress towards something, well, towards many things! So my goal for January is to accomplish something almost every day (5x/week). It will have to be something small, which can be accomplished in addition to my usual daily stuff. Anyway, it’s always easier to accomplish things if they are broken down into small steps. So that’s the idea: to ask myself the night before what I feel like accomplishing the next day, (in addition to the usual) planning out when I’ll do it, then focusing on it the next day.

Whenever I follow a bedtime routine, I always start the day off better, more organized, feeling fresh and ready to go. So I started by updating my bedtime routine, based on my daughters’ new schedules for the year.

So far, I’ve accomplished 2 things: I wrote my Christmas thank you cards, and I printed out photos that I wanted to give people for Christmas gifts. (Yes, I know I’m quite late in getting my Christmas gifts ready, but the wise men showed up on Jan. 6 with their gifts.) Tomorrow’s accomplishment (hmm, like the use of “accomplishment,” rather than “goal;” it sounds more definitive), will be to tidy up the house and put away the Christmas decorations. Normally, I’d say that’s usual, daily stuff, but we also have 2 parties to go to tomorrow, so it’ll be quite an accomplishment to go to 2 parties AND tidy up the house/put away Christmas.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Exercise puts the “Happy” in the New Year!

Welcome to 2009. It’s the time for resolutions. I will get very busy working at the gym, where everyone starts an exercise program in January, which lasts until February; then the gym is back to normal. So if you have resolved to start an exercise program this month, I suggest you strive, instead, to “consistently” exercise, rather than to “start” to exercise.

I found an online research project about how exercise affects your emotions ( ). It has a lot of interesting and useful information, although some of it is outdated (the site has no date on it) and some seems plagiarized, in my opinion. It explains how endorphins are released during exercise, which make you feel good and reduce stress. Other hormones released during exercise increase the concentrations of certain hormones that improve depression. In addition, exercise creates a sense of accomplishment; it distracts you from daily stressors, and it can include social interaction. The website overall describes how exercises promotes good health, in a host of ways. It makes you wonder why anyone would not exercise!

For my part, I’ve been exercising pretty consistently, except that I’m sick this week. I teach fitness classes 3x a week, so I make sure to get a workout during my own classes. Then, I only need to add a couple more workouts per week. Since I’ve been exploring new classes to teach, I’m interested and motivated to try new exercise modalities. If you’ve been exercising the same why for a month or longer, try something new. It keeps your motivation high, and challenges your body in new, fun ways.