February Is Heart Health Month

img1519497740564_1.jpgFebruary brings to mind: hearts and flowers, and hugs and kisses, and endless mushiness. Cute and necessary I think, but ideally it’s how we should live everyday, receiving and sharing love with those in our lives and those we have the opportunity to meet. Before and beyond that though is the notion of loving ourselves. Just what does that mean anyway. Aside from pampering oneself and giving others the permission to treat us with dignity and respect, how can we engender love for ourselves that has a multiplying effect that extends beyond us to make a lasting impact on our world? I posit that how we treat and care for our bodies, minds, and spirits speaks a helluva lot more to how we care about ourselves and in turn determines whether we can truly care for others.

Every February we celebrate Heart Health Month. During this time we talk about physical matters of the heart (monitoring our cholesterol & sugar levels, diet, exercise, and other risks factors) all super important..but what if we paid equal attention to the emotional and spiritual aspect of our hearts as well. What if we approached the heart as more than just an organ that beats and transfers blood throughout the body, but one that is intrinsically linked to the very nature of our existence. After all, there is no life without it.

So with just a week left, it’s not too late to encourage you to consider:

(1) A healthier lifestyle this year. Give some thought to embracing a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lots of greens and color, whole grains; reduce your intake of unhealthy fats and oils, processed foods, refined sugar, and sugar additives.

(2) Visiting a doctor. Get all your vitals checked including your cholesterol and sugar levels and for heart and breathing irregularities, and blood pressure levels. Use the opportunity to take all the necessary annual blood and other tests that are recommended to make sure you’re healthy and whole physically.

(3) Exercise. Not over rated, exercise has been proven to have positive effects on your heart and reduce your chances of heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or to have a stroke if you are physically active. Some experts recommend at least 30 minutes per day of some time of exercise that accelerates your heart rate, while some cardiologists even suggests running ( particularly interval training) as a means of achieving cardiovascular fitness. Most often getting involved in group exercise to motivate and support you can work to get you started and keep you going.

(4) Volunteering, giving back, and embracing our spiritual selves. Engaging in individual or community efforts that relates to reaching out and cultivating and building relationships with the aim of encouraging and uplifting others works to create feel-good endorphins and empathy in us and toward those we engage with. It also opens us up the reality of our place and purpose in life to being a blessing to others. We begin to recognize that there exist a common thread that links all that we do. Our desire to be healthy and whole individuals is tied to our need to live with meaning and purpose, which helps us in our pursuit of happiness. Ultimately, and altogether, it all has an over reaching positive impact on our mental, emotional, and thus, physical health.

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The Freedom to Run – Happy 4th!

Happy Fourth Of July!

Happy Fourth Of July!

Many of us take our freedom for granted. We live in a country unrivaled in its advocacy and support for  individual freedom and one’s right to practice, speak, share and do just about anything that does not endanger or threaten that same freedom we all enjoy. To the extent that we embrace these rights responsibly, we have a very good chance of living a fruitful, productive and healthy life.

Four years ago Blomberg Rankings did a survey on the world’s healthiest countries, many wondered where was the US on this list. http://www.bloomberg.com/slideshow/2012-08-13/world-s-healthiest-countries.html#slide21                   Ranking 37th, the United States, arguably one of the most developed countries in the world did not then produce a rating worthy of its standing. The question is, why? And have we progressed for there at all?

Chief among the reasons for our poor showing on Blomberg’s list is our inability to take responsibility for our health. More than how we treat our bodies (diet and exercise), holistic wellbeing ( body, mind and spirit) speaks to correctly embracing an attitude of health and wellbeing that informs our decisions and subsequent actions, thus creating a lifestyle of worth and enduring happiness.

Can we truly say we are free if we fail to use our freedom to educate and liberate ourselves from a mindset that harms and hinders us from realizing our full potential? Blame a fast food culture, advertising, social media, everything but ourselves, and our responsibility to make wise choices. We’ve heard time again that nothing in life is free, it is true. Our freedom came at great cost to many, we have the responsibility to embrace and promote it. To whom much is given, much is expected. One way we can do this is by adopting a healthy lifestyle; for those of us who run, we’re halfway there already. For all of us, let’s commit to embracing freedom beginning one step at a time. Celebrate: get out, get going, get active. Be Healthy. 

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Happy Independence!

Hello Summer, Runners

source: welland good.com

source:
welland good.com

I’m probably the most excited runner you’ll meet for the entire summer. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard, “are we there yet?” It’s finally safe to say we are! Gone are the coats and heavy jackets and reels of scarves etc. Bring on the hats, sunglasses, shorts, tanks and well.. gallons of sunscreen. It’s all good; as long as we’ve got trees, breeze, trails, dusk, dawn and the gym, we’ve got this.

source: she knows.com

source: she knows.com

Some may argue that summer is just about the hardest time to get yourself motivated to exercise – it just being so hot and all. I beg to differ. Summer implies a time of adventure, frolicking, fun and getting out and about. Many of us grab some time off to go on vacation, whether for a week or a month, what better time to get and stay active giving all the running around that entails. Some of you may know of my penchant for destination marathons, I try to get at least one good adventure run in during these months, but there are so many more runs going on, whatever your style it’s out there. Add to that some exciting activities one can get up to and man.. you’re talking three months of endless fun.

source: indiatimes.com

source: indiatimes.com

Summer fun activ-ities include hiking, camping, trail running, obstacle racing, surfing, kayaking, roller blading, biking, dancing, cross fit and yoga and its variations. There are many other options for the average runner or person to add some variety to their regular schedule; summer provides the opportunity to do away with routine and shake it up, to wring from these sunny days all the fun they’re worth. Regardless of how you choose to do so, it’s a bonus when you look and feel better as a result of actively engaging those muscles to stay fit and strong. An important point to remember is to try to run at the sun’s lowest point to minimize heat & sun exposure. This means early mornings or late evenings as well as sticking to the shade when necessary. Couple that with lots of fluid to stay hydrated and loads of sunscreen and you’ll have a summer to run for.  Beach bodies you’re welcome!

summer-fun

HealthTips

HealthTips.

At the Heart of Running

The Heart

At the heart of running is a fragile yet strong, complex, judicious, and vital organ upon which our entire being depends. The human heart is as critical to life as air and it goes with little saying how dependent we all are on its proper functioning to live enjoyable lives. Yet it could be, that it is the least appreciated and understood of all our body organs in-so-far as how it works, how we should care for it, and even maximize its efficiency.

The Heart: How it Works

Your heart is an amazing organ. It continuously pumps oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout your body to sustain life. This fist-sized powerhouse beats (expands and contracts) 100,000 times per day, pumping five or six quarts of blood each minute, or about 2,000 gallons per day.

According to an article written on – How Does Exercise Affect Your Heart – on Active.com, Over time, with chronic cardio training, our resting heart rate drops because each beat delivers a bigger burst of blood, and fewer beats are needed.  This takes work off your heart and is why cardio exercise is recommended for heart health. However, cardiovascular exercise can also produce stress. If we get into over-training, we may hit a point where we are drowning in cortisol.  This eventually leads to immune-suppression and fat gain around the abdomen and face.  People who spend a significant part of their day in stress, who have poor digestion or other sources of physiological stress, should not further their stress levels by over-training.  It’s recommended that one should always think of their goals, moderate exercise if necessary, and work to reduce stress level.

As a runner, I have a deep appreciation for the role my heart plays in assisting my natural ability.  But even so, there are times I can take its steady beat for granted and cause it unease and unrest.  In this I know I am not alone.  There have been much debate and discussion about the dangers and or benefits of running, more so long distance running, on the heart.  Dr. Paul Thompson, a cardiologist who specializes in heart disease in athletes, says most élite athletes have hearts that are enlarged by exercise.  Scary right. I’ll step out on a limb here and say that our lack of education on the issue is even scarier.  Doctors, researchers and various writers on the issue seem to believe that there is no one-size-fits-all.  There are runners who’ve run 50+ years without any incidents and then there have been the 1/ 50,000 who have met with disastrous results. For example, a recent study showed that while regular exercise does indeed benefit the heart, some experienced marathoners past the age of 50 had significant calcium deposits in their arteries, thus increasing their likelihood of suffering a heart attack.

imageCaring for The Heart

Our hearts are so complex, there remain many unknowns but what is known is that family history and dietary habits play as critical a role–if not a greater role–in heart health than exercise. This puts your own risk factors high up there on the things to look after when deciding to pursue an active lifestyle. Consider the gene factor, do you have a predisposition? Is there anything in your medical history that could contribute to an onset of any heart issue? These are just two of the many questions that you should consider.
It’s worth the time, effort and money to invest in seeing a doctor about your exercise and or running plans and have a complete check up done, which should include an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)) which is able to measure the electrical activity of the heart and in most cases would show up any abnormal activity. As with most things, this is not fool-proof and a lot is left up to you the runner to ascertain your body limits. Learn to read and listen to your body; know when it’s calling out for rest and when it needs a work out and provide it with a proper diet and nutrition thereby maximizing your chances of being an effective runner while minimizing your risks of injury or even death. The thing is, even with all the advances in technology, knowledge and medicine, no test is infallible, it’s a matter of assessing your odds and going with your gut to pursue something you love. Your chance of dying in a marathon is far slimmer than that of a car accident. That is to say, risks are inherent in everyday life, at every turn and in all impracticality, it is the risky stuff that challenges us, causes us to dare to dream and extend ourselves beyond our human limitations. The joy comes when we discover the hidden potential within and a strong and healthy heart to boot.

Skinny vs Healthy

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At no time in our history has it been more pertinent, so debatable or misunderstood. Studies rage as do diet fads and exercise plans, all in the name and search of Skinny, Perfect, You.  Maybe it’s the media hype, the crazy celebrities we are wont to emulate, or could be it’s the mixed messages we get from society at large, who knows or even cares, fact is we are so messed up with the idea that we all have to be a ‘perfect’ size 2 or is it 1, that people have been literally running in circles trying to fit in.  Now I’m all for running, but you may have noticed that in this race there’s no finish line – no one wins. That’s because when it comes to human beings, there is no one-size-fits-all.  So then, why are we of the mistaken belief that size 2 is the standard for beauty, happiness, well-being and perfection, when in fact, beauty comes from within, happiness is a state of mind, your well-being embodies physical, spiritual, mental as well as emotional health and as for perfection, well..a pipe dream really.

One can assign blame to various sources, but the truth is there is enough blame to go around. However, I am convinced we are our worst enemies.  Use to be, we could have gotten away with the saying ‘Ignorance is bliss,’ but in this fast advancing world, that is just plain lame.  It couldn’t be further from the truth anyway, ignorance is just that, ignorance, and bliss is bliss; In the end, we remain responsible for who and what we are. We’ve been told often enough that what we put in, is what we get out.  That should apply across the board; food, exercise, study, family et al.  The time, effort and resources we assign to those areas determine the results we get.
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Really, there are no reasons we can claim ignorance as information abounds on healthy eating practices, exercise, health & wellness and just about any area of interest we can imagine.  It behooves us to acquaint ourselves with this superb human machine God has gifted us with, to learn and appreciate it inside out, to love the skin we’re in, only when we do, will we find balance and enjoy what is the healthy and right size for each of us.  People often say – you’re so lucky, you’re so skinny – as if luck has anything to do with it or as if skinny is my desire.  Not so at all.  So what if I’m small-boned.  Does that make me healthy? Should it mean that I get to eat crap and not exercise; that I get a pass on practicing healthy living? Definitely not.  We need to get that we’re all unique.  Therefore, we will not, nor should we aspire to be, the same.  A size 2 on me maybe healthy, if I live it out correctly, but maybe totally wrong for your built and stature, which may be a size 4 or 6 or even 8.  If you can’t fit my shoes, you shouldn’t try to wear them.  Find your own and wear it beautifully and well.  Now does this mean that it’s ok to be overweight? Heck no! Obesity is a big problem, and it shouldn’t be because of image but because of the potential hazards inherent in living with it.  It is therefore very important that we pay attention to our health, this is the reason we eat right and exercise; to be healthy and fit. The rest is just a sexy bonus.

  

Running vs Walking

imagesW0AIPL91The age-old debate over whether it is better to run or walk continues.  Of course runners think they’re totally in the know and far out class their walking counterparts.  While there is a lot of research on the topic and enough said to indicate that both activities are beneficial, it stands to reason that it all depends on what your goal is.  Recent studies on the subject allude to this as well as to the fact that those intending to lose weight are better off running over walking (The Journal of Obesity, 2012).  On the other hand, in a new study, published last month in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, walkers got the edge over runners in the area of heart disease reduction with a 4.5 decrease, while walkers saw their risk of heart disease decrease by more than 9 percent after expending the same amount of energy.

From a runner’s perspective,  I believe it is all about what one hopes to accomplish.  Lots of people and research will tell you that running places a lot more stress on the body than walking, that there is a lot more wear and tear of muscle tissue and that this reduces the average lifespan of a runner, they would be mostly right.  On the other hand, others may say that walking gets you nowhere fast.  Well, that’s debatable and entirely dependent upon your goal.  Obviously if you’re looking to lose weight, running will be the better bet as you’re likely to burn more calories during this form of exercise.  What is also interesting I have found, is that overtime, runners carry weight better.  Controlling weight is much easier according to current research on the issue and it has been found that appetite has a lot of bearing on this.  Runners are found to consume less overall than walkers.  From me to you, I think it has a lot to do with mindset.  Consider the runner who has motivated him or herself to pursue a certain path and gain a specific and desired outcome; overarching total health, such a person is far less likely to engage in unhealthy practices.  Why? Well, for one thing, running is hard work; a lot of commitment and sacrifice, one is hardly likely to wash it all away with a proverbial can of soda.  Also, I think runners are of a more competitive mindset and see their lifestyle as a continuous challenge to be met and overcome; this serves to keep them focused and on track.

People who walk on the other hand, though not necessarily as driven, are nonetheless just as goal oriented as runners.  Such enthusiasts will tell you of their dedication and commitment to the cause of walking and advise you of all its attributes which, like running, affords one a stress outlet and encourages a healthy lifestyle.  What differs are the results; calories burned, weight loss, distance covered, these are all likely to be less for the walker in the short and over the long-term.  That being said, there is a chance they’ll one day out walk runners as the rigors of marathons and ultra marathons do take a toll on the body, though I’m proud to say I know of many aged runners doing quite well.  Walking is a good place to start, if this is you, you’re on the right track and I encourage you to continue.  Who knows one day you might add a little jog in and find that it’s not so bad after all.

So what have we concluded?  Not too much I think, the debate rages on.  What we know to be true is that both running and walking are great forms of exercise that are highly beneficial.  While running may seem to have the edge over walking, I think it’s all a matter of where you’re at and where you want to go.  As a runner though, I think running rocks!  The cheetah agrees.

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Smart & Fun Running

imagesSome people have the wrong idea..they look at running and think, “I can never do that! It’s too boring, to difficult, too tiring and in sme cases, even dangerous…” “Did you hear of tht guy who collapsed after running the marathon…” Propaganda and truth abound over the subject of running but whatever side of the spectrum you’re on there’s one over-riding truth that stands out: running can be and is beneficial to your well being.  However, as with every good thing, there is always the opportunity for abuse and its subsequent consequences.

It is true tht running can become monotonous, that is, if you run the same course, distance and races all with little or no variation.  For that matter, I have a hard time thinking of any activity tht wouldn’t afford the same result if done the same way all the time. If one is to assume the maximum benefit from this “mind sport,” variation is key.

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Today there are so many forms of running and so much fun attached to the sport that it is impossible to maintain an air of indifference or even incredulity. You have the traditional track & field and long distance races such as marathons, and now there are decathlons, urbanathlons, iron man, cross country racing, trail running (my favorite) and so many other shorter fun-type races like mud runs, color runs and obstacle races among others.  Also, if you ever needed a reason to run, there are races for just about every cause you care about.  Running to advance literacy & cancer are two important ones for me, with these races, you get to make an important contribution to society while getting your exercise on.  How’s that for a bonus! I mean that is so FUN! Somewhere among the lot is a run for you, cause you have to believe me when I tell you that YOU were born to RUN!

Now all you have to do is find a running buddy: join a club, find a meet up group or get your friend involved cause it’s so much better to have a reason to run and others to share your running adventures with.

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