Dec 112017

Sometimes teaching a class goes off without a hitch. There are other times when issues come off. For me, more often than not, they’re technical. If it’s not troubles programming the heating and cooling unit (I miss the old switches – heat/cool, and the dial that you adjust that points to the temperature you want), it’s an issue with the stereo (or the device I’m playing music from). Sometimes I really miss the days where all I had to do was insert a cassette tape and start class. It was so easy. And I always had dubbed backups. Now I have to set the stereo to the proper mode, choose the playlist and hope that when I hit play, music starts playing. Recently, I had a situation where the music would play for about a minute and then stop. It wasn’t as if I bought this iPad last week. I’ve owned this iPad Mini 4 (2015) for more than a year and have never had this problem before.

This drove me nuts. I tried to play a song again. Same thing.  At that point, I continued class without music. Afterward, I went online and started looking for suggestions on what to do. I tried closing all open applications, rebooting again, still nothing. Then I found a post that mentioned notifications as the possible culprit. I’m not a fan of those anyway. Whenever headline news flashes up on a notification, there is a temporary break in the music. And this is distracting.

I went into settings. And the list of items that had notifications defaulted to on were tremendous. App Store, Calendar, Calm App, FaceTime, Games, Home, Instagram…you get the picture. There were ten more. I turned notifications off on all of them and guess what? My music started playing normally again. I’m not sure which notification was the music-stopping offender. But I’m content for now to leave them off so my music plays uninterrupted AND I have less distraction.

Sep 112017

Most wheat products on the market today are highly processed and sprayed with the harmful chemical glyphosate. Many people also have sensitivities to wheat or the final product after treatment and processing. Ancient grains, cultivated by different native cultures around the globe, provide nutritious options for meeting your carbohydrate cravings.

Black rice, also known as “Forbidden” or “Emperor’s” rice because it was used as a tribute food for royalty in ancient China,  is rich in anthocyanins. One study shows consuming it regularly reduced arterial plaque. So try colorful rice next time instead of white.

Millet is described in the Bible as a grain grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and was used to make bread. It’s gluten free and has a nutty taste and a fluffy texture. Millet can be cooked up for a breakfast cereal (with some dried figs, ginger and cinnamon perhaps), can be used in baking or frying batter, or added to a recipe for stuffed squash. Once you get a taste for its flavor, you’ll be able to get more creative and use it in other recipes.

I’ve crunched my way through a bag of blue corn tortilla chips without even knowing how nutritious they were. Blue corn, rich in anthocyanins like black rice, is lower on the glycemic index (good for people watching blood sugar) and contains more protein, zinc, and iron than white and yellow corns. It’s origins lie in the American Southwest and Central and South America. The Hopi Indians used blue corn in religious rituals and still use it today to cook piki bread. Add some anthocyanin color to your next breakfast by making your pancakes or muffins with blue corn.

Quinoa dates back to the Inca Empire in Peru and has just recently been recognized as a superfood. It’s gluten free, protein-rich, and contains all nine essential amino acids. In addition, it’s rich in fiber, B-vitamins, magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin E, and phosphorus. Quinoa also contains abundant flavonoids, which fight down inflammation and the proliferation of cancer cells. Quinoa can be added to smoothies, eaten like oatmeal, added to nutrition bars and used in place of other kinds of pasta for cooking.

Purple barley, a dietary mainstay in ancient Tibet and the Middle East, is high in protein and has a low glycemic index. It also contains important vitamins and minerals potassium, iron, calcium, selenium, phosphorus, copper and manganese. It’s a great addition to soups, salads, and pilafs. Want some for breakfast? Grind it up and use it as flour for your favorite pancake, muffin or waffle recipe.

Amaranth was a favorite of the Aztecs and is gluten-free and is rich in protein and the amino acid, lysine. This grain they called huautli played an important role in religious rituals. Amaranth was eventually outlawed by Spanish conquistadors. But it’s made a comeback in recent years. In Mexico, people mix it with honey to create the Latin version of rice crispy treats. Many recipes using amaranth are available online including ones for amaranth pancakes and amaranth fish sticks.

Add some of these new foods to your diet and start reaping the taste and health benefits today.

Sep 032017

I’m a big believer in eating real food. A typical breakfast for me consists of organic oats – topped with sliced banana, blueberries, chia seeds and walnuts – and drizzled with whole organic milk. Favorite lunches are 1) plain yogurt blended with papaya chunks and 2)a plate of organic corn tortilla chips topped with melted cheese, salsa with avocado, and pinto beans. For dinner, I usually saute different varieties of vegetables with chicken or fish. I almost always cook with olive or coconut oils.

While I work hard to eat and find places I can buy an abundance of real foods, the food industry, media and general public continue to sabotage these efforts. Food companies know how to make food that stimulates your taste buds, often to the point that they lose a taste for real food. Food with excessive sugar, fat and flavorings tested to “addict” eaters is known as hyperpalatable.  Recognizing that many people are making an effort to eat healthier, food companies are producing products that sound healthy, but really aren’t. And the sad thing about this is that magazines are writing features that are nothing short of advertorials for these convenience foods. It feels to me like they have sold out. One feature I read recently even went as far as to insult a reader who chooses the “sit down bowl of oatmeal” over rushing out the door and eating a bar on the way to an appointment. Wow. I’ll take my bowl of oatmeal any day over bars that have xantham gum and “natural” flavors, which are not really natural at all and can contain a wide range of chemicals. Some of the foods mentioned in articles contain aspartame and sucralose, chemicals that I’ve established give me horrible migraines. How painful is it to get up fifteen minutes early so you can eat your meal at the table instead of in the car (and possibly feel a whole lot better the rest of the day as a result of this choice)? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

If grab and go is all that matters to you, then some of the “healthy” items in plastic packages that the fitness magazines boast about might do it for you. I’ll give them this much – they’re better than a greasy burger or a fake shake at a fast food restaurant! But I’m not interested in jumping on this convenience food band wagon that too many fitness magazines are pushing us to jump on. One reason I didn’t renew my subscription to IDEA Fitness Journal is that I was so turned off by the rash of nutrition features lately, which encourage fitness leaders to consume these packed foods, serve them to their families and spread the word about them to their class participants and clients. So many fresh food meals take only minutes to create and taste so delicious! As for me? I’ll continue to encourage everyone within my circle to eat as close to the source so they can reap the feel-and-look-good benefits this choice has to offer.

Sep 012017

If you have good intentions of exercising every day and most of the time it never happens, you’re not alone. 80 percent of Americans do not meet the recommended activity levels for strength training and aerobic exercise.

One way to turn this around is to plan your week ahead of time for activity instead of having a vague plan to work out “sometime” during the day. A second way is to work short bouts of activity into your day so it adds up to enough to give you health benefits. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Sunday night, set up a schedule for the week. For example, my typical week looks like this. In Tucson, I swim an hour on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday about 6:30 or 7 AM. On Monday and Wednesday, I teach yoga classes and take a thirty-minute walk. On Friday, I teach a dance-aerobics class. When I spend time at our condo in Mexico, I swim in the ocean for 30-60 minutes every morning upon waking and walk for an hour every evening. When the weather is good, I kayak so I watch the sea and choose a day or two a week to go out for 2-3 hours. I have more time to exercise than most people, but here’s what my IT manager husband’s workout schedule looks like…Monday, Wednesday and Friday – Masters swimming workout 5-6 AM. Tuesday and Thursday 5-5:45 AM run about 3 miles. 3 evenings after work, he goes to the gym to lift weights.
  2. Participate in classes offered at your work (my husband sometimes does this once or twice a week).
  3. To work in short bouts (aiming to achieve about 30 minutes of total movement during the day), consider these as options… Walk outside or the up and down the halls or stairs at work during part of your lunch hour. Do a short walk before work. Walk or bicycle after you get home from work. Purchase a stationary bicycle or treadmill for home use and USE IT. Listen to your favorite playlists or watch the news or other programs you like on TV to stay motivated. Anytime you can be active while watching TV is better. In general, most Americans spend too much time parked in front of computers and the TV. When my children were infants, I used to do exercise DVDs and also had a bench step so I could do that while I watched TV.

Keep in mind that getting the body in motion is the hardest part. Once you get in the habit of moving a lot, it becomes a habit and your body crave the healthy movement that it needs to function optimally. Today, I’m in Mexico, about to face Tropical Storm Lidia. So I stayed inside and did a Vinyasa Yoga practice and plan to do a lot of housework to stay moving today. If you have questions on how to get started or want to share your secrets with others, please feel free to comment. I hope you take steps to care for yourself today!

 

May 302017

Since I joined Quora, I’ve been bombarded by fitness questions. Many of the people querying sound desperate to lose weight. Some ask how they can lose 20 pounds in one week! Questions like this make it evident many people have no idea how fat loss works and the time and effort that is necessary to achieve this objective.

If you want to lose weight and get fitter, the first step is to educate yourself. Do you know how much of a caloric deficit you have to achieve in order to lose one single pound? The answer is 3500 just in case you’re still scratching your head. The easiest way to achieve this “deficit” is by eating less food AND upping your activity level. Let’s use an example that will make this clear.

Let’s say you are able to maintain your weight eating 2100 calories per day and doing no exercise – only daily living activities. To lose weight, some options are to A) reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories daily to lose a pound in 7 days B) burn 500 extra calories daily to lose a pound in 7 days C) burn 500 extra calories daily and reduce caloric intake by 500 calories to lose 2 pounds per week. C is about as aggressive as you will want to go. Make sure to never reduce daily caloric intake to anything under 1200. It’s important for you to eat enough to get nourishment for your body and mind. If you try to lose weight faster, you are likely to experience low-energy, uncomfortable hunger and/or food cravings. None of these will support long-term weight loss.

The best way to lose weight is to do it slowly. As you lose weight, you begin to establish new lifestyle habits. Instead of following a starvation diet program that leaves you weighing less and then going back to your old bad eating habits, reduce your caloric intake by replacing nutrition-poor calories (chips, sodas, candy, cookies, pies) with nutrition-rich calories (your favorite vegetables and fruits). If this sounds painful, it may be for a while. Many of the junk food we eat manipulates our taste buds so that real food doesn’t taste good anymore. But the more you eat the good stuff and start feeling better, the more you will want to eat the foods that support health, a positive mood and high energy! I know this to be true because this is the path I followed years ago when I lost 30 pounds after graduating from college. During my college years, I became accustomed to ordering late night pizzas, eating M & Ms while studying for exams and soothing my fluctuating moods with food. One day I decided I didn’t want food controlling my life anymore. It took time to break those bad habits, but it was worth it. You can read more about my story in my book, Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond. If I can do it, you can, too!

Apr 262017

I made another batch of Kitchari for tonight’s dinner. Traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to detoxify and restore gut health, kitchari is basically a vegetarian stew with moong dal (split mung beans with the skin removed), basmati rice and vegetables. A 1 cup serving is only 300 calories. It’s also packed with protein, dietary fiber, and minerals. Because kitchari is rich in dietary fiber, it gives you a sense of fullness that lasts so you’re not craving more food an hour later, which makes it a perfect food for people trying to lose weight. It’s also very easy to digest. If your belly is still bloated from that pizza that was served at today’s lunch meeting, a bowl of this will send you to bed feeling good instead of needing to pop an antacid.

I follow the recipe from Kate O’Donnell’s The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook. You can choose from a long list of recommended vegetables, but tonight’s concoction has cauliflower, spinach, leeks, and artichoke. After simmering the mixture, I warmed some cumin, coriander and fennel seed in ghee to add some spicy flavor to the stew. Now I’ll simply add a few sprigs of raw cilantro as a garnish, wait till my husband gets home and then we’ll sit out on the back patio and enjoy this simple and healthy meal. Preparing kitchari took less than an hour and is much more nutritious than anything we would get dining out.

Mar 312017

I am excited to announce the release of my new book, Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond.

I know fitness and how the right balance of training, mindful exercise and good nutrition can transform your life. Rewrite your script of making resolutions and quitting them and start living a healthy lifestyle today. Fitter Than Ever offers an easy-to-follow activity and eating plan and is packed with Slim for Life Secrets to keep you on-track and motivated. This book will make your journey of losing weight, exercising and eating healthy fun and empowering.

The e-books are available now. A paperback print edition will be available by April 30.

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Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond


Oct 152016

Many people open the medicine cabinet the instant a joint or muscle aches or the stomach hurts. Many over-the-counter and prescription medications  wreak havoc on the body. What helps your joint pain might make your gut scream hours later. Plants and herbs such at turmeric, ginger, and triphala, can offer relief without unpleasant side effects. I have been amazed how much better I feel now that I’m integrating them into my daily diet. Studies show they can improve health and reduce long-term suffering. It is very important to consult with your physician before taking herbs or stopping any current medications.

Three of my favorite herbs are turmeric (curcumin is the active ingredient), ginger, and triphala. I take triphala almost daily in tablet form and make tea with a blend of powdered turmeric and ginger.

Turmeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory and can be taken in a tea or in warm oil when joint or muscle pain strikes in lieu of taking medication. Some studies have even shown it can help alleviate arthritic pain and is protective against cancer.

Ginger is the perfect remedy for an upset stomach. It can ease nausea, morning sickness, and even reduce the misery of motion sickness and menstrual cramps. People often report it reduces post-exercise muscle soreness. Studies show the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger often reduces painful symptoms of osteoarthritis when taken internally or a paste including ginger is applied to the painful area. Ingesting ginger regularly may also lower cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of cancer and Alzheimers.

Triphala contains three fruits found in India: Amalaki, Bibhitaki, and Haritaki. It is a gentle bowel cleanser that helps improve digestion, reduce stomach discomfort and contributes to regular bowel movements. Because it helps with food absorption, taking it regularly while eating a well balanced diet can ensure the body is getting adequate nourishment. Many regular users of triphala report healthy weight loss once their digestive systems get to a state of balance. Triphala is also a powerful antioxidant, which helps protect the body from free radical damage. Triphala can be taken in a tea or in tablet form.

Before going beyond sprinkling some of these on your meals, consult with a trusted physician or licensed naturopath. That person can ensure whatever herbs you’re taking won’t adversely interfere with any medications your taking. Once you’ve been given the green light, you’ll find your body will respond much better to natural herbs. They improve health instead of simply putting a temporary bandaid on symptoms.

Oct 022016

In June, I traveled to Big Corn Island, Nicaragua for a 200 hour Ashtanga Yoga Certification course with It’s YogaNica. I joined Ainsley, Jon, Camilla, Rachel, and Megan for the three week course, which was taught by instructors Edwin and Kelli. I wanted to be able to add yoga to my fitness teaching credentials because I want to live more mindfully and help others do so as well. Every day, I practiced and lived the life of a yogi. Learning with the amazing and gifted students in the group was amazing. All of them are such special people and I will cherish the time I spent with them for the rest of my life. I also enjoyed daily early morning swims in the ocean. I swam during the sunrise and while most of the island was still sleeping. Those swims brought me so much serenity and peace. Swimming to me is meditation and in the calm, warm sea, I swam along, admiring colorful fish and coral and the occasional manta ray or nurse shark.

Over the course of the training, I became very in-tune with myself, learned how to better discipline my mind, and learned how to master most of the poses and to teach them effectively.  I walked away with so much more than a yoga certificate.

I left feeling that I had begun a journey into understanding myself and my life’s purpose. In a different place, I began to break away from some of the samskaras or patterned thought processes that have been stealing my joy and keeping me from growing for too many years. It is very hard to break away from these patterned thoughts. I have many of these. Thoughts that I don’t fit in, I’m not successful enough, that I’m a chronic headache sufferer. I want to see myself as a swimmer, a yogi, an author, a compassionate and loving person with a sense of adventure. I want to feel content with my life wherever I am. That’s who I was during my yoga class in Nicaragua. After my return from Nicaragua, I saw myself starting to fall back into old patterns of thinking and it took some time to figure out how to break down those walls. I will share some of those thoughts in  blog posts and in my memoir, Journey to a Better Life, to be published in 2017. One of the most important I qualities that has been imperative to my learning journey is patience. Changing thought patterns is difficult. I didn’t develop them overnight – they have been running wild in my head for years -and it takes time to change them. I have found for me the best mechanisms to break negative thought patterns are daily yoga practice and travel. I can reset my mind with meditation or yoga practice and I can often reset my mind with a change of scenery as well. In three days, I will travel to Mykonos, Greece to teach yoga classes for three weeks. There will be no past to confine me and day by day I will write the future I want to live. I will go to this far away place knowing that the people in the world that love me most understand my journey and are in my heart no matter how many miles separate us.

Jul 032016

BeatStep App for Fitness Instructors

Ever since I’ve starting playing music in classes from my iPhone or iPad, I’ve been frustrated over being stuck with the original beats-per-minute. For years, I would pitch CDs up or down to get the count just right for different classes. For this reason, I found myself sticking to my old CDs whenever possible. When one of my work places removed the CD player once and for all, I knew I had to get more in-the-know about Apps. So I researched Apps that might help with this issue and decided to download BeatStep (cost is 12.99). I had some trouble finding it because another company, Arturia, has a program with the same name at the top of the search engines and is apparently designed for music studios rather than fitness instructors!

At first, I was a bit stymied by the App. After you load a play list and save it, whenever I tried to load a new one from my iPod library, it would ask if I wanted to remove the current songs and I worried I would lose my previous playlist or even the one in iTunes. Fortunately, when I queried BeatStep from their Facebook page, I learned this is not the case. I was also given a step by step explanation on how to load the new playlist and save it. This does not in any way alter your original iTunes playlist. Basically, you are importing it into the App and saving it as a different playlist that you must access from BeatStep.

BeatStep Playlist

BeatStep is very responsive to email or FaceBook correspondence. Here is a link to the BeatStep Facebook Page. The company also sent me a link to several You Tube  videos that outline the major features of the App. You can choose a set BPM for your playlist or a percent of original speed. If the program’s calculation of the song’s BPM is inaccurate, you can select the song and “tap out” the BPM so it resets to an accurate tempo. Here is a link to the You Tube training videos. Watching these videos really helped me get into the swing of using the App.

Once glitch I found with the App is that if you stop playing your music before the playlist ends and then start another class and start playing music, you may hear two songs playing at once. If this  happens, simply exit the program and start it up again (it just takes a few seconds) and you will be back to hearing only one song at a time.

I’m very particular about the music I use for classes. For this reason, I like to download individual songs and make them into playlists instead of buying pre-made mixes. This creates a problem when you want every song in your mix to have a similar BPM. I recently learned that by using the Tempo Planner add-on (cost 2.99 or request a code on the BeatStep Facebook page), you gain this versatility as well. To add on this feature, simply click on the star in the bottom left and enter the code. Now I can go to each song and determine BPM or percent of original song speed one at a time. It is useful to test this ahead of time to make sure the song doesn’t sound terrible pitched up or down a lot.

I don’t recommend downloading this App tonight and trying to use it in the morning. Give yourself a few days to get familiar with it so you feel confident and comfortable with it before you walk into class. With adequate preparation, BeatStep is a great program that can allow you to offer your students more music variety at a speed ideal for the workout you have planned. My students really appreciate that I’ve taken the time to assemble so many fun new playlists. Now I have New Age, Jazz, Dance and Rock, sometimes all in a single playlist and music that before was too slow to use for exercise is now accessible. I hope you enjoy using BeatStep as much as I do.