Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Sunday, July 6, 2014
This week I returned from my week long vacation in Montreal, Canada. The original purpose of going was for a business conference but my husband and I stayed 3 extra nights to enjoy the city. I am only sharing my savings from decisions that further reduced the cost of this trip from what my employer would have paid for. Want to saved $1,000 on your next trip? Learn from me.
Friday, July 4, 2014
During my week long vacation in Montreal, my husband and I visited many churches. I absolutely love the extravagant beauty of cathedrals. Talk about passion. Well, I ran into quite a unique experience on a day trip to Quebec City. One I have never experienced, even during my trips to Europe.
The summer may be the season of bikinis and skin showing, but the spontaneity is throwing me off kilter. Summer is a time to enjoy the season, relax and enjoy. In fact, I just got back the other day from vacation in Montreal, Canada. And yet today I want to be lazy and lay by the pool. Bruno Mars had it right in "The Lazy Song" - "Today I don't feel like doing anything." After all, our bodies and minds need to relax and there is nothing like the warmth of the sun to move us to tranquility. Freedom to enjoy the summer is what I want, strawberry shortcake and all.
However, I also want to feel my best. In Montreal my husband and I ate a lot of food. Very little of it contained vegetables. We probably ate dessert twice a day. It was a food fest. Delicious. But that kind of routine is only enjoyable for so long. And I think a week is the max for me. I can honestly say I started to miss my spinach. After a while, loose eating habits shackle you. I started feeling kind of gross, heavy, sluggish. In fact, I literally caught a mini-cold.
Have you ever heard of the book "Decisive" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath? It was recommended by my Operations Management professor and even though I'm just getting started, I will second his recommendation. This book discusses the 4 Villains of Decision Making, one of which is narrow framing. I'm going to take the advice of this book and expand the scope of my fitness decision. I do not need to decide whether I should enjoy the freedom of summer or enjoy the freedom of feeling my best. Rather, I will ask how can I maximize my health this summer with freedom to enjoy, relax and feel good?
Monday, June 23, 2014
There is a glut of ideas about how to lose weight and get fit, and there are just as many theories about the best means of measuring your results. Even if you want to move forward with an intention for wellness instead of a specific goal, it is still a good idea to take some baseline measurements to better understand your development. That is why I compiled a list of ways to track fitness and the pros, cons, tips & tricks that go along with it.
- Number on the scale
*Pros: It is super easy to just hop on a scale and record a number.
*Cons: Your weight fluctuates and even if you see a sustained downward trend, you don’t know if you are actually losing fat, water weight or muscle. Also, you may either get cocky if your weight is dropping or get discouraged if your weight is not changing as quickly as you hoped. Additionally, determining your “ideal” body weight can be quite fiddly, especially if you’ve never had a point in time where you felt good about your body.
*Tips: Weigh in the morning after you go to the bathroom. Some people swear by weighing every day, others weigh once a week or every other week. Still other people have sworn off the scale because it hurts instead of inspires their motivation. My Fitness Pal is a great app to record your weight. This is a good website to help you calculate your ideal weight.
- BMI: BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It is just a calculation related to male or female, your height and your weight. You can use the same website listed above for BMI guidelines.
*Pros: It is easy to calculate.
*Cons: If you are particularly muscular, BMI may indicate you are overweight when really your body is quite healthy.
*Tips: Play around with different weights on-line to pick your goal BMI. As you get closer to your goal, be mindful of other factors to decide if you should adjust it.
- Body Fat Percentage: Just like it sounds, this test measures your body fat percentage.
*Pros: Unlike the scale or BMI, this measurement distinguishes between fat and the other components of your body (water, muscle, bones etc.)
*Cons: It can prove challenging to identify the best healthy ranges to use; there are many out there. Also, it can be tricky to actually get this measured accurately. Results differ depending on the person doing the measuring and the instrument used. Additionally, it is not as easy to purchase a body fat percentage measurement instrument.
*Tips: Get the same person to measure you. Recognize that there may be some fluctuation.
Check out this article from CNN about the different ways your body fat can be taken. As I said, I've seen a variety of ranges, but here is the WebMD version.
Take measurements on your chest, hips, waist, legs, neck, arms, whatever you would like to see shrink.
*Pros: It is relatively easy to measure yourself. The only tool you need is a tape measure.
*Cons: It can fluctuate with no actual change in your body shape because the measurements were taken differently.
*Tips: Do your best to measure in the exact same place in the exact same way as you had previously. I recommend measuring yourself. Even if you are in something like Jenny Craig where they will measure you, you may have different people taking the measurements and that makes a difference. Record your measurement in your myfitnesspal app.
- Clothes sizes
*Pros: You don’t have to spend much time recording information to know if your clothes size goes down.
*Cons: Especially if your fat is distributed quite evenly, it could take a while before you actually go down a size.
*Tips: Keep those pants that get too big on you as a reminder. Also, everyone loves those pictures where you wear those baggy jeans and smile at your weight loss.
- Before & after images
*Pros: This hones in on what you are probably really looking for - a healthier, more attractive appearance. While it is nice to see a smaller number on the scale, it is pretty much only you and your doctor that see that, whereas everyone sees your body.
*Cons: It is hard to put in words what the image shows. You have qualitative evidence of your progress, but it is not quantified.
*Tips: Take pictures with different ranges of modesty. I’ve heard advice about taking pictures of yourself naked. That is actually a pretty good idea but you may want some pictures you wouldn’t mind showing people…
- Heart Monitoring
o Resting heart rate
It is not news that your heart is constantly beating. However, you may not have considered the importance of lowering your resting heart rate. The premise is that your heart can only beat so many times and by lowering your resting heart rate, it will take longer for your heart to reach its last beat. Your resting heart rate is how fast your heart is beating when you are just sitting around (resting). This is typically measured in beats per minute (bpm). You can either put your fingers on your pulse, watch a clock or timer and count or you can use that free machine that most pharmacies have. That machine is nice because you can find your blood pressure at the same time and it is free. Historically I aimed for below 60 bpm, but lately I strive to be below 50 bpm.
o Recovery time
The less time your heart takes to recover from exercise (return to a resting heart rate), the healthier it is. You could do a certain exercise to reach a certain heart rate then use a stop watch or clock to see how long it takes to return to your resting heart rate.
*Pros: This focuses on heart health, not just appearance.
*Cons: Recovery time in particular can be challenging to consistently measure.
*Tips: If you want to very accurately measure your exerted heart rate to resting heart rate consistently, you’ll need some kind of device to detect your heart rate. Often treadmills or ellipticals will do this or there are different wrist bands or thing other items you can wear. An unscientific option is to do the same exercise until you can no longer hold a conversation, or some other intensity indicator, and then count the time until you feel normal again.
- Stamina Tracking
o Time tests
Run, cycle, swim, row or do any other kind of activity for as long as you can.
o Distance tests
Do one or many of the above activities, but this time travel as far as you can.
Do the same thing, but see how far you can go in a set amount of time. Your distance in a fixed period of time is indicative of the intensity you can maintain.
*Pros: This focuses on cardiovascular health, not just appearance.
*Cons: You have to do these things to get it measured so you won’t be able to measure any time you feel like it.
*Tips: In elementary school they did a one mile running test each year and that is a good starting place. You may want to decide whether you want to increase your intensity within a certain distance or time or if you’d rather increase the distance or time you can maintain the same intensity.
Some other aspects of fitness you may want to try to measure are flexibility and strength. You could consider which yoga poses you are able to hold for a certain number of breaths or track reps and sets and the amount of weight you can lift.
Perhaps you are seeking results that are even more challenging to quantify such as pain reduction, energy or confidence. You could find a quiz or survey or come up with your own questions and take it at different times to see the different result. Get creative.
Think about what you truly want out of your personal fitness and pick one or two ways to track your fitness. Get your baseline levels written down on paper so you can look back on how far you've come!
Don’t forget to comment about which of my ideas you use or would like to start using. Also, please do share if you have some other ideas.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Most everybody wants to retire. Even if you plan on working until you drop, it makes sense to have some savings. After all, you may not be able to work for as long as you expect. Once you committed to saving for retirement, where should you put it? There are many options but I will focus on the main ones.