Sunday, April 3, 2016

Plank Row

Plank Row:
This is one of my favorite exercises.  Planking is amazing for working everything - core, legs, arms, hips and back.  Adding an alternating one-armed row to a plank not only increases the work that all these areas are already doing to keep you stable, but also works the muscles between the shoulder blades to help with posture.
The key when performing a plank is to keep the spine straight (including your neck), supporting the low back by pulling your belly button into your spine.  Relax your shoulders away from your ears, and when you raise the dumbbell up, think about drawing that shoulder blade towards the other.  Try to continue facing the floor throughout the entire movement, rather than twisting through the hips or torso.
If this position is too much of a challenge, try it from the knees.
Repeat 12 reps each side.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

DIY Deodorant

One of the biggest health changes I have made this year is switching out my deodorant.  I am a sweater.  Always have been.  And I love to exercise.  There were days that I'd reapply deodorant a few times through the day, depending on how many times I'd end up in the shower! I have always used store-bought deodorant. I've always known that these items are loaded with chemicals, and applying them right over a big bundle of lymph nodes makes me wonder what on earth I am doing to myself. But vanity always won.  I didn't want to be "that lady" with the ugly wet armpits.

We have been raised with the mentality that sweating is gross, especially for women.  I will admit that it might not look the best sometimes, but we need an attitude shift. Sweating is the bodies natural process to eliminate toxins from the body.  By blocking this process with chemicals, we are not only plugging up our bodies ability to regulate itself, but we are also smearing more toxins onto (and then into) our bodies.
 
Aluminum, parabens, propylene glycol, phthalates and Triclosan are just a few common ingredients in antiperspirants and deodorants.  These items can be hormone disruptors, carcinogens, or hard on the different systems of the body.

I have tried deodorants from health food stores, with varying degrees of success.  I find most of them left me stinky by the end of the day.  Now unsightly wetness under the arms is one thing, but stinky pits is just plain unacceptable!

Then I found therapeutic grade essential oils, and a great recipe for DIY deodorant, and I am hooked!  What a difference.  I did purchase some fancy deodorant containers to put it in, but then switched to using a tin, and it is so easy just to dip a finger in, rub a little into the underarm area, and voila!  I have been using my DIY deodorant for a number of months now, and I actually don't sweat as much as I used to.  Weird, but maybe my body just doesn't have to work so hard now to get the toxins out through the layer of aluminum and other barriers I inundated it with.  I don't know, but it works for me - give it a try and let me know if it works for you too!

Here is the recipe I have been using:

1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
1/4 cup coconut oil (solid)
2 drops vitamin E serum (optional)
6-10 drops Tea Tree essential oil
6-10 drops Purification essential oil

Simply heat first 3 ingredients over low heat until dissolved.  Remove from heat, stir in Vitamin E, and essential oils, and then pour into deodorant containers or a tin or jar.

For a more feminine scent, you can add Geranium, Lavender, Joy or Pettitgrain essential oils instead of the ones listed above.

This takes minutes to make, and knowing that you are not putting chemicals into your underarm area will be worth it.  Please make sure that you are using high quality essential oils.  The brand I trust is Young Living.  If you are interested in learning more about this brand, you can check it out here.

Please note, some people can react to baking soda, or have sensitivities to essential oils. Do a spot test before making a big batch if you are concerned. If rash or irritation occurs, try either cutting the amount of baking soda, increasing the vitamin E, using different oils.  You don't need much, so you can also try using just a tiny bit and see if that helps. If irritation persists then definitely stop using the product. There are also other recipes out there, some including Shea Butter, so search around until you find a recipe that works for you.


Disclaimer: the information contained in this post in not intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease or illness. Please seek the advice of your medical professional if you think you have a medical condition. The author of this blog is not liable for any misconception or misuse of the information provided.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Just Breathe - Simple Health Idea #6

We all have busy lives.  Some days it feels like you don't have a second to stop and take a breath.

Those are the days when you need to do just that.  Stop for a second.  Shut off the phone, drop the tablet.  Take one minute before that next client, or that next call, or rushing out the door to pick up yet another child from their activity, and breathe.

I mean really breathe, not these little shallow puffs that we take in, but a great big, fill the belly and expand the upper chest 10 second inspiration.  Hold it.  Then let it go.  Whew.  Did you feel your shoulders relax just a little bit?

Try it again.

Close your eyes, and repeat a third time.  Open your eyes, feel that oxygen spreading through your entire body, and go get those kids!

Have a little more time, then lets take it a step further.  Find yourself a nice room where you can relax.  Pop on some great tunes (that you find relaxing).  Get into a comfy position (you can lie down or sit - whatever works for you.)

Close your eyes, and using the pinky finger of your left hand, gently plug your left nostril.  Now take a deep inhalation through your right nostril, hold, and breath out through your mouth.  Repeat this 3 times.

Now do the exact same thing, but this time plugging your right nostril.

Relax your arms, and take 3 more breaths, this time breathing in through both nostrils, and again out through your mouth.  Notice if your breaths feel fuller, deeper.  Hang out and take a minute to chill into it.

I like putting a dab of Young Living Peppermint oil just inside my nostrils before I do this.  Wowza!

Try either one of these techniques at any time of the day.  It works for more than just overwhelm. Give it a go if you are feeling tired or frustrated.  You will be surprised at how much better you feel after a couple of full breaths.  Oxygen is pretty amazing!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Protein Balls - your metabolisms best friend

I'm still quite active as a 40-something year old, but I sure am noticing that it is harder to maintain my happy weight.  This is partly due to the fact that I have a love-affair with chocolate, but also just a natural slowing of metabolism as I age.

I have found that eating 5 smaller meals through the day seems to work better for me than the typical 3.  It seems to keep the fires burning, so to speak, and having some protein with each of these meals revs the engine even more. 

I have a busy job, and often back to back clients all day, so it isn't easy or convenient for me to munch on a bunch of carrots with hummus mid day.  Protein balls have become a mainstay during my work days.  I can eat one or two really fast, and know that I am filling up on quality, not feeding my sugar cravings with a store bought granola bar.

You basically need a protein source - protein powder works great, but natural sugar free peanut butter or nuts/seeds is also an option. You can even use mashed black beans!  Then mix in some binding agents, such as chia, oats, coconut oil, peanut butter works here too.  Next add flavorings such as cocoa powder, coconut, fruit, cacao nibs, vanilla, or peppermint.  Sweeteners are optional - I do not add any to mine, but a bit of maple syrup, honey, dates or stevia might satisfy a sweet tooth. Finally mix it up with almond milk, cold coffee, juice or even water.  Mix it to a good consistency, roll them into 1 inch balls, and set them in the freezer for 15 minutes.  You can then store them in the fridge or freezer, and they are ready to grab one or two for a morning or afternoon snack.

Here is a simple recipe to get you started, and then just play with different ingredients from there:

1 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup oatbran (or 1/4 cup ground flax, or chia)
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
3 scoops chocolate protein powder
1/4 cup coconut oil - melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup almond or coconut milk
optional - add 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Mix in a bowl, form into balls, and voila!  You can dip these in melted chocolate if you like.
Best to set in freezer for 15 minutes before dipping.

You can change up this recipe by adding peanut butter, seeds, fruit pieces, taking out the cocoa powder and using vanilla protein powder in stead of chocolate.  Adding cinnamon or other spices.
The options are endless.






Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Diffuse Your Way to a Better Day - Simple Health Idea # 5

Diffusing is a wonderful, chemical free way to make your house smell amazing.  It can help deodorize the air, eliminating unpleasant smells, or create a certain mood - be it uplifting, calming, relaxing, happy, energizing, romantic, and the list goes on!

Smells can trigger emotions and memories, so diffusing certain scents can remind you of childhood memories, or can create new memories for you!  For example, let's say you are away on a relaxing weekend, and take your diffuser along, adding a calming combination such as lavender and bergamot oils.  After running the diffuser while being chill and experiencing the peace and calm of  your environment, the memory of the moment becomes infused in your brain. Then the next time you smell either the combination, or even one or the other of the oils, your mind will replay the embedded memory, and you might just feel peaceful and chilled, even in the middle of a busy day!

Cool hey!

My son now has a diffuser in his bedroom, and turns it on for about 10 minutes before bed.  He loves the combination of lavender and cedarwood, and it settles him down before bed.  We even had to pack it to the hotel on our hockey tournament last weekend.  At the end of the night we had a half dozen kids in our room all on the bed chillin' while the diffuser ran.  So funny.

I love diffusing peppermint and lime while I work out in my basement, as I find it invigorating. Oils like balsam fir and black spruce added to the mix make me feel like I am outside running when I'm actually on the treadmill.  Citrus oils can be uplifting, as can oils such as Joy (obviously, the name tells you so), Valor and Purification.  For a more relaxing experience, try lavender, ylang ylang, frankincense, or oils such as Peace and Calming (again, the name says it all) and geranium.

There are so many other oils to choose from, I have simply given a couple of examples.  The best way to try diffusing is to get yourself a diffuser, and some good quality oils.  I use the Young Living brand, as they are 100 percent therapeutic grade oils, and the company follows very strict growing and harvesting procedures to ensure quality product.

If you are interested in learning more about these oils, you can do so here: www.denisemackinnon.com

Please note that I do have a financial interest in this company, and that the information in this blog is for entertainment purposes only.  It is not meant to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any condition.  Please seek medical advice for any health conditions.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Running Free

I just finished the best run of my life.
Fastest time?  No.
Longest distance? Not even close.
Great time with friends? Nope.
Best view I've ever seen? I did stop to enjoy it, but I've seen better.

So what was so amazing about it then, you might be wondering.

I ran free.  Free from a fitbit, Garmin watch, heart rate monitor, iphone running apps, faster running partners, chatty friends, slower running partners, ipod, walkman (ha ha - remember those?!)  I didn't even look at the clock on the wall before I left.

It was just me and my dog, running free in the snow covered trails.

As runners, we can get a bit neurotic about all things running.  What is our pace per minute?  Am I in my target heart rate?  Why can that person always run faster than me on the uphills?  How can chatty Kathy be carrying on a conversation right now when I have blown a lung?  I need to train harder, I need to do more sprint intervals, I need to add another running day, I need to do a marathon, or a faster marathon.  I run so much, why don't I look like her yet?

If we run 7.58 km, we have to run around the block a couple of times until our device reads an even 8 km. If we are running the trails at a slower pace, we need to do a road run to prove that we can still come in at our "fast" time.  If someone wants to do a run that is less than 5 km, we think, "well what the heck is the point in lacing up my shoes?"

I purposely ran a trail that I know is less than 5 km today.  Yup, it was short, and no, I didn't go around the block to top it up.  I walked a couple of snowy slippery sections, and I think I even walked one that was clear, just because I felt like it.  I stopped to pet the dog.  I stopped to look at the ice and snow covered lake.  I called the dog twice, and other than that didn't say a word.  I listened to the snow falling off the trees. I listened to the silence. I ran mindlessly, thinking about nothing, running through the mud puddles and feeling the crunch and squelch of the snow beneath my feet.  I ran free.