Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: Go With the Flow

Here’s another one for the ladies, but guys with women in their lives could benefit from taking a read as well!

In a go-go-go and largely patriarchal culture, a woman’s period is more often thought of as a nuisance than a spiritual gift.  It is common to pop in a tampon, down some Midol with a large cup of coffee, and go about our business on Day 1 rather than rest and reflect.  Most of us learn so little about our cycle that we have no idea how to care for ourselves during different phases, let alone what these phases are.  What if instead of looking at menstruation as a disability we appreciated what it represents? What if instead of looking at menopause as ostensibly being put out to pasture we recognized it as a time when a woman can truly step into her wisdom and power? Fighting with the natural cycles of life can be exhausting.  Like the seasons or our own circadian rhythm, we can benefit physically and mentally from acknowledging the truth of what we need.

So what is a woman with a job, family, and all the other trappings of modern day life supposed to do?  It isn’t necessary to retire to the “red tent” (although I’ll admit, some months this does sound rather appealing…).  Read the following tips to make subtle changes to rock your feminine nature:

-Consider knowing your body a political act:  How much of our power can we actually step into when we don’t know the basic anatomy and processes of our own bodies? Instead of buying into the shame culture that views women’s bodies as scary and unpredictable, realize that humanity wouldn’t exist if you didn’t bleed every month. Knowledge is the key to power and when we can look at ourselves with interest rather than apprehension the change we feel internally can echo globally.

-Take note: There are plenty of online charts and apps that can help you track your cycle.  Keep track of where you are and take notes so you can better understand and respond to monthly fluctuations.

-Adjust your routine: While it may not be realistic to shirk all responsibility, think about where you might be able to ease up at certain times of the month.  Conversely, utilize the more energetic phases to move projects forward, accomplish goals, and be more forthcoming with others.

For more resources to apply the ideas above, visit the Joyful Gym Rat on Facebook and Twitter

Ebb and flow, photo credit again this week goes to my mom!


Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: Take Comfort in Discomfort

In last week’s post I referred to the SAID principal, the gist being our muscles change to adapt to the new demands placed upon them.  This week I’ll be diving a bit deeper into the reasons you want your workout to make you a little uncomfortable, at least some of the time.

We are all tempted to do more of what we are good at and less of what we are not.  Be it a yoga pose or recipe, the ego likes the feeling of being superior.  And this isn’t always a bad thing.  Sometimes we need a little pick me up and going to a class where we know we can ace the workout and everything feels totally smooth fits the bill.  The problem is when that becomes our entire regimen.  When we stop challenging ourselves we stop growing.  The same can be said for our muscles.

Think about your current routine.  When was the last time you tried something new, moved in a different way, or felt truly challenged by the task before you?  If nothing comes to mind check out the following tips and see if you can incorporate at least one into your workout life.  Your mind and your muscles will thank you.

-Remember the 80/20 rule:  You may have heard of this before in regards to diet.  I like to think of it in terms of a workout plan.  80% of the time focus on simply moving your body in a way that feels good to you.  20% of the time do something that pushes you outside of your comfort zone.  Are you someone who loves lifting weights but shivers at the thought of stepping into a yoga class?  Challenge yourself to practice one morning a week.  Does going to the gym mean 30 minutes on the elliptical?  Start venturing into the weight room after a few of your sweat sessions.

-Find the beauty in “beginner’s mind”:  Fear of failure or embarrassment can make our lives very small.  Have you ever wanted to take up a new sport or learn a new skill but didn’t want to suffer through the inevitable growing pains?  In fitness as in life it is necessary to start at the beginning.  Remain open to the experience without judging yourself or worrying about others judging you.  As I am always telling my clients “just give it a shot.” Exercise is all about testing your body.  Instead of getting caught up in what you think you should be able to do, think of your workout as taking your body out for a spin.  Have fun with it.  Be patient.  Get curious.  We didn’t come out of the womb walking like champs.  It takes time to acquire new skills and abilities.  Put this together with the fact that our bodies are in a constant state of flux and it is truly amazing that we can perform any physical task consistently day to day.  Start from where you are and realize that what challenges you one day might be different the next.

-Let boredom be your guide:  Do you find yourself looking forward to your workouts or dreading another 30 minutes schlepping along on the treadmill?  If your comfort zone has become a dull zone it may be time to rethink your routine.  Like I mentioned above, consistency is fine but even the most avid walker needs a change now and then.  Our bodies are capable of so much, why chain yourself to one way of working out?  Adding a bit of strength training can freshen up a cardio routine and make you feel muscles in a way you haven’t before.   Practicing yoga can literally breathe new life into a strength training routine by fostering breath control and increased movement quality.  There is no one right way to work out.  Even better, different modalities compliment each other to create a rich, well rounded routine.

Need a little more to get you motivated?  Read on:


My Health Hero(es)

T gets knocked down…
but he gets up again, you are never gonna keep him down….
IMG_1269 2
You’ve come so far in a year, happy second birthday T!!!!
Plant Based Preparations, Tasty Tuesday

Tasty Tuesday Plant Based Preparations: Power Pops!

Power puddings and smoothie bowls are staples in our house all year long.  When Virginia summers call for something even cooler the answer is simple: pops!  The pudding pops below are a great way to use up ripe avocados.  Why carob?  I started using this alternative since the raw cacao I buy contains theobromine, a  stimulant I enjoy in the morning but not so much at night (also T never needs extra stimulation so carob is great for him!).  It has a natural sweetness and requires less additional sweetener than raw cocao or cocoa powder when used in recipes. Maca is very nourishing and has a positive effect on hormonal balance.  Its flavor profile is often described as a cross between malt and caramel which blends nicely with chocolate, or chocolate-like carob.

Carob Pudding Pops


1/2 cup carob powder (or cocoa powder)

1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk (I like organic unsweetened soy milk)

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 ripe avocados

Sweetener to taste (I use 3 drops liquid stevia but maple syrup would also work)

1 tbsp maca powder (optional)

Blend all ingredients in food processor or high powered blender until very smooth.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 6 hours.


Curious about a whole foods plant based diet?  Visit the Joyful Gym Rat on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest research and recipe ideas.

Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: Give Yourself Some Space

Light, airy, open, free….how do these words make you feel?  In modern day life it’s easy to feel weighed down.  Maybe that’s why the idea of minimalism has been popping up more and more in books, on television, and on social media.  For the unfamiliar, minimalism might conjure images of tiny homes and feelings of lack but it doesn’t necessitate either of those things.   My favorite definition of minimalism is keeping what truly matters while letting go of all the rest.  This could apply to items in your home, obligations, relationships….for the purpose of this post we will keep the focus on physical stuff.

Practicing a bit of minimalism allows you to sift through the debris that has built up over the years and find the gold.  What does minimalism have to do with wellness? Simplifying, whether it be pairing down your shoe collection or cleaning out your cupboards, has been proven to make humans happier.  People often suffer from something called decision fatigue.  From the time we get up to the time we go to bed we make a million tiny decisions.  Unfortunately, we only have a finite amount of brain power to do so.  Pairing down the number of choices we make in a day, whether it be what shoes to wear to work or what to eat for breakfast, can save more brain power for the important stuff.  It can also alleviate the stress that comes from fear of making the wrong choice.  Aside from the decision fatigue theory, creating more open space in your life allows for more flexibility, focus, and freedom.

Curious about how to begin?  Here are a few simple ideas to play with at home:

Create wide open spaces: Even in the smallest of apartments, room to move is crucial for overall comfort.  Constantly bumping into large pieces of furniture or tripping over shoes makes for a stressful environment.  See where you can minimize to create more open space.  Do you really need a full size sofa or could you do with a love seat?  Can that stool double as an end table?  Online groups like Buy Nothing will even come to your home and remove large items like furniture for free.  As a bonus, you’ll have more room for striking a yoga pose or having spontaneous dance parties.

Consider your counters:  Does making a meal in your kitchen make you feel crazy? Cluttered counters are less than inviting and can be one more reason not to cook healthy meals at home.  Keeping only what is essential on the countertop is one way to free up space.  If it’s used every day, keep it out.  If it’s not, store it in a cupboard.

Test out your resolve: Hesitant to clean out your closet for fear of getting rid of something you might miss one day?  Take a test run.  Pack up what you think you might want to give away and put it in the trunk of your car for a week or two.  If you miss it, take it back out.  If you don’t, drive it over to the Salvation Army or some other such charity where it can do some good.

You don’t have to dive in head first.  Dip your toes in and practice minimalism minimally to see what it can do for you.

For more info follow the Joyful Gym Rat on Facebook and Twitter

Free as a bird!  Photo Credit: my mom.  Isn’t she talented?



Fitness Friday, Movement and Motivation

Fitness Friday: Women and Weights

Ladies, this one is for you (guys are also welcome to read, some of this may resonate with you too!)  I am addressing ladies in particular because all too often women want to work with me but are afraid of lifting weights.  Sometimes this is due to fear of injury, but most of the time they have a fear of “bulking up”.  Being afraid of getting injured is perfectly understandable and a great reason to seek out a certified personal trainer. Being afraid of “bulking up” is sadly also understandable in a culture where the ideal female aesthetic vacillates between malnourished runway model and reality TV bombshell.  Truth be told I’m not sure that exercise for purely aesthetic reasons ever works in the long term.  At best, it can be a gateway to discovering the true power of working out: realizing our inherent strength.

We bleed for a week every month and don’t die.  We push babies the size of watermelons out of our nether regions.  We create life inside our bodies, and yet, we are afraid of creating stronger muscles to support our joints.  We would deny ourselves the ability of being strong enough to defend against predators in order to fit a societal mold.  We work out to become smaller rather than to become more of who we are.  Seems pretty silly, doesn’t it?

Now I am not inferring that you need to take on Arnold Schwarzenegger-like proportions to make your strong outsides match your strong insides (of course, if that is your thing, go for it!)  What most of us need is a well rounded training program to challenge our muscles and inspire growth.  If you are interested in becoming physically stronger read the following tips to get you started.

Remember the SAID principal: SAID is and acronym for specific adaptation to imposed demand.  Simply put, our muscles are super at adapting (i.e. getting stronger) when we give them a reason to do so.  To produce change we must push them to a point that is challenging.  If you are using a weight that you could lift all day long you might consider raising the weight until you feel close to complete fatigue by the end of a set.

Put the fun in functional: Functional training is a type of strength training that mimics actions we use in every day life.  This type of training works equally well for competitive athletes and average joes.  It utilizes movements like pushing, pulling, squatting, and core stabilization to help the body become more structurally sound.  Consult a trainer to put together a well rounded routine that works for your specific lifestyle.

Look at the whole picture: For most people it takes a lot to “bulk up”.  Excessive training regimens, supplements, and often illegal steroids create much of the body builder look we associate with weight lifting.  Strength training should be looked at as just one component of an overall healthy lifestyle.  Instead of being afraid of bulking up, consider all the benefits of becoming stronger.  Healthier joints, stronger bones, greater ease completing every day physical tasks, and hormonal balance are just a few.  You don’t need to spend all day in the gym.  Simple exercises like squats, pushups off a wall or counter, and planks can be a good start.

Interested in reading more?  Check out the articles below:

Physical Strain Improves Your Brain

Strength Training

Still want more?  Follow the Joyful Gym Rat on Facebook

Speaking of strong females, how jacked does Dee look in this picture?