Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: Mindfulness Made Easy

The words “mindfulness practice” tend to conjure up visions of robed monks upon a mountain top in silent meditation.  Though that is one way to do it,  I’m assuming if you are reading this blog that isn’t your life (or if I am wrong and it is, that’s great!  Thanks for using what little internet access you have to read this post….).

A meditation practice is an amazing way to gradually train the brain towards calm and focus, but in the midst of day-to-day life there are plenty of quick ways to reconnect with your center.  The following are a few simple tricks to practice, no meditation cushion needed:

-Take a Deep Breath: We all find ourselves spinning out from time to time.  Situations we view as stressful excite the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and can result in reactive behavior.  Simply taking a deep breath (or 10, or 15….) is a simple way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) before things spiral out of control.  This allows for access to conscious action instead of knee jerk reaction.

-Feel Your Feet on the Ground: Stress tends to sever the connection we have with our bodies and the earth.  If you’ve ever used the phrase “I’m too in my head!” you know what I mean.  When caught in a situation that makes you nervous, bring attention to feeling your feet on the ground.  It’s a quick way to reconnect to your body and will usually make you feel more grounded, both figuratively and literally.

-Tap it Out: Lightly tapping the area on the breastbone at the bottom of the neck, just below the hollow of the throat, is thought to stimulate the thymus gland.  When done consistently, it can promote strength and vitality and increase your overall sense of well being.  15-20 seconds a few times a day has been shown to be helpful in managing stress.

For more ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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T finding his center……

 

Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: It’s the Little Things

The little things we do everyday can make a big impact.  I spend a good deal of time helping people move more comfortably.  Most of my clients want to climb stairs or crawl around on the floor with their grandkids.  They are less interested in mountain climbing and endurance sports (well, aside from babysitting toddler grandkids which could definitely be considered a type of endurance sport….).

Fitness goals are often thought of as grand.  Climbing Mt. Rainier or running an ultramarathon are fine aspirations, but I believe things like climbing a ladder to clean the gutters or running after your child in a grocery store parking lot are just as important.

Kick-ass workouts are great, but truly, it’s the little things we do everyday that add up.  The following are a few skeleton-supporting exercise ideas that can make life a little easier in the long run:

-Power Up With a Plank: Take 60 seconds to plank.  Extra credit if you do so while blending a healthy green smoothie or luscious adaptogenic latte.

-Roll It Out: Keep a foam roller in the living room and roll out while you wind down with some Netflix.  Bonus points if you watch a documentary about consuming more plants (Forks Over Knives or What the Health are some good places to start).

-Make Like a Flamingo: Stand on one foot for 30 seconds 3x per day.  Bonus points if you do so while while prepping a healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner involving leafy greens.

For more fitness ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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T training Dee against her will so she can keep her puppy-like agility….
Tasty Tuesday

Tasty Tuesday: Super Seed Granola

In a past life, I may have been a bird.  That’s how much I love seeds.  Don’t get it twisted, this delicious granola is anything but bird food.  Crunchy in texture while lightly salty and sweet, it will keep you coming back to the feeder jar for more.  Seeds are the nutritional super stars of the plant based world.  The hemp, chia, sesame, and pumpkin variety used in this recipe are no exception.  It is sugar free, oil free, and gluten free if you want it to be.  It is also 100% whole foods plant based.  As if that wasn’t enough, it’s super easy to make.  Fly, don’t just walk, to your kitchen to make this super satisfying plant based treat.

Ingredients:

-1 cup medjool dates, pitted

-1/2 cup tahini + 3 tablespoons water to thin

-1 cup rolled oats (gluten free if you like)

-1 cup puffed brown rice cereal (only ingredient should be rice)

-1 cup quinoa flakes

-1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

-1/4 cup chia seeds

-1/4 cup hemp seeds

-1/4 cup shredded coconut

-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

-1 teaspoon vanilla

-1/4 teaspoon salt

To make:

-Combine dates, tahini, and water in food processor until smooth.

-Combine rest of ingredients in large bowl.

-Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix with hands until thoroughly combined.

-Spread on parchment covered baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring about every 10 minutes to prevent burning.

-Store in sealed container in fridge (if there is any left, that is).

Pro tips:

-If you like dried fruit in your granola, add it after the granola cools to preserve texture.

-If you like a sweeter granola, add some pure stevia powder to the date/tahini mixture a little at a time until desired sweetness is reached.

-Add a tablespoon of cocoa powder or carob powder along with an extra tablespoon of water to the date/tahini mixture for a chocolatey (or carobey?) treat.

For more plant based ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook

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That’s some seedy looking granola….
Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: Balancing Effort and Ease

The balance of effort and ease is a common thread that runs through every mindfulness practice.  Whether you are in seated meditation or engrossed in a sweaty yoga class, practicing mindfulness can be akin to walking on the beach.

At first glance, a walk on the beach may seem easy.  Like you may remember from this post, walking on the beach can be relaxing but also requires a certain amount of effort.  It isn’t purely work, and it isn’t purely rest.  It’s a bit of both.

The same can be said for something like meditation.  There is effort in the discipline of simply showing up.  There is a certain amount of focus required.  Paradoxically, there is the invitation to let go and let be.

During a walk on the beach, your muscles are actually working pretty hard (and maybe very hard if you are chasing after a speedy toddler….).  Your senses, however, are otherwise engaged.  Beautiful sights and a sweet salty breeze dilute sensations of muscular strain.

Sustaining a tricky yoga pose can be a similar experience.  Your quads might be burning but by focusing on the breath simultaneously, a sense of relief diffuses the discomfort.

Picking up a mindfulness practice helps perception go from black and white, to shades of gray, and maybe even technicolor if we are lucky.  Opening to all the senses allows effort and ease to work in tandem, or maybe more accurately, awakens us to the fact that they always have been.

For more ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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Mere seconds after J snapped this photo, T took off like a lightning bolt…..
Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: Benefits of Bicycling

Summer has unofficially started, and with it comes the availability of many healthy outdoor activities.  Though I’ve subbed the occasional spin class when necessary, I am by no means an avid cyclist.  In fact, I was once so intimidated by the other cyclists on the Chicago lakefront I left J in the dust miles behind me when his bike chain broke.  I was too afraid to slow down or turn my head and by the time I realized he was gone he had to hop a bus home….with his bike attached to the front.

As a fitness professional, I recognize that bicycling is a wonderful sport and do aspire to improve my skills one day.  The following are a few reasons why it’s on my to do list, and why you may consider adding it to yours:

-It’s Gentle On Your Joints: Biking a good option for those with joint pain or stiffness.  If you have sensitive hips or knees, it’s a great way to reap the benefits of exercising outdoors while keeping things low impact.  When temperatures climb and indoor exercise is more appealing, remember that most gyms have step-through upright and recumbent bikes that are very safe and accessible.

-It’s A Great Mood Booster: Cardiovascular exercise is known for it’s mood boosting properties.  Pair that with some sunshine and scenery and you are bound for some good vibrations.  Prefer to take it indoors?  Never underestimate the high you get from the combo of movement and your favorite tunes in spin class.

-It’s Superb Strength Training:  Pedaling away, especially up hill or with the resistance cranked up, builds all major muscles of the lower body.  Additionally, the core muscles work to keep you balanced and the upper body muscles help stabilize and control the handle bars.  Simultaneous cardio and strength training?  Yes please!

For more fitness ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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Ridin’ dirty….