Fit and Focused

There are numerous reasons to insert more movement into our daily lives.  While many of these reasons relate to improved physical capacity, exercise has become increasingly linked to better cognitive function.  Is it time to put the whole “meathead” idea to rest?

Not necessarily.  Those who exercise actually do have meatier heads or, more specifically, brains.  Exercise increases the number of brain cells in the hippocampus, known as the memory center of the brain.  Those who are more physically oriented may actually, whether conscious of it or not,  continually increase their cognitive capacity.

Though multitasking does not always behoove us, it might make sense to double up in the case of the hippocampus.  If exercise spurs the brain to create new cells and learning new things helps them become permanent additions, wouldn’t it be interesting to try both at the same time?

The following are a few ideas to gain some mass (in your hippocampus, that is…..):

-Build Your Brain With Balance:  Stability is preferable in many areas (relationships, finances, the foundation of the house you live in…) but you may want to get off-kilter with your exercise.  Choose forms that challenge your balance in a safe way to maximize benefit and minimize risk.  Yoga and Tai Chi are great options, but even standing on one foot while brushing your teeth could do.  Bonus: you may even increase spatial cognition.

-Be a Dancing Hippo(campus):  What better exercise is there than dance to help you work up a sweat and use your memory?  Freestyle is fun, but to get the more brain-boosting benefits try a class that keeps you focused on picking up new choreography.  Might as well cop moves like Justin Timberlake and get a mind like Einstein….

-Age Gracefully with Agility:  My clients know my love for speed ladder drills all too well.  Though they work wonders on a tennis game, agility exercises can up your mental game as well.  Anyone who had ever seen a border collie get distracted while running through an agility course knows these exercises require extreme focus.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

T focused….or practicing Zoolander’s “Blue Steel”…



Feeling Good, Frugally

There is a misconception surrounding the wellness world that true health is only for the elite.  Sure, you could spend a significant amount of your income on fancy workout clothing and juice cleanses, but in my experience it isn’t necessary.  Sometimes the best remedies are the simplest.

Last week we took off to Florida to visit family and get some vitamin D.  While staying in the Palm Beach area, we treated ourselves to some local vegan fare.  From algae to activated charcoal, crazy stuff started making its way into my smoothies.  At first I was delighted to try some new things, but after a few days it began to get old.  I love goji berries and maca powder as much as the next girl, but there is something to be said for getting back to basics.

On our last day there, we decided to take T out to lunch at a place that was decidedly not for kids.  Just as I was getting comfortable with my collard wrap and ostensibly blending in with the West Palm locals, he proceeded to knock his alkaline water off the very white table and onto the pristine bamboo floor.  His organic and local green smoothie soon followed.  As I mopped up both with sustainably sourced paper napkins, I knew the jig was up.  It’s impossible to fake swanky whilst crawling around under a table mopping up green goo.

Though I would never resist if forced aboard a private plane and whisked off to yoga camp, I recognize that simple day to day habits are the true foundation of health .  The following are three ways to indulge your senses without breaking the bank (or even spending a penny!):

-Go Wild: Spending time outdoors is a much needed but often overlooked health habit.  Motivation for a walk through the woods may come more readily in springtime, but with benefits like lower anxiety and increased immunity it may be worthwhile to don that parka and embrace a winter wonderland.

-Wake Up and Stretch the Body: In this post I touched on the benefits of yin style yoga, but any movement will do.  As we sleep, “fuzz” grows between the sliding surfaces of muscles which makes us feel stiff.  Movement, particularly stretching, is a great way to alleviate stiffness and keep fuzz from accumulating.

-Stop and Sniff the Oil: Ever inhale a particular smell and get sent back in time?  Our sense of smell is linked more closely with memory than any other sense.  Inhaling essential oils can generate a potent brain response.  If you are really strapped for cash, simmering a cinnamon stick in water on the stove or inhaling the steam of your favorite herbal tea will do.  Find a scent you like to inspire when you need a pick-me-up.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

T prefers surf and sand to a high class juice bar any day….

Two Balls in a Pod

Whether or not you happen to be part of a couple right now, these balls are for you (that’s what she said?  He said? Sorry, we’ve been watching The Office on Netflix after T goes to bed lately….).  Since this week was punctuated by me and J’s 9 year anniversary followed by Valentine’s day, a treat was in order.  In case you were wondering, semi-eloping to Key West with 13 of your closest is a great excuse to evacuate Chicago mid-February.  We may have been young and in love, but we weren’t dumb.

J’s been digging walnuts and dates as a pre-workout snack.  I wanted to make him something sweet without cramping his healthy style.  Consequently, these balls have just two ingredients!  You guessed it, walnuts and dates.  I did roll them in a bit of coconut to make them look fancy but if you are good with casual balls (there must be a joke in there somewhere….) walnuts and dates are all you’ll need.  Give yourself or someone else a little love this weekend and roll up some (healthy!) sweet treats!


-1.5 cups raw walnuts

-1.5 cups Deglet Noor or other date of choice, pitted

To make:

-Place dates and walnuts in food processor.  Process until blended and sticky.

-Roll mixture into ping pong sized balls.

-Chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes (the balls, not you).

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

Just a couple of peas in a pod balls on a counter….

Three Fringe Books for Healing

Remember the old saying “What’s right isn’t always popular, and what’s popular isn’t always right?”  Once applicable in kindergarten, it may still ring true in adulthood when it comes to health and healing.  Sometimes it’s useful to veer off the beaten path and see things from a different perspective to find the answers that you seek.

The following are three books that have proven helpful in my own healing journey and those of my clients.  Though they are not exactly trending, they do contain some science-backed information for overcoming chronic health challenges and feeling better in and about your body:

1.) How Not to Die: The title of this book always gets a chuckle.  Note it is a play on words.  This book does not have the answer on how to become immortal (but if I do find a book that does I will be sure to let you know….).  It does, however, reveal diet and lifestyle changes that can prevent and even reverse many chronic conditions.

2.) Trust Your Gut: According the the American Nutrition Association, over 70,000,000 people everyday suffer from digestive issues.  The microbiome is oh-so-hot right now and while this book touches on that topic, it also ties in how the brain impacts the gut and vice versa.  Gut issues can be complex, and this book looks at them several different angles.

3.) The Pleasure Trap:  This books takes an in depth look at our how our biology effects our drives and, consequently, our choices.  Written by two doctors who have helped many reverse disease with lifestyle medicine, it’s particularly helpful if you are interested in issues related to high blood pressure and heart disease.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

T thinks reading colorfully illustrated books with a giant teddy bear is healing…I might have to agree….