This week was a busy one for me, with company over for dinner on the weekend, and doing a lot of work to get caught up on the Science of Well-being course from Yale. It’s one of those weeks that’s a blur because it goes by so fast but leaves you with a satisfied accomplished feeling. It was one of those rare weeks where I rode the wave of chaos to shore and didn’t get tumbled into corals along the way. I don’t have those kinds of weeks often, so I’m going to pat myself on the back without shame.
I struggle with keeping my daily fitness and health routines going strong on the weekends. Suddenly all of the family is home from work and school, and I fall into that momma mode. You know the one, where everyone else’s business gets prioritized in front of your own? Well not this weekend. I locked myself in my office with a “Mom is busy, go ask dad!” sign on the door and got so much done. On top of that I maintained my meditations for the Mindfulness Program, drank all of my liquids for the Thyroid Rehab Program’s Heavy Metal Detox, and even squeezed in my Fit & Fierce workouts and daily plank challenges.
I feel like I should get a medal or something. Seriously.
Let’s take a closer look at some of what I accomplished this week.
KEGEL PELVIC REBUILDING EXERCISE
I learned a new exercise this weekend that has me working muscles I’ve never focused on before – my pelvic floor. After four kids, my pelvic floor is more like tattered old sheets of plywood, so I needed this exercise in my life.
Honestly, I don’t know what to call it. I’m sure somewhere out there is a technical name for it. I’m going to call it “Crotch Crunches” instead. Here’s how it’s done.
Breathe in, and let your pelvic floor and lower belly expand without restraint. Just let them go willy nilly.
On the exhale you want to (and do this in the right order or you won’t get the same effects) squeeze your Kegel muscles, pull them up and into your lower abdomen while you lift your lower belly up and into your navel.
You want to repeat the inhale and exhale with the squeezing and lifting as I’ve described over and over until you can’t anymore. At first I was doing 30 at a time, now I’m up to 60. The key is to pair the movements with your breathing.
If you’re not sure what your Kegel muscles are, imagine you sit on a candle and are holding it up in your vagina. Squeeze it. Those muscles that are doing the squeezing are you Kegel muscles. When I was pregnant with my twins the doctors had me do Kegel exercises on the toilet. You start to go like usual, but then before you’re finished you squeeze and stop the flow of your urine. Holding it for a few seconds, and then letting it go. Those Kegel muscles work with your pelvic diaphragm to keep everything in place in your lower abdomen. They sell weights now that you can carry in your vagina for set lengths of time that also work the same muscles.
Any woman who’s had a baby or two can testify that our pelvic diaphragm takes a beating after our kids are born. That part of our body is the foundation of the strength for the rest of our core muscles, so don’t neglect yours.
THE SCIENCE OF WELL-BEING COURSE: YALE UNIVERSITY
You may remember me talking about this course last week. I signed up for the course right before we went on spring break vacation. I watched the first week’s introductory videos and didn’t feel hugely compelled by what I saw. While I was on vacation I decided that I just wasn’t going to complete the course. It didn’t hold enough interest for me to be concerned about it. Over a week after we came home I decided to take one last look at it before walking away forever. Boy am I glad I did!
By that point I was helplessly behind the class and had WEEKS of catching up to do. I found the information the professor was giving us helpful and informative. I knew there were things I was missing along my journey to whole well-being, and she was checking a lot of boxes for me. So I persevered.
Over the course of the next few weeks did I not only catch up but actually finished the class on time!
She really saved the best for last. The last week or two of class she started teaching us how to turn the knowledge we’d gained into concrete action plans that will improve our well-being. We ended the last week learning about something called the WOOP method. I really believe it’s going to be revelatory to the mindset and life-changes that I’m making and plan to write a full in-depth article on it shortly. It’s described as:
“WOOP IS A PRACTICAL, ACCESSIBLE, EVIDENCE-BASED MENTAL STRATEGY THAT PEOPLE CAN USE TO FIND AND FULFILL THEIR WISHES AND CHANGE THEIR HABITS.”
WOOP is an acronym for Wish, Outcome, Obstacles and Plan. It utilizes the automatic processes in our brains to help us evaluate, overcome and plan for the things we want most in our lives. It’s been proven to be effective regardless of social strata, age, or background. They have a website and an app if you want to learn more. Check out WOOPMYLIFE.ORG
The well-being course was illuminating to me, in so far as understanding why the things we think we want won’t really make us happy, what we should really be wanting, and how our brains are working against us in specific ways. I have over 25 pages of typed notes I took during the course and in the coming weeks I’ll be curating those pages and disseminating some of what I learned into useful and attainable processes and goals I’m going to share with you here on the site, so look for that.
THE MINDFULNESS PROGRAM
I’m officially on my final week of the Mindfulness Program I’ve been reviewing weekly for you over the last seven weeks. In fact week seven’s review should go up on the site sometime today. I’m going to miss that program, and have genuinely enjoyed the processes the authors have asked of me and the benefits in my life I’ve seen.
An interesting synchronicity. Last week in the well-being course we learned why weekly meditations are a key factor to being happier. I could elaborate, but the gist of it is that when we’re not focused on a task our brains snap automatically into their default mode. The default mode fires up the part of our brains that have to do with the past, the future, and contemplating what other people are thinking. So if you’re sitting there and are supposed to be doing homework and your mind wanders, it’s typically to things like what you’ll have for dinner, what happened when you were 12 or what your neighbor is doing. That’s not accidental, it’s neuroscience. People whose minds wander the most are typically less happy in general. One of the side effects of a regular meditative practice is that your brain shuts off this default mode, even when you’re not meditating. You’ve trained your brain to be more present in the present moment, and you’re happier overall because of it.
Because of the wonderful benefits, changes in mindset, and increased overall feelings of well-being I’ve experienced from my mindfulness course I’m planning on continuing a regular meditation practice. I also just bought a new book on mindfulness to keep it fresh in my mind and perhaps teach me even more on the principals. I can’t wait to read it!
FIT AND FIERCE PROGRAM
I have completed my first week of the Fit & Fierce fitness program I signed up for. I’ll be honest, I’m on the fence about it. The warmups are too abbreviated, and even with a cool down afterward I’m finding my muscles and body sore and uncomfortable. I do like that she’s using yoga poses as the core of the workout. I’m not finding the same benefits to my body as my regular yoga practices, however.
There is a self-satisfaction about getting a workout done every day. I also like to finish what I start. So I’m going to stick with it until the 21 days are over. I don’t, at this point, see myself returning to the program in the future to do over and over like some of the reviewers said they had done. If anything changes, I’ll let you know.
MISSING TARA LEE’S YOGA FLOWS
All of these aches and pains make me miss my Tara Lee. I’ve tried quite a few different yoga flows, by different yoga teachers on DVD, TV and online. My favorite has got to be Tara Lee. Her flows feel like self-care. I feel worked after I finish them, but never defeated. They make me loose, flexible and smiling. They make my aches and pains go away. I need my Tara Lee.
The problem I have at the moment is that I’m overscheduled and only have time for one workout a day, which I’ve committed to the Fit & Fierce workouts. I’ve gotten to the point, however, that I’m going to have to scramble something, and soon, into my schedule to fit Tara Lee back in. I need my body to feel long, loose, lean and loved again.
I wish I lived in London again. I’d be in Tara Lee’s studio every single day of my life. Sigh.
If you’re interested, she’s got a series of DVDs for sale on Amazon. I have her Elements Collection, and never get bored. I can do a different element every single day, and each element has three practices increasing in difficulty. So I can tailor what my body needs and is capable of doing day-to-day.
21 DAY PLANK CHALLENGE
I underestimated the benefits of this plank challenge. I thought of it as a quick way to keep a laser focus on my abs, which are my least favorite part of my body right now. Little did I know that the twice-a-day planks would make such a difference. My abs are tighter, with more definition. I feel like my core is stronger, which is always a good thing. This challenge is something I’d suggest for others to try. You can find more info on my site under fitness. I’m on week 2 and we’re finally getting into the different kinds of planks to try, which I’m enjoying.
HEAVY METAL DETOX
The good news is that my detox symptoms have finally gone away! I’m on week three, and kicking along just fine. I did change the recipe for the smoothie. With the original recipe the size of the smoothie was just way too big. It was 30 ounces. And the consistency was terrible. I had to chew every bite, no matter how long I blended the mix for. Also, the taste was just gross. So I read an article by the author on what ingredients are the active ones, and how much of each we need to make sure we’re getting, and cut back the recipe from there. The recipe I’m making now is:
1 tspn spirulina
1 tspn barley grass powder
1 tblspn Atlantic dulse flakes
1 C cilantro
2 Cups wild blueberries
½ coconut milk / ½ filtered water mixture to get the right consistency.
The flavor is better, the consistency is better, and it’s about 24 ounces overall. It’s more like a drink than a meal and I look forward to my smoothie now.
Next week is my last week for these smoothies and then I shift gears into the Thyroid Rehab Program Choice C. Look for an article on what that will look like in the next week or so, so that anyone who’s following along on the program with me has time to prepare before we kickoff our FINAL 30 DAYS!
LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE
I always aim to post at least one original article to the site every week. Last week I started writing an article on “Tips for Starting a Healthier Lifestyle if You’re Overweight or Ill.”
I started writing and just kept going. At present the article is over 20 pages long, which is WAY too long. So I’ve decided to split the article into a series of articles. The series will cover “Motivation and Mindset: Staying Strong While Being Gentle,” “Nutrition and Healthy Eating,” “Fitness,” and “Mental Modalities.” I’m really excited to get this out to all of you, and the first sections are ready to roll out. So look for those in the next couple of days. I sincerely hope that this series is going to help people change their lives for the better, which is always my hope and purpose.
I am doing an interview with a professional cross-fit athlete in the near future, and I’m excited to get that to you. She’s one of those people that’s always left me in awe. She is a force of nature in the extent and depth of her energy, her motivation and her spirit. She’s a truly good person, with a strong faith, and a loving supportive family. Her journey is epic, and so is her heart. Stay tuned and keep an eye out for that in the near future. I’m really excited about it.
KALE ISN’T TERRIBLE!
Kale is one of those foods that I know is really good for me, but I’ve been too afraid to try it. Everyone says it’s bitter and disgusting. Well, last night I finally put my big girl pants on and cooked some up. The verdict? It’s GOOD! Not a little good, it was REALLY GOOD! Maybe I lucked out and found the perfect recipe right out of the gate? I don’t know, but I decided to post it here with a link to the original so anyone can make it. I did make a few changes. I added more garlic, and minced it instead of dicing it. I omitted the red-pepper flakes. No reason, I just didn’t see them in the recipe when I was cooking it. Lastly I used white-wine vinegar instead of red. Try this recipe, it’s delicious!
Sautéed Kale Recipe
¼ C Extra-virgin Olive Oil
3+ Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Large Bunch Kale, Stemmed, Leaves Coarsely Chopped
½ C Vegetable or Chicken Stock
Salt, Pepper and Red-Pepper Flakes to Taste
2 Tbsps. Red (or White) Wine Vinegar
- Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add garlic, and cook until soft and aromatic.
2. Add kale to the pan, turn the heat to high and add the stock. Use a spoon to toss the greens in the oil and stock, then cover and cook for approximately 5 to 7 minutes (or longer), until it is soft and wilted, but still quite green. Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until all the liquid has evaporated, around 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and peppers, add vinegar and toss to combine.
That’s it for last week for me. A truly great week with a lot of self-growth. The week ahead has me finishing my last week of the Mindfulness Program. Look for week seven’s review on the site sometime later today.
I’m going to work more with the WOOP Method I discussed previously. I want to try it a few more times, and really get the method down in my mind. The author says that the method becomes addictive, and can be used in so many helpful ways. I’m all for tools that help clarify my path and help me make better decisions.
Speaking of Tara Lee, I ordered her two newest DVDs and will be making concrete changes to my days to get her yoga flows worked into my day sometime very soon. I will keep you updated on how that goes, and what I think of her new videos.
I’m rolling out the first in the Tips for A Healthier Life Series in the next day or so, so look for that.
I’m going to be working on a plan to implement regular daily meditations into my schedule and also a daily gratitude journal. If I learn anything from the experience I’ll be sure to share it with you.
I recently heard about a fantastic new fitness-social connectedness charity that’s local to Denver (but growing nationally) and near and dear to my heart. I’m going to be putting something together this week so that I can share their message and hopefully help them grow their audience so they can help the people in their care even more. I won’t say more about it, but you’ll know it when you see it. So keep an eye out for that.
My health goals include continuing with my daily Fit & Fierce workouts, my daily plank challenges, and my heavy metal detoxing. I’m also going to be on the lookout for my next workout program once the Fit & Fierce program is finished. Or I may go back to designing mine own again, like I’d done before Spring Break. I was onto something there, and don’t want to abandon the idea completely. As always, I’ll post whatever I come up with so others can follow along with me.
As always, much gratitude to you all for spending your time with me. Time is gold, and I’m humbled that you share yours with me. I hope for you to have a week full of sunshine, smiles, peace and love.