Stroke is a life-altering event which comes unexpectedly and leaves its survivors and their families and friends in shock and disbelief. Oftentimes, it also attacks the younger population, which is often thought of as almost immune to this devastating disease: they are not, especially given the raised numbers of obesity, diabetes, smoking and high blood pressure in this group. More than 6 million of the US men and women suffered from a stroke - almost 3% of the US population!
Depending on the severity, type and exact site of the event, as well as depending on how quickly you reached the hospital once you realized you suffered from a stroke, the recovery might take shorter or longer time. 10% of survivors recover almost completely and 25% with only minor impairments.
Apart from the emotional and physical recovery, the survivor also needs to focus on their physical well-being and restoration of the physical functions, which are, oftentimes, lost or impacted as a result of the stroke. This might take months or years. Once you get a go-ahead from your physician, make sure that you communicate the type of stroke you suffered from to your personal trainer. The trainer also needs to know which types of activities your physician wants and does not want you to participate in, and why. This usually gives a trainer a great idea where to start.
Starting your training after an event is slow and takes lots of emotional courage. The first time you decide to exercise, the first longer walk, the first time you step in the gym… Committing to fitness after a stroke has to be a life-long habit. Most likely, at least in the beginning, you will work on your progress in a slightly different way than you were before the event. However, the most important is that you will work on your physical well-being (and, by the same, at prevention of any further strokes) – step by step, starting from some easy stretches, balance exercises, moves on the Pilates Reformer, and progressing towards body weight exercises, lifting some weights and using, pretty much, all the equipment available at the gym. There are plenty of ways to get you going again!
Think in terms how far you can progress and how much you can improve and take it one day at a time. Train safe and have fun – again! I believe in you!
I write this blog after coming back from a long bike ride, half of which happened to be in the pouring afternoon monsoon rain. I set out for a nice afternoon of biking without a cloud in the sight. OK, perhaps it was scorching hot and quite windy (you know, the kind of wind that does bring the rain…), but if you want it, you can do it, right? So, being really eager to go for my ride, I just made sure to have two bottles with water and electrolytes with me and went off!
Many miles into my ride, the wind picked up, and the clouds came from nowhere (even if – when I think of it – they came from behind that mountain over there!). The heat stopped being that scorching, and it was quickly replaced by heavy rain and, at one moment, hail. The wind picked up to the point I felt like it wanted to throw me off my bike.
Well, I had to get back home somehow and I decided the weather is not going to spoil my lovely afternoon biking experience. After all, what does not kill us, makes us stronger! I even have a bracelet with these words on it. So, bring on the hail and the head wind!
The rain cooled me down in, actually, a very pleasant way, and I kept imagining how the strong wind makes me stronger and my legs more powerful and efficient. I, actually, enjoyed the ride. There were almost no cars on the road, as everyone who could was waiting till the rain passes.
I reached home completely soaked, but with a big smile on my face: mission accomplished!
Then, I thought, it’d be a great topic for my blog: how to see situations which easily might become obstacles on our path to fitness as something that can, actually, help us becoming fitter. I think it applies to both the rain and heat, running in snow (which I did plenty of while leaving in Quebec) and swimming in the outside pool in December rain.
If we think of these situations as opportunities rather than obstacles, we will remove one more objection from our path to health. So, don’t let that Arizona heat keep you at home! Go out, relax and simply enjoy the nature and the fact that you can exercise! Stay Fit-Fit.
We are all so busy. It is hard to find time for exercise, even if all what we need is some 30 minutes a day, five times a week. If you can fit in more exercise, go for it, but, oftentimes, I hear how hard it is to get even this minimum of half an hour a day.
What is a gal or guy to do in order to train despite the lack of time?
Well, we need to prioritize and organize and stick to our plans! First, create a plan: which days you are ready to train, what time is the best each of these days, and write down what you are going to do, in terms of the exercise. Is it going to be a cardio or a weight lifting session? Is it going to be at a steady pace or include intervals? And then, “just” stick to your plan!
It is always good to hire a trainer. You might want to do it for the first few sessions only, or to see a trainer on a weekly basis, or, if you know your form and are familiar with the gym, you might hire them to create a training plan specifically for you. Then, in a couple of weeks, get another session, get re-evaluated and get a new training plan. Might work wonders!
While you are at this, make sure that the trainer sees your form ad that it is the correct, safe form. Last thing you want is to eagerly start a program and get injured!
Remember to make things convenient: you want to exercise at a place which is not too distant from your home. Reduce the commuting time: it will result in more visits to the gym! Find a gym which meets your expectations and standards and is not too far from your home or workplace. Only then, when you feel comfy about the distance to the place, buy the membership. Also remember: if you are into CrossFit and your gym is all about Pilates and yoga, it might not work! ;-)
While training, exercise every muscle and part of your body, but limit exercising your jaw and finger muscles! In other words, the gym is for training, not talking! Also, limit the use of your fingers: forget that phone for one hour. Leave it in the locker room. You would not believe how many people render their session ineffective by simply training – stopping to check the phone – doing a few movements more – stopping again… There is no rhythm ad there is no intensity to your session with the phone! Just give yourself a chance to exercise properly for the time you are ready to spend at the gym: be it 30 or 60 minutes or anything else. Otherwise, just stay home and keep clicking the phone buttons: do not lose your time to come for a session which won’t bring benefits to you.
One last thing, make sure to vary the intensity of whatever you are doing: strength training, cardiovascular training, anything. By varying the intensity, you increase the metabolic rate, at which your body burns calories over the 36 hours following your session. It will be, momentarily, hard, but it will result in multiplied benefits – worth to go for it!
BTW, when you train, please consider adding the weight training part: it will do wonders to your body! Just trust me!
Hi All! J I kept being asked what I am eating for the breakfast. I am being asked about all the meals, but, somehow, the breakfast attracts the most interest. Perhaps because I always say that this is the most important meal of the day, which fills us up and keeps things churning as we go with our daily activities!
OK, so, first of all, never skip your breakfast! I say this from my experience, until I was 18 years old, I was on the chubby side and my teen-mind reasoning kept directing me towards skipping the breakfast. All in hopes of weight loss, of course. Which, of course, did not happen as a result of skipping my meals!
Having said that, I have to tell you how monotonous my breakfasts are… But I really love them like this, because I like the taste a lot and they provide me with all what I need to start my day well.
Every evening, I spend a few minutes in our kitchen, preparing what my husband calls our “breakfast kit”… I get a bowl for each of us, and put some walnuts, cashews, peanuts, almonds (whole are better and this is what I put in my Better Half’s bowl, but I personally go for sliced, because I have weaker teeth than him!!!), three Brazilian nuts (enough to meet your daily requirement of selenium!), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds (for energy). All in small amounts, a few of each. At the same time, I put some steel-cut oats into a pot and pour water over them, covering overnight.
In the morning, as I bring the oats to the boiling point (and not more: the less mushy they are, the better for us!) – I mix the pre-prepared nuts with several tablespoons of 0% fat organic “Wallaby” Greek Yoghurt, and mix it all with warm oats. Then, I add some blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries of top. If I run out of them, I’d add a peach or a kiwi (with the skin) or some banana. Yum! And it keeps me full in a healthy way and satiated, so I do not start my day from feeling hungry, deprived and low-energy.
In life and in competition, we do not win at the finish line. We win as we proceed towards the finish line: by persistently taking steps towards our goals, by making daily decisions to do something healthy for ourselves rather than sleep in one hour longer, by sticking to our resolutions of eating healthy and “clean”. We win over the weeks, months and years, as we steadily progress towards our goals. We win if we are at it 24/24 and 365/365.
Sometimes, it is just so tempting to find an excuse not to exercise, not to eat healthy, and not to drink that glass of sparkle water instead of a glass of wine. As a winner, you, actually, think how to find time for exercise, you plan to shop for healthy food and you plan your healthy menu for the week. And you plan to have the wine twice a week, but not daily. You also plan for unforeseen circumstances: oftentimes, we hear an excuse about travel: “I travel, therefore I cannot eat healthy.” Yes you can. You can, if you only plan for it. If you travel by car, buy yourself a large cooler, prepare what you can at home and start from there. These days, pretty much all hotels and motels have a fridge. Or, you can keep fresh ice in your cooler and keep your foods in the cooler. If you run out of healthy foods, buy them at a local store at your destination, replenish your cooler and continue on the road! If you travel by plane, become a master at getting roasted chicken breasts past the Security, have steel-cut oats and ask the flight attendant for hot water to dilute them. Have nuts and fruits with you. Or, for those of you who use it, have your protein powder – so easy to create super healthy shakes, even on the road! I have been using all of the above tricks while I travel – from a simple overnight trip to a triathlon race to 3-week-long intercontinental endeavors. If we want, it can be done. You just need to want, set your mind at it, and… do it! Good luck, I believe in you!
No, you are not stuck with the diagnosis of hypertension for life! You do have control over what is happening to you and your body and, in many cases, you can become hypertension-free again! As I train with the hypertension-suffering trainees at my Studio, I have witnessed dozens of them lowering the doses of their anti-hypertension drugs and, actually, weaning off them (under close medical supervision of some great physicians we have in Sedona and VOC).
Usually, guys would develop high blood pressure some 10 years earlier than the gals (typically, at 45 years of age and, respectively, 55). Some of us will have a hereditary predisposition to it (thanks, dad and mom!) or are African-American, which increases the risk, too. However, the hereditary aspect is pretty much the only one you cannot control in here. The other risk factors fully depend on you and your life style:
If your body mass index indicates you are overweight, you have increased risk of high blood pressure and all the diseases which come with it. Same with your nutrition: if you do not eat clean, meaning you use processed foods, which come in colorful boxes, accompanied by an endless list of “ingredients” which sound like a list of necessities belonging rather to a chemical factory than to your kitchen, well, you run an increased risk of hypertension. Clean up your nutritional habits. Reduce your drinking habits (we talk alcoholic beverages here, not water…). Do not smoke. Exercise. Walk. Move vigorously for at least 30 minutes a day: “vigorously” meaning vigorously for you, not for Usain Bolt. All of the above will help! If you suffer from metabolic syndrome or diabetes, you are already at an increased risk of high blood pressure – and if you suffer from both, your chances at suffering from heart disease quadruple.
So, take your destiny into your own hands: once you lead a healthy life style, exercise and eat “clean”, you have a great chance to get your blood pressure under control, back to normal! This will significantly decrease the risk of heart diseases in the future, as well. Stay Fit-Fit!
As I was travelling most of June, I kept catching up on reading the books and magazines, for which I had had no time in the past months. Among others, I read “Biomarkers” by W. Evans, Ph.D. and I.H. Rosenberg, M.D., professors of nutrition and medicine at the Tufts University. This one renewed my faith in the fact that we can improve our fitness levels ad health status, regardless of our genetic load. They list 10 biomarkers of vitality, which we can improve: muscle mass, strength, basal metabolic rate (BMR), body fat percentage, aerobic capacity, blood-sugar (glucose) tolerance, cholesterol/HDL ratio, blood pressure, bone density, body ability to regulate its temperature.
Some aspects are clear: if we weight train, we improve our strength, muscle mass and power. As a result, the BMR and body fat % improve, even more so if we train aerobically (which leads to direct gains in terms of the aerobic capacity). Bone density can be helped by getting involved in some form of plyometric exercise (the simplest being the motion of rope jumping or, simply… running!). The point is to suddenly load the body (while jumping on a box, for example), which strengthens the osseous structure and diminishes the risk of osteoporosis. As I work with trainees who used to have issues with high blood pressure, I witness myself how nicely their systems respond to the increased load of exercises: I even have quite a few of them who are weaning off their high blood medication (or already did so): their bodies become more efficient, their arteries are less clogged, and their blood pressure levels stabilize. I have multiple devices at my Studio and one of them is the blood pressure monitor. In some cases, we started our fitness adventure with regular blood pressure checks: before the session, a few times during it and a few minutes after it was completed. As we progress and the trainees respond favorably to their respective training loads, they get a go-ahead from their physicians to check the levels less and less often. Their systems stabilize at a new, healthy level.
Now, you can ask me, how we can improve the glucose tolerance? Well, it declines with age – especially if we do not exercise: as the older adults gain more body fat by not training and eating some not too healthy fare, suffer from lower muscle mass as a result of not lifting weights, this tolerance diminishes. This gives us some hope, as commonly the glucose tolerance is associated with diminished ability to secrete insulin by the pancreas. If it is not exactly so and if it is also related to some factors that we can work on and which we can improve, why not? On top of that, it is proven that the risk of type 2 diabetes depends on where your body fat is stored (‘beer belly’ owners, beware!). This is yet another aspect we can work on and which is easily improvable.
This book was very uplifting and I’d recommend that you read it: it offers us a close insight into our own body systems and explains how, at the end, we have the upper hand at making sure we live a long, healthy, fit life! Once we are in control, we can do anything. It is the feeling of powerlessness which leads us to abandoning our attempts at a healthy lifestyle, making and implementing changes into our daily habits and succeeding. So, take action NOW, it is all in your hands! Stay Fit-Fit!
During the initial evaluation, some trainees tell me that they seem to be everything right in terms of their fitness, but they don’t have any effects. They tell me the stories of training for 90 minutes each and every day, seven days a week, faithfully sticking to their gym for years, starting their workouts at 5AM, because then, they have to go to work, sticking to exactly the same food, which they had established is good for them, not snacking in between the main meals. Yet, whenever they step on that scale (which they often do daily), the needle does not bulge!
What can a gal or a guy do to get out of this endless Catch-22 cycle?
Let’s analyze the above confessions. First, if the person claims to be working out for a long time, it is obvious that they do not use any intervals in their training. You see, working longer does not necessarily mean working any “better” or harder. Surely enough, our bodies get adapted to whatever the challenge we throw at them ad stop responding to the same level of stimuli, day after day (let’s say, 60 min. of treadmill at 3% incline and 3.5mph). Make sure you do introduce interval training: warm up, go at your regular speed you are used to, but then, some 8 times per session, introduce a steeper incline or/and a faster belt turnover. These “peaks” do not need to be long, just do that harder work for some 20-30 sec. and then, go back to your recovery level for another 45-60 sec., before doing another peak. Make sure you change your workouts, too. Do not “stick” to the same type of a workout or the same gym, or even the same biking path every time you are training. This can and will lead you to a full stagnation and halt your progress. Take a class which is very different from the one you usually take, go swimming instead of biking, sign up for a month at another gym, or make a point of not using a gym for one month and challenge yourself in all other ways possible! Moreover, if you introduce interval training, you won’t need to do the rat race on the treadmill for that long: typically, you’ll go for some 35-45 min. quick, efficient workout. You will, actually, save time! Second: never-ever exercise every day. Introduce one day a week of what we call an “active rest day”: go for a hike or a leisure bike ride, or a calm swim, or do some gardening. Make a point of relaxing and slowing down on that day. It is, actually, during these rest days, that our muscles really get stronger: they take their time to rebuild ad strengthen, therefore, making sure your body will burn more calories even while not exercising than if your muscle’s place would have been occupied by fat, which is a slow calorie burner. Just by building muscle mass, your metabolic system will become more efficient at burning calories and fat.
Third, we have the person proudly telling me they start training at 5AM. But, when did you go to sleep the night before? Are you sure you are getting your 8 hours of sleep every day? If not, again, your muscles won’t recover well, your body hormonal system will be in havoc and you’ll hit the fridge more often through the day, given the hormonal imbalances, caused by the lack of sleep.
Fourth, as to the food: even if your nutrition seems to be well-balanced and healthy, please introduce some changes. If we stick to the same food day after day, we are at a very high risk of depriving our bodies of important nutrients.
Fifth: Yes, you shall snack! I know, it sounds almost hard to believe, coming from the mouth of a fitness specialist, but yes, you really want to have 3 solid meals ad 2 (ideally 3) snacks in between them. Just make sure you are snacking on healthy foods and watch the portion sizes. Once you snack, you won’t be famished at the time of your main meal, and, as a result, you will eat less for that main meal. Also, snacking keeps our metabolic system churning at all times and it helps our body understand that we are not starving it. Along the same lines, get your hydration right. Make sure to drink lots of water or water with electrolytes. During a glass before your meal, so your stomach won’t be empty and, as a result, you will eat less, again!
Sixth, do not use that scale on a daily basis! I am almost tempted to say, do not use it, point, but I realize how people are attached to the numbers on their scales. Perhaps reduce its usage to once every 2 weeks or so, if you can? The weight is not any good measurement of your fitness success. In fact, while training and building muscles ad losing the fatty tissue, which is less heavy, but also takes more space in your body and is less healthy, too), you might, initially at least, plateau in terms of the weight loss. You’ll train and train and take your rest days and, nope, no weight loss! This is due to the weight of the fatty tissue versus how heavy a muscle is. However, it is the muscle which will get you healthy and will activate your metabolic system, not the fat. You will be losing fat and gaining muscle, therefore, the scale won’t bulge much. After that initial plateau, you will start seeing the numbers drop and you will also be more toned. The best way to measure your success is by noting the circumference numbers for the hips, waist, both legs, both arms. You can do it with a measuring tape or a piece of yarn. The latter is less stressful and does not put numbers on your struggles. For example, mark where your hip circumference is on the yarn and see how it changed in 4-5 weeks from the initial measurement. Also, I have great success with the before- and after- pictures, that works, too. In fact, the scale is probably the only piece of equipment I do not have at my Studio!
Let me know if and how I can help you in your fitness- and health-related goals. Let’s start sooner than later, it can only save you some medical costs later in life! Stay Fit-Fit!
A quick, intensive workout today, guaranteeing to bring your heart rate up:
Warm up for about 10 minutes. Then, do the following 3 exercises for the total of 30 seconds EACH of them:
1. Prisoner squats (squat with your hands behind your neck)
2. Front plank (make sure to maintain the body straight and parallel to the floor)
3. “Boxing” movement with some 2-5 lbs of weight in each of your hands. These do not even need to be dumbbells. Grab two bottles of water, if you don’t have free weights. Box as fast and furiously as you can, making sure to extend your hands in front of you.
Repeat the above 3 exercises 5-8 times, trying to have as little breaks as possible.
Always consult your physician before starting a new exercise program. Have fun!
How we think of the race we are about to do can definitely impact its results! Over the years, many studies have supported the notion that the positive imagery does, indeed, miracles in terms of the race results. And I am not only talking about the running, bike, triathlon, or swimming races. The same is true for all other sports, from winning a boxing match to climbing up for that NFL title!
Your task seems easy, but easy it is not: “just” keep imagining yourself at the start line, going theough the motion you need to reach the finish line, keep imagining how your body will feel and how your heart will race. While thinking of all that, start adding positive thoughts, such as: “I am strong”, “my posture is great”, “my pace is OK”, “yes, I am in pain, but it was to be expected and I can and will deal with it”, and so on. Practice this kind of mental imagery daily and see how your results improve!
And during your respective race, keep thinking your strong words: “Strong!”, “Can do it!”, “I have an upper hand here!” - Anything positive. Do not think in terms of the “can’t”, such as: “I can’t run any faster”, “I can’t breathe!”, or so.
Check it for yourself during your next race and let me know. I am sure it will help! Good luck and have fun! Stay Fit-Fit!