Sun, 12 January 2020
"Vitality means moving through life with energy and vigor, making deliberate choices and putting to good use the time and energy that we have been granted." —Twyla Tharp, author of Keep Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life
Knowing how to care for our body which we must not forget includes the mind is a lifelong course of learning. Beginning with the basics of how food is fuel and energy expends said fuel to understanding which fuel is best and how our body repairs itself and ultimately what the body and mind truly are capable of regardless of our age, understanding and then apply this knowledge will have a powerfully positive effect on the overall longevity as well as quality of our life.
Highly decorated and revered American dance choreographer, Twyla Tharp released a new book this past fall, and as I appreciated her insights in her previously published book The Creative Habit, I was especially curious to read her new book Keep Moving as she herself is in her mid-seventies and more fit than most adults in their prime. However, what I quickly discovered is that Keep Moving is not only about the physical movement we must continue throughout the duration of our lives, but the continual movement of our thoughts, ideas and way of living and thinking about the world that is as well ever-changing and evolving. Below are 12 key factors for living and enjoying a physical and mental well-being for the entire length of your life.
"Age is not the enemy. Stagnation is the enemy."
Both physically and mentally, choose to perpetually be a dynamic individual. Instead of becoming complacent or resigned that certain capabilities are no longer possible once we hit a certain age, vow to always keep your body moving, as well, and perhaps most importantly, your mind. Rather than reminiscing about the past, make sure it is celebrated and/or learned from and then put your focus on moving forward well, learning something new in your next venture into something that provokes your curiosity. Let go of past hurts and anger that may be lingering to liberate yourself to create a better present and then a greater future will unfold. Assess your daily routines: Are they working for you? If not, whip them into shape (listen to episode #272 for help on how to accomplish this change).
"Attempting to maintain the status quo, smoothing our skin, and keeping our tummies trim become distractions that obscure a larger truth. Attempting to freeze your life in time at any point is totally destructive to the prospect of a life lived well and fully. All animate creatures are destroyed when frozen . . . This is not a worthy goal."
2. Choose and then Cultivate the Life You Want to Live
"I chose my life, it did not choose me."
Inevitably, life will throw onto your journey's path trauma, loss and pain, but how you choose to work with these life events will determine the overall quality of your life. You can choose to wallow and seek out sympathizers that allow you to remain in your pain or frustration or anger, or you can acknowledge the pain, let yourself work through it in a healthy manner and continue to strive forward.
"The life we choose pays dividends. The life that we let choose us will bankrupt us."
Contrarily, you will need to find the courage within yourself to choose to step away from the group when it feels limiting or confining or not aligned with the life you wish to live or dare to create. Nothing need happen that is negative, just a instinctive feeling that something does not work for you. Heed your instincts, explore them gradually, and when you have some footing (it need not be a perfect stance), step away from the group. I am confident you will be grateful you did, more and more so with each passing day.
You may be wondering, how does #2 correlate with our physical health? Any time we choose a life that we want to live, we energize ourselves; oppositionally, when we follow, when we go along to appease or to not create conflict, our energy lessens, so much so that we find it hard to motivate ourselves to care for our overall health. It may not occur, and most likely will not occur initially as we follow, but with time, our excitement about living life is dulled, and when we no longer see the joy in living life (because we haven't chosen this life, it has chosen us and we feel 'stuck' within it) we do not, consciously or unconsciously, invest in it. And tending to our health is a fundamental investment.
3. See Your Body's Good Health as a Full-Time Job for a Lifetime
Much of society may appear to be modeling that as we age, we become less physical, but the reality and what needs to be realized, Tharp argues, is that "the older we get, the more we should commit to physical activity". Ironically, we could have moved less in our youth as our body was helping us out far more naturally than it is able to do on its own as we age. But the benefit of being an active child and young adult is that we can take these good habits and let them be the foundation of our physical activity throughout our lifetime.
The benefits of physical activity have been researched and proven time and time again, from sharpening our mind to "expanding our social, emotional and intellectual well-being". A shift in how we view physical activity can help tremendously to finding infinite wells of motivation to move our bodies on a regular basis. First, make it enjoyable. Find something you love doing. I used to be one of those gym rats who would visit my neighborhood gym (at this point in my life I was in NW Portland) nearly every day, hop on the treadmill and walk or run for 20-30 minutes. Granted, any physical activity is absolutely applaudable, but I will admit, I felt as though I was in a cage. My lifestyle has certainly changed over the past 14 years as my physical exercise is outdoors nearly every time, and the only indoor physical practice I do, and thoroughly enjoy, is the weekly yoga class I attend. Most importantly, I have found a way of staying physical that I enjoy. Find what works for you and how you can incorporate your physical and natural environment into your playground. And then just do that, play!
Tharp reminds readers of the importance of why we choose to exercise, "Let's not burn calories. Let's use our calories . . . You're burning calories to acquire skills". When we make this shift of why we are exercising, the motivation is more likely to remain and become habituated.
"Here's what I know: a life that gives the body its due is a happy life."
4. Pull up the Anchor of the Past and Sail
"Unless we embrace the condition of change, the past will act as an anchor, preventing growth. I've always been an advocate of habit—but with time, unchecked or unnoticed habits will hold you back."
Life has many chapters, and not one will be exactly like another. Living consciously gives us the daily practice of assessing what is working and what is not. As Tharp suggest above, habits are helpful . . . when they are helpful to living the life we wish to live. However, habits that go unassessed are the anchors we need to pull up so that we can sail toward and eventually fulfill our true potential.
There are many examples in our lives in which a habit worked exceptionally well for a period, but too continue would harm our progress and need to grow. If you are a parent whose children have left the nest, there will be new habits to add and other established habits that will need to be "pulled up". If you are an individual who needed to work with great dedication to complete a degree or complete a project or establish themselves in their career requiring long hours as there were deadlines to meet, etc., the habits that enabled you to be focused and strong in dedication will need to be relaxed so that you can find the balance to enjoy the life you have worked hard to secure.
5. Choose Optimism
Tharp acknowledges that "aging can promote a condition identified by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania as learned helplesslness . . . believing we cannot change our outcome leads to lethargy. Negativity and stagnation go hand in hand". The remedy is actually quite simple, but it does require us to become clear about the life we wish to live, to do the homework of living, living well and being conscious of our instrinstic motivators as well as the external motivators and determining which truly align with our most sincere self.
Tharp suggests, and I concur, what we need to do is align our actions with our values. Often we say we wish to live one way, but our actions speak differently. Sometimes it will take grand courage as we will have to speak up to those in our lives who will be affected if we change our routine, our way of engaging, etc., but often it is how we speak to ourselves, how we allocate our time and where we spend our money. When you begin to see how to better align your actions with your values, it becomes easier to be optimistic because you are now fully supporting the life you wish to live and not unconsciously fighting against it. Momentum happens more freely without resistance.
The primary point is we have more control over the quality of our lives. We are not helpless. And we need not accept that things cannot be different. They can be, and will be when you choose to shift how you live your daily life. A simple way to begin being more optimistic is to see the simple beauty and awesomeness in the everyday. When you focus on the good, on the positive, on the beauty, you begin to see more of it, inspire those around you to see more of it and ultimately begin to create more of what you wish to see than what you do not. Check out my IG account and the hashtag #tsllelevatetheeveryday for simple visual reminders of everyday beauty.
6. Plan - Put Your Hopes into Action
Currently, I find myself moving into the planning part of customizing my home, but admittedly, it is easier to dream and hope that it will all come together. But hoping and dreaming won't bring it to fruition. While certainly, the first part of the journey may be a hope or a dream, it cannot be where we remain.
Referring back to the premise of Tharp's book and #1 on this list, growth needs to be perpetually occurring in our lives, and so, we must step forward and put our hopes into action. How? By planning, and tending to each step listed in the plan. Sometimes it is hard to actually make the step toward our desired goal, but the momentum provided with each step, makes the next step easier. Seeing your money being spent on whatever detail, item or necessary piece of the journey needs to be spent can be initially hard to do, but if your plan is clear and your goal is in alignment with your values, you will reflect upon the money spent as an investment and be thankful for your courage to step forward and put your hopes into action.
7. Strengthen and Maintain Your Stamina
"While many of our physical tools diminish noticeable as we age—speed, flexibility, and power—we don't have to lose stamina."
Moving your body, keeping your muscles strong, on a regular basis will fundamentally keep your stamina strong. And what helps build and strengthen and maintain your muscles? Repetitions done regularly. It may not be fun initially, but in reference to #3, find an approach that engages you, and cultivate it into a habit that is part of your daily/weekly routine. Tharp has a handful of suggestions on pages 96-7. Eventually, the stamina turns into endurance which is "a combination of willpower, focus, intention and grit—essentially a matter of character and mental toughness".
"The wonderful thing about stamina: it doesn't deplete through a long period of grinding work; with sustained commitment, it builds and builds, up to the moment when you need it most".
8. Small changes can make a big difference
"When I can't build a cathedral, I build a bridge to get there."
Whether you are trying to welcome new habits into your life as the new year begins, trying to build a dream that will take time to materialize, the small steps, the small actions and small everyday dedicated efforts will eventually lead to the grand change and actualization you seek.
9. Build a foundation for your future
Compound interest plays a role in our physical and future physical lives as well as in our financial lives. When we "work hard now to reap greater rewards in the future instead of finding [ourselves] in a panic at your dwindling account", we are building a future of a wealthy good healthy life well into our later years. The working hard is doing what you can now as early as you can in your life physically to maintain the three pillars of a healthy body: strength, flexibility, aerobic (view more Health & Fitness posts in TSLL's Archives). Start where you are, but push through the necessary discomfort, aka as challenging pain (but be aware of the difference between that and warning or chronic pain).
Each time I have taken a week off from yoga or the first time I hop on my skis in the new winter season, 48 hours later my muscles are talking to me. It is not a bad pain, in fact, I applaud myself for pushing myself further, but I also am reminded to get back on the regular schedule so that I do not have to feel it everytime for the same reasons.
Tharp introduced the term 'kludge' to me in Keep Moving which is any short-term inelegant solution. In other words, it is using a convenient 'fix' for a hiccup or problem, but not the best fix.
To dekludge is to check our ego at the door, and this is not easy for most of us, and especially hard for some of us. As the pages of our book are turned and new chapters arise, "you have to be willing to find other ways of being in the world beyond those that have served you well throughout your life". In other words, we have to self-assess (which is a good skill to hone no matter where we are in life's journey and to practice it regularly). We have to become aware and then challenge unproductive behaviors in order to live our most fulfilling and best life.
Tharp suggests our kludges are "all trade-offs and allowances [we] make to deal with deflating circumstances—by ignorning, tolerating, or avoiding the situation. Sometimes we're aware that we're settling for less than optimal. Sometimes we believe we don't have any other choice. We treat them as systematic, the way things are. These kludges shackle and slow us down." Any time you adhere to "the way you've always done it" as your sole reason for doing something, most likely, you've found a kludge that needs to be let go.
The good news is that with maturity, dekludging has the ability to be far easier.
"[With maturity], we've learned that no one else is responsible for our success or survival. It's up to us to erect a stable scaffolding that's not stressed by temporary fixes and what is left can be pretty amazing."
11. Adjust to Improve Your Life
"All master adjusters learn to push their strengths and drop everything else—resentment, insecurity, doubt, physical handicaps."
With life, we have the opportunity to gain experience, and with that experience we can handle new life experiences far better than without the earned experience. And perhaps life's difficulties never become easier, only different, but because we have the past experiences, we are able to better and more easily navigate through them without working ourselves up into a frenzy or racheting up our stress-levels unnecessarily. In other words, we become better able to soar through life and not be knocked down by the gulls and gusts that will inevitably happen because we know how to foresee their coming further from a distance and either avoid them altogether or when caught by surprise, dance with them rather than fight them so as to preserve our energy to better enjoy the many good moments that await on the other side of the storm.
12. Become Keepers of the Quotidian
"Finding absolute beauty in the humble, the everyday, the living, the growing, the becoming is a skill that can be practiced with more than just the eye."
Using all of our senses as we go about our day is a skill to master for living well. Sometimes being so acutely aware can be heartbreaking which means we need to live consciously and choose how we engage with the world and who we engage with. However, once we are aware of the power of engaging all of our senses, our everyday (quotidian) lives magically appear to be in brilliant Monet-esque color. From the scent of the rain that falls on the dry ground, to the feel of the fresh, seasonal produce picked up at the market to the sound of chirping birds enjoying their morning meal in your yard's bird feeder, when we pay attention to these details with our whole being, our appreciation and love of life rises.
Good health asks of us to invest each day, but the investments need not be expensive or back-breakingly painful. How wonderful to understand that simply by instituting enjoying daily habits we can improve our overall well-being to further ease our mind that not only is our present more enjoyable to experience but so too will be our future.
I highly recommend Twyla Tharp's new book, Keep Moving. I whizzed through it during my two week holiday this past month as she offers her own experience as a renowned dancer and choreographer who is now in her 70s as evidence of what indeed does work, as well as introduces readers to many others who have inspired her journey of good health and wellness of mind and body.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
4 Healthy Habits for Continual Self-Growth, episode #17
—Simple Bouquets combining two different textured, but similar hued floral varietals - one more formal, one more whimsical. Not only will this save money, but it will add a depth of intrigue and beauty beyond a single varietal bouquet.
~See a couple of examples below from my own home.
Sun, 14 July 2019
Summer season offers a wonderful opportunity reboot our eating habits, remind us of the ease and deliciousness when we eat in season and highlight how eating can be pleasure-filled minus the any guilt.
In today's episode of the podcast, this archived episode was in the top five episodes of the first season. Originally airing in the fall of 2014, I hope you enjoy discover the 10 Simple Ways to enjoy food and enjoy the body that takes you through each and every day.
~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~How to Create an All-Around Healthy Life, episode #208
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
Mon, 11 June 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #212
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
Lessons learned and applied. Often it is what we have done in the past that informs us how to do a similar task better in the future. Whether the mistakes were small or large, upon reflection we can be reminded of what didn't work, then examine more closely why and improve in those areas moving forward the next time. Tending to our health is a journey of discovery, of trial, of success, of I-wish-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now, and because we are creatures of biology, our bodies and minds are changing thus requiring each of us to remain a student of our health. Recently I was reminded, upon reflection, why certain tasks and situations had gone well as of late and why others had not, but it wasn't until a guide in my own life (my counselor) brought it to my attention. Immediately, I recognized it and knew how to fix it. And the frustrating, but truly fortunate thing about this realization was that I had this knowledge already, I had just needed to be reminded to apply it. Similarly, today I'd like to talk about the six pillars of good health - of mind, body and each of our unique spirits - and while the list may be something you recognize, if you're like me, there may be a moment as you are journeying in your life when you need to be nudged to take a quick self-check to see if each pillar is functioning well. Here we go!
Just as our overall health has pillars, so too does an effective exercise regimen. And in this case the physical health pillars are aerobic, strength and flexilibity. While the amount of days per week, even the amount of time each time we exercise varies from expert to expert, what they do have in common is insisting that it is regular and is at least moderately challenging. In episode #201 I detailed my approach to tailoring a strength training program, and in this post, I shared in detail how to get and stay in shape. The flexibility aspect is often the detail that is forgotten about, but as someone who for a period in my twenties did neglect this detail, it is one of the most enjoyable without less time and effort required (not to say certain yoga classes aren't challenging, but that is when they incorporate the aerobic aspect as well), and while I incorporate a weekly yoga class into my regimen, pilates or simply a stretch routine your follow at home (check out SELF magazine's list of the 21 best stretching exercises) would work just as well. ~To Get & Stay Fit: Keep It Simple, episode #190
As we settle into the twenty-first century, as a population we are becoming more aware of how food works (or does not work well) in our bodies. The subsequent locally sourced restaurants that are on the rise around the country are challenging long-loved food chains to step up their game. At home, we too have more choices and more information to enable us to eat well each night of the week all the while amping up the flavor. Such a topic is something we've talked about quite a bit here on TSLL and the podcast (and in September TSLL's new vodcast is dedicated to sharing how to eat well while incorporating seasonal fare), so this isn't a big surprise. However, it is important to remember to listen to our bodies, be kind to our bodies and enjoy exploring with new flavors as well as becoming aware when our minds and bodies have become accustomed to something, such as sugar, that isn't serving us well. Below are just a few of past posts/episodes on this topic.
~Love Food, Love Your Body, episode #8
A few weeks ago in TSLL's Weekly Newsletter I shared I was reading Arianna Huffington's book The Sleep Revolution, and specifically chapter 7 which focuses on master our sleep. In 2013, I shared nine benefits of enjoying a good night's sleep regularly, because aside from being absolutely pleasure-filled, it is the cheapest preventative medicine we can take to improve the quality of our lives.
Often our skin, once we've moved through puberty, is a mirror of the quality of our overall health. It reveals if the body needs more hydration, more rest, less alcohol, just to name a few tell-tale signs of how we live our lives. On the flipside, it also demonstrates to the world when these factors are balanced and tended too: a good night's sleep, protection from the sun, effective hydration and a balanced diet. Below are a few posts/episodes that dive deeper into creating a skincare routine that works and enables your best health to shine.
~8 Ways to Create Glowing Skin, episode #13
5. Social Connections
Our relationships do not need to be many, but we do need to have them and they need to be healthy. Depending upon your temperament, you may have a multitude of friendships, familial relationships and connections you tend to in your career network that with each one strengthen your overall health. For others, it may be fewer, but each is deep and intimate. Whatever your preference, whatever works for the quality of life you need to be your best self, having a strong and healthy social life is fundamental for an overall good life. In episode #92, the concept of a strong social well-being was discussed. I encourage you to listen/read it as it simplifies our social life into three compartments: the relationship we have with ourselves, the platonic relationships we have with others and our romantic partnership. All three are unique, but each involve similarities seen in the others.
6. Mental Strength & Agility
All five of the above pillars are essential, but without an awareness of how our mind works and how to ensure we are exercising it so that it works for us, not against us, we must keep it healthy. In episode #20, how to master your mind is explored in detail as 10 specific ways to do so are shared. From becoming fluent with our emotions, to understanding what you initially believed about what goes through your mind and the reality of what is going on to recognizing that the mind is a muscle and in order for it to function optimally, we must execise it regularly. Most likely, most, if not all of the pillars of good health are known to you, but as I was reminded last week, sometimes when our life is becoming frustrating in one arena, it can affect other arenas unconsciously. Sometimes all it will take to get back on track for our overall health is to take a moment and check each of the six pillars: How are they working? Have each been tended to recently and regularly? Perhaps today's episode will be the reminder to check, readjust if necessary or applaud yourself for how well you are doing and reward yourself. As the French say, à votre santé (to your health). May we embrace what is fully in our control and enable it to elevate the quality of our lives. ~Subscribe to TSLL's Weekly Newsletter ~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~How to Create an All-Around Healthy Life, episode #208
~Why Not . . . Live a Long, Healthy Life? (3-part series)
~RBG, documentary film
Images: TSLL captured of the boys on a recent walk
Mon, 26 March 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #201
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube
"Exercise should be regarded as tribute to the heart." —Gene Tunney
Disspell the myths, push through the pain, discover what you do not know so the wrong information no longer holds you back. The concept of good overall physical health is a tripod: aerobic, strength and flexibility. A regular regimen which includes these three components will offer a firm foundation of lasting health. When we pair strong physical health with emotional and mental health, we are a mighty force with the potential to live well. As 2018 began, one of my resolutions was to improve the quality of my strength program. As I shared in TSLL's first book, in chapter six which focuses on health and beauty, my approach to creating a strength program is to hire a personal trainer for at least one session and hire them to help you design an at-home working routine. Having done this more than thirteen years ago, I realized I may need a refresher to my routine. The opportunity to work with an expert in the field of fitness as well as health and nutrition was something I didn't want to squander. Yes, I know the basics of health. As a collegiate athlete who has competed at the national level, and throughout my entire childhood, as well as coached varsity volleyball in high school, I knew the general concepts of proper form, body awareness and possible exercises. What I didn't have was accountability and someone to push me further than I would push myself. After all, having the energy and the time to accomplish what I want is typically the biggest obstacle I run up against, as I have a feeling most of us do, when it comes to changing the quality of our lives. It's not that we don't know better or don't want to make the change, it the ability (willpower, time, support) that is lacking. Wanting to gain as much benefit from my sessions as possible, I had a list of questions in my mind to address my concerns and questions as well as a clear set of objectives I hoped to attain. Objectives:
Questions & Concerns:
For ten weeks, each Monday, I met with my personal trainer at a local gym. For an hour we went through a training session which was different each week. Later in the week, I would take an hour at home and follow that particular week's strength routine, fitting in a total of two strength routines each week. Part of the reason I hired the trainer for 10 sessions was to accomplish my third objective: to create a habit. Sure enough, now that I have been on my own for two weeks, every Monday afternoon or evening, I carve out 1 hour and get to work. I have chosen a day that works best with the rest of my schedule (blogging and teaching, as well as my walking schedule with the dogs). I have also found tending to my first strength routine of the week on Monday is a wonderful way to start the week as I feel I have accomplished something that does take a lot of willpower, and at the beginning of the week, I have far more than I would have on even Tuesday, let alone Wednesday or Thursday and especially Friday. The component my trainer made available through our sessions together was her knowledge of eating well paired with proper fitness. As a nurse and health coach, she answered many questions that I raised as well as offered a multitude of different ideas for eating well and what to eat directly before and after my training sessions (good carbs and protein). The benefits of regularly incorporating a strength routine into your overall health regimen are immense now and throughout your entire life (US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the age of 85 just released her new book The RBG Workout which include many of the exercises in my new workout - planks anyone?), and below are the most important reasons to create a plan that is effective and consistently adhered to as reported by the Mayo Clinic.
The truth about about strength training and losing weight is that as The New York Times reported in 2015, if we do not pair our physical fitness — both aerobic and strength training — with a diet of moderation and balanced nutrition, we thwart the positive results that can be possible. (read: How to Enjoy Eating Every Day and Love the Results, episode #165) What does my new strength training entail? Below are the components.
~Norman as weight on the "sled". Counter-clockwise beginning in the lower lefthand corner: (1) First go-round, Norman are you ready? (2) after two lengths of sliding - I've got this; (3) Are we done?; (4) I am exhausted as you look, but anytime you want to push me again, I am here.~
Results and Outcome Thus Far The positive changes I have seen 12 weeks into my new strength training are gradual, but promising. While I do not get on a scale as muscle mass weighs more than fat, I instead pay attention to how my clothes fit: are my pencil skirts tight or do they easily slip on? which loop in my belt am I using? Can I fit comfortably into my jeans? While our bodies do fluctuate throughout the month, understanding our body's rhythms and how we feel after eating certain foods is part of understanding and determining whether our bodies and thus our health is on track. One improvement I have noticed is that my ability to hold poses in yoga has improved which is something I have always wanted to do since I began yoga more than seven years ago. And one of my fears was not realized (bigger shoulders). Yes, my shoulders and arms are slightly more defined, but they are no larger than they were when I wasn't doing my strength training. With the attention to a well-rounded arm strength routine, my entire arm is more capable of holding my body. One detail that was an important point for me to learn was that my body will swell up approximately 2-3 days after a strength training session. While I knew it would be sore (and it was especially so after the first week's session), I didn't realize it was also sweeling due to the body and muscles attempting to heal itself. It is important to note this temporarily change because it will feel (because it is) as though your muscles are expanding, but they will heal and in 2-3 days, the swelling will be gone. Since I keep my weights small (5lb for arm workouts and use high repetition), bulkiness is not something to fret about as was one of my questions from the beginning. The key to losing inches or maintaining the weight we have if that is the goal is to eat smart but not deprive ourselves and workout consistently while mixing up the routine we do each time to keep our muscles on their toes. I don't know if I'll ever fit into size 4 (US) jeans again as I am currently between a 6 and an 8, but the size doesn't matter so much anymore as my goal is to keep my body healthy and strong so I can be hiking, paddleboarding, taking yoga classes and cross country skiing well into my 80s and 90s, as well as go on lengthy walks with my dogs. I hope my experience has helped you, and while this is my tailored routine based on my time with a personal trainer, I do encourage you to seek out an expert in fitness and nutrition who can give you a personal plan for strengthening your body as well. As an investment in our health, I am confident you will see great value in receiving answers to questions you may have regarding your health and fitness journey. ~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES from the ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~To Get and Stay in Shape: Keep It Simple, episode #190
~15 Things to Do to Not "Feel Fat", episode #52
~Learn more and sign up for TSLL's Weekly Newsletter
~Paris in Stride: An Insider's Walking Guide by Jessie Kanelos Weiner and Sarah Moroz
~Learn more about why I love this book in a full review here.
~Sponsor of this week's episode:
Mon, 26 February 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #197
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube
As a young girl I took piano lessons, and I will admit, it was not the greatest joy of my life. A timer would have to be set for me to sit down for even 30 minutes to practice, and even then I would get up from time to time to check and see how much more time I had to play. So, no, I was not someone who found joy in playing; however, when my mom would sit down and play and let the notes ring melodically throughout our home, I thoroughly enjoyed listening. We still have that piano, and from time to time I will get the opportunity to hear her play and watch her fingers dance across the keys. There is a tranquility that is shared when such harmonious tunes without lyrics are played. To my ear, it is quite peaceful. Perhaps that is why as well, I am drawn to jazz, as I do prefer music without lyrics when I am working, relaxing and simply going about my day. I enjoy bringing my story to the notes, rather than hearing someone else's. Perhaps that is a lack of imagination on my part, but when there are no words, the rhythm is mine to dance with and let my mind wander. Having always loved jazz since I was a teenager, I have since begun to welcome more classical music into my life and regularly beginning this past fall as I shared in this post (episode #187). Many of my students over the years have been actively involved in the symphony and orchestra, and successfully so, so I do find myself learning from them as I am by no means savvy when it comes to music.
1. Reduce stress
If you find listening to classical music relaxing, then it can reduce your stress levels. Upon listening to classical music, your body releases "pleasure-inducing dopamine and inhibits the release of stress hormones, all of which generates a pleasant mood". Now, the key is to understand what you find relaxing, make it a regular practice and observe your body and mind relax which will then enable you to think more clearly and thus make better decisions.
2. Increase your ability to think abstractly
The Mozart Effect, as it was coined in 1993, was discovered by Dr. Gordon Shaw of the University of California-Irvine to cause a temporary spike in an individual's IQ after listening to Mozart. While the findings need to be clarified: no, listening to Mozart doesn't make you smarter, but it does, Shaw states, "warms up the brain's ability to think abstractly".
3. Heighten EQ (emotional intelligence)
In 2001 Southern Methodist University shared their findings of their study revealing participants were more "expressive and effusive with their comments, [and] . . . more forthcoming as well." Perhaps when we choose to listen to classical music as we relax, our walls come down a bit more, we are more willing to be vulnerable and less quick to react.
4. Increase focus
A study done in France published in Learning and Individual Differences revealed that students who listened to a one hour lecture with classical music playing in the background scored better on the corresponding quiz than those who did not listen to music. Why? The researchers proposed that "the music put students in a heightened emotional state, making them more receptive to information . . . It is possible that music, provoking a change in the learning environment, influenced the students’ motivation to remain focused during the lecture, which led to better performance on the multiple-choice quiz”.
5. Fall asleep more quickly
The University of Toronto discovered that when classical music is played when you settle into bed, participants in the study were able to fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. Why? The study found that the music by Bach, Brahms, Handel, Mozart, and Strauss offered "rhythms and tonal patterns that create a meditative mood and slow brainwaves". The inclusion of listening to classical music in my everyday routine has become a form of simple self-care. Having a sound mind to navigate successfully through the day is an invaluable tool, but it is one that can easily deteriorate if we do not tend to it. Many readers shared their favorite classical radio station (many of which have free apps available), and I have listed them below. An unexpected benefit I am finding is listening to the hosts of each of the programs whether I am listening to KUSC.org or WRTI.org as they speak about each song, often share the history and other intriguing information. I may never pick up a flute, a violin or an obo, but I certainly am finding I appreciate even more those who do and those who have written the music creations. Classical music stations:
I have compiled a Luxurious Classical Music playlist on Spotify (of which there are many others to find as well) that plays for one hour and 16 minutes and includes some of my favorites as well as new music I am ever so gradually being introduced to. View the playlist here.
The Playlist: Luxurious Classical Music:
Sponsors of this week’s episode:
Mon, 8 January 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #190
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube
It was the nineties. And Cindy Crawford had a fitness video, yes this one. It was 20 minutes of simple strength exercises, and I memorized the exercises, completing them twice a week on my own. In no time, without the need of the video. I was in my late pre-teens. Not having access to a gym, somewhere I knew strength was a good idea along with cardiovascular exercises. I will admit, the video was similar to a music video which helped, but it was a routine from my past that I continue to draw on today, and have not been a member of a gym for more than 14 years. Now, I have since updated many of the exercises after training with personal trainers, but the concept of not needing a gym membership, but rather simply knowing how to build your own strength routine that you can complete in your home is not only a money saver, but time saver. The key is to use proper form and stick to a program even if it is challenging, and it will be in the beginning. Initially, you may want to schedule a session or two with a personal trainer to make sure you have a strength routine that works well for your body and you are clear about what the proper form will be. During this consultation, you can ask questions about your overall health, the cardio vascular routine you adhere to and based on what your goals are, ask for ideas to maximize your fitness schedule. In fact, to calibrate my strength routine after years of doing it on my own, I have set up a few sessions with a local trainer to make sure I as physically fit as I can be for my health primarily, but to feel truly comfortable in my skin. I was reminded of my fitness routine from decades ago and how simple fitness can to be when Crawford was interviewed this past November for The Cut. In that interview she alludes to the fitness routine she was introduced to which was what was shared in the fitness videos:
I try to get 20 minutes of cardio at least three times a week. Then I do anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour of old school lunges, weights, squats, and bicep curls — it’s just stuff that I learned 30 years ago. Once a week, I try to go on a hike with a friend so I combine exercise and girlfriend time — it’s the best multitasking.
The fitness routine we create for ourselves should be enjoyable, consistent and paired with a well-balanced diet which includes moderation not deprivation. The reality is our weight has far more to do with what we eat than what we do for exercise as was reported in The New York Times in 2015, so why not create a fitness approach we look forward to? Below are a few ideas for staying fit while keeping it simple.
Let the Outdoors Be Your Gym
Not everyone lives in a town like Bend, Oregon, with trails just blocks from our front doors and massive dog parks to hike the forests with our furry children. So heeding this suggestion will be dependent upon where you call home, but even if you live in a bustling city, especially New York or any city with public transportation, walking will add up. And walking counts.
Find a Class You Enjoy and Go Regularly
The combination of aerobic, strength and flexibility is the tripod of good fitness, so whether you enjoy a circuit training class with a particular instructor, a pilates or yoga class for deep stretching as well as mental agility, find a day of the week and time that works best and get into a regular schedule of attending. Another motivator is to buy a pass for a month or a pass of 5-10 classes. Not only will you pay less as they are often reduced when sold in multiples, but you will not have the excuse of not having the money and knowing you've already paid will motivate you to not let your money go to waste.
Do What You Love
If you enjoy working out with others, join a group that cycles weekly and explores the many trails around the area. If you enjoy working out alone, grab your shoes and earbuds and star running or walking. During the summer months I love to paddleboard with Norman, and while it can be a leisurely pursuit, I try to make it a workout when we go upstream and then relax on the ride back down as we move with the current.
Walk with Intention
If you do like to walk for exercise, as I do, walk with purpose. In other words, strolling will not keep your heart rate up high enough to burn the calories you are hoping for. I drive some of my walking companions up a wall sometimes, but to me a walk is an opportunity to get a nice workout in, and if I haven't gotten my workout in, I am going to want to pick up the pace. Having walked two marathons, it is possible to derive an amazing aerobic fitness routine solely from walking, just walk with intention.
At the core of any successful venture or change in habits and behavior is to make your fitness routine consistent. From engaging in an aerobic activity for 30-40 minutes 3-5 times a week, strength training twice a week for at least 20 minutes and taking time for your body to truly be stretched well once a week, schedule these appointments as you would a necessary doctor's appointment.
Water, all the time, Water
I am on a constant quest to drink more water. My efforts include making it my drink of choice when I am not sipping on tea, taking my 24 oz Hydroflask with me when I go to work, yoga class and travel and doing my best to drink the entire bottle before I return home. Part of why we reach for food we really don't need is because we are thirsty and the more we stay hydrated the more we will have an honest gauge of what our body is craving.
Let Curiosity Be Your Guide
When traveling, give yourself extra time to explore on foot, climb that famous trail or step off the metro or the tube one stop too early and walk the rest of the way to your destination. Again, you will be doing something you enjoy and are curious about and all the while getting in a few extra minutes of cardio. The bottom line to take away as many of us are making resolutions to improve our health is that what we eat is a priority that can derail our fitness efforts, so eat well, plan a regular well balanced fitness program and enjoy going about your everyday knowing that in time you will see the results you were looking for. ~Peruse the HEALTH posts in the Archives to find posts targeted on exactly what you are looking for (eating well, fitness, yoga, losing those last 10 pounds, etc.) ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Love Food, Love Your Body - 10 Simple Tips (episode #8)
~Design an At-Home Strength Training Program That Works, (episode #201)
~French Onion Soup - click here for the recipe
Mon, 24 July 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #165
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
"Right food, right place, right time. It is my belief . . . that this is the best recipe of all. A crab sandwich by the sea on a June afternoon; a slice of roast goose with applesauce and roast potatoes on Christmas Day; hot sausages and a chuck of roast pumpkin on a frost-sparkling night in November. These are meals who success relies not on the expertise of the cook but on the more basic premise that this is the food of the moment - something eaten at a time when it is most appropriate, when the ingredients are at their peak of perfections, when the food, the cook and the time of year are at one with each other." —Nigel Slater in The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater
Being able to have what we want is not always a blessing. But having what we need is imperative to our well-being, and what we need is nutrient-rich food and when it tastes its most delicious, it is all the more attractive to enjoy. Supermarkets have made the food we love available for consumers year-round, but we all know a tomato in December here in the states tastes nothing like its summer counterpart. Instead pick up an apple or if you are in Hawaii or on the west coast, a rambutans (seasonally available September through March). Satisfy your sweet-tooth and eat what is readily avilable and full of flavor. I can only speak for myself, but part of the reason I fall into the habit of eating the same vegetable, fruit or meal year round as a go-to is it's easy, I think it saves me time and I don't have to think about it. And while it does ease the need to have to figure out what to eat each night or for lunch, it isn't actually the best for my health. Initially, it will take time and our full attention to learn what is in season and know what to do with it when we get it back to our kitchen, but once we gain this knowledge, it becomes a habit. In essence, we are becoming our own home chef capable of cooking anything with fresh ingredients and what is left in the refrigerator. This feat may sound impossible, and you may be someone who doesn't love to cook, but most of us eat at home a majority of the time, so it doesn't have to be a passion and you don't have to be a foodie to learn the basics of seasonal cooking. Your health, your waistline and your peace of mind will thank you. 1. Shop at small local shops, markets and specialties businesses A fish market, a cheese shop, the local bakery, the farm stand, your neighbor's petite produce stand, choosing to frequent such food options rather than the giant supermarket will make the shopping experience far more pleasurable and the food you purchase will be fresher and most likely in season. As well, you can begin to establish relationships with the experts who run each business, ask them questions and learn about what you will be eating and feeding those you love. 2. Shop once a week for stock up items in the épicerie, but day to day for fresh food
"[The Kitchen Diaries] is a gentle plea to buy something, however, small, each day, to take time to shop, to treat it as a pleasure rather than a chore." —Nigel Slater
The weekly capsule menu is something I believe works wonderfully for planning the meals for the week and the ingredients, which should be versatile, for each recipe item. And while I typically do a weekly shopping run to my farmers market or Trader Joe's, I do stop by the local produce stand or the bakery, etc. throughout the week to ensure I have the freshest ingredients. 3. Curate a kitchen space that works well, no fancy gadgets necessary As anyone who has traveled in Europe and England will attest, kitchens are very small even in the most grand of cities, and while many people especially in Paris and London and well, name your favorite destination, will want to dine at the many restaurants, cooking in a small kitchen is very possible. So don't let the size of your kitchen be the roadblock. I always think of Rachel Khoo in her little Paris kitchen cooking away in minimal space. Most importantly, regardless of space, make sure you have the basic tools and essentials as well as a well-stocked épicerie. See my detailed list for both here. 4. Plant a garden, no matter how much space you have. Whether you have a large plot of land or a window sill, plant what you can, what you're curious about and with each year, add something different, try something new. As well, try to plant something to be enjoyed in each season: rhubarb in the early spring, strawberries in late spring, fresh herbs all summer (sometimes year round depending upon where you keep them), squash and pumpkin in the fall, the possibilities are endless. Have fun and play in the dirt. 5. Educate yourself on seasonal offerings Whether from books, cookbooks are a delight to read, and you learn as you peruse each recipe especially if it is organized seasonally, or textbooks, food television programs or your local farmer, become curious about what is in season where you live. Choose to see it as an adventure of discovery. When I approach cooking this way, I don't kick myself if something doesn't work out, I celebrate the opportunity to try and regardless the food (because it's in season) is usually delicious (again, not because of my prowess, but because seasonal food is good all on its own). I found this very helpful online source for all fifty states. You simply choose your state, the season and voila! It shares not only the produce that should be available and at its freshest, but recipes as well. ~Eat the Seasons (a helpful guide for North America and United Kingdom citizens) ~Epicurious is also a worthwhile resource for recipes on seasonal food, organized by the season 6. Discover the power of food The list is long of which to read to learn about what is the best balanced diet and how and where to find the nutrients you seek, but understanding where you can find fiber (grains - the less processed the better) and understanding exactly what an avocado gifts to your body encourages you to step toward these foods with curiosity and not fear that you are going to be eating too much fat or calories. With these two items, they will satiate you long before the calorie count is anything to worry about, and fat isn't bad, remember this.
"Roast rhubarb on a January morning; 'pick-your-own' strawberries in June: a piece of chicken on the grill on an August evening . . . This is more than just something to eat, it is food to be celebrated, food that is somehow in tune with the rhythm of nature. Quite simply, the right food at the right time."— Nigel Slater
7. Have a plan The primary reason I have created seasonal capsule menus is to provide a starting point or foundation for how to cook seasonally in fall and spring (summer and winter will be coming in my second book to be released in 2018!). With time and practice, you'll begin to incorporate your favorite ingredients and discover which recipes you like and even create your own. 8. Keep it simple Truly, the best meal you will make on a regular basis should be simple, because again, it is the food, the quality of food, that makes it so. For example, my go-to recipe for vegetables year round is to roast them. Name the vegetable and for the most part, I will roast it. Asparagus in the spring, add some lemon and a bay leaf; zucchini and squash in summer and fall - olive oil drizzle, salt and pepper - 400 degrees for 30 minutes; broccoli in the fall through early spring. Oh, and I just tried roasted cauliflower finished in the last two minutes with Gruyère and Parmesan - delicious! 9. Try learning and incorporating a new habit each week Perhaps one week you will learn and become confident with roasting, maybe the next week making your own herb butter, then the next a beloved go-to vinaigrette. Whenever you eat out and you taste something you love, ask the chef how they made it (or the waiter/ess to ask the chef). I recently had the most delicious huckleberry ricotta mousse, and out of curiosity (as huckleberries have a very limited season) I wanted to remember this recipe for the next year. They happily shared the ingredients, and I went online and found a ricotta mousse recipe from a trusted source and adapted it to my taste. (Check out my recipe for Homemade Ricotta Mousse with Fresh Berries here.) 10. Dine at farm to table restaurants One of the best ways to learn about seasonal food is to try it as it is prepared by well-trained chefs. More and more restaurants are following this model of seasonal recipes and in so doing are teaching and informing their patrons how to cook delicious food at home. Learning how to feed our bodies well takes time, but hopefully with these tips, the journey through the seasons will be pleasurable, delicious and an experience to savor rather than a task to complete.
"The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease." ~Thomas Edison
~Below are a handful of seasonal cookbooks that come highly recommended, some new, some time-tested.
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater
Today's sponsor of The Simple Sophisticate was Trunk. A journaling app to keep your thoughts saved recorded and a daily habit. Try it free for 30 months without having to share your buying information. If you like the app after 30 days, you can buy it when prompted. Currently available on iTunes - find it here.
Mon, 23 January 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #139
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
"When we take the right to rest, when we make rest fulfilling, and when we practice rest through our days and years, we also make our lives richer and more fulfilling." —Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done when You Work Less
Charles Darwin partook in regular 10 miles walks, Alice Munro walked three miles each day, Winston Churchill engaged in painting, Lin-Manual Miranda took his dog each Sunday for walks through the parks in New York City, J.R.R. Tolkien and Ray Bradbury took daily afternoon naps, workers at Bletchley Park during WWII chose chess as a favorite pastime and associate justice of the United States Supreme Court Elena Kagan boxes regularly with her personal trainer.
Initially when the word 'rest' is mentioned, we may think of sitting on the sofa, flipping through channels, but the difference between mindless rest and deliberate rest is that it "enables productivity". When we truly rest, our minds are not actually stagnant. In actuality, we are enabling them to do what they need to do, work through, dispose of, find and reach understandings and connections that when we are active at work, it is unable to do completely.
The difference between mindless and deliberate rest is what you are feeding your brain. Sitting down and watching a thoughtful, engaging film can absolutely be deliberate rest. It may offer ideas and insights that eventually help us make connections we didn't see prior to viewing of the film; the key is to feed our minds well. Give it quality fuel and quality results have the possibility of being produced, even while we sleep.
Recently, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang's new book Rest was released, and contained inside the covers is a wealth of research, seemingly infinite anecdotes from historical and current individuals that reveal the power of deliberate rest being incorporated into our daily lives. Throughout today's post, I will be sharing many different quotes, and unless otherwise attributed, they are pulled from the pages of Rest.
As we begin 2017 and we look to the future we wish to build for ourselves, it may appear as though we have much to do in order to accomplish what we have placed on our list of resolutions or goals. But in order to be successful in whichever destination we pursue, the concept of quality over quantity guides the way. How is that possible? How can we do less and actually attain more? By tossing what the zeitgeist portrays as the "right way" to achieve success out with 2016.
"Today, we treat being stressed and overworked as a badge of honor, a sign of seriousness and commitment; but this is a recent phenomenon, and it inverts traditional ideas of how leaders and professions should behave under pressure. For most of history, leaders were supposed to appear calm and unhurried; success began with self-mastery and self-control."
~For more in-depth discussion on each of the points discussed below, be sure to tune in to the podcast.
1. Helps to organize your life
2. Cultivates calm in your life
4. Increases your confidence
5. Increases emotional intelligence and engagement
6. More time is given as boundaries are made firm and clear
8. Live a long, healthy, invigorating life
9. Helps you live a simply luxurious life
"It creates a life that's rewarding while it's lived, a life that has purpose and pleasure, work and reward, in equal measure. And that life feels complete and well-spent at the end."
How to welcome deliberate rest into your life:
1. Make rest a priority
"Taking rest seriously also helps bring more of your life into clearer focus."
2. Spend only 4-5 hours each day doing strenuous work
3. Establish a consist morning routine
"My morning is all about stilling the outside world so my mind can soar." —Scott Adams, the illustrator and creator of the comic strip Dilbert
4. Set clear boundaries between work and rest
"A day that starts with work creates rest that can be enjoyed without guilt. When you start early, the rest you take is the rest you've earned."
5. Take regular walks
6. Nap regularly and nap well
"The most obvious benefits of napping is that it increases alertness and decreases fatigue . . . but regular naps have other benefits . . . improve memory . . . [and] consolidate things you've just learned."
7. Enjoy a regular, deep night's sleep
8. Detach and take that vacation
9. Exercise regularly
"At first, researchers mainly investigated the benefits of exercise for healthy aging, but studies now show that for people of any age, gender, or athletic ability, exercise can increase brain power, boost intelligence, and provide the stamina and psychological resilience necessary to do creative work."
10. Cultivate a hobby you love and that challenges you
Perhaps when you read #2 on the list above, you said to yourself, nope, that will never happen, not in my world, not in the job I have to do every day to earn my paycheck. And on the surface, you are absolutely correct. But what if you could look at the job you go to each day and redesign your day? What if you could schedule your day so that you did tend to the most strenuous demands at the beginning and then schedule meetings, projects and activities toward the tail-end that allowed you to not tax your mind directly as much?
Understandably, what job you do and for whom you work and the expectations will play a significant role. What I appreciated upon reading Rest is that it validated what I already felt regarding the productivity of my work. When I worked at my best, when I felt my most exhausted, it gave me a reason as to why. It helped me understand my mind, my body and the benefits of what I am doing and what I need to make sure I continue to do and what I can begin to let go of as it no longer serves me or the quality of life I am trying to cultivate.
Saying no to what no longer serves the simply luxurious life you are building becomes easier when we have science to explain what works best, but we also have to understand what type of life we want to build, and when we know that and believe it to our core, the saying of "no" and the incorporation of deliberate rest into our lives becomes far easier. And that is when our lives begin to truly blossom.
We don't have to look busy to gain approval. The gift of living well is that our lives often will look paradoxical: How can she/they/he live such a life and not be exhausted/stressed and have time to enjoy, play and partake in the pleasures as well? But the reality is, it is indeed possible when we choose to live consciously and thoughtfully.
"A life that focuses on what matters most, makes time for rest, and declines unnecessary distractions may look simple on the outside, but from the inside it is rich and fulfilling."
Deliberate rest paired with deliberate work is a partnership: "One provides the means to live, the other gives meaning to life".
"When we treat rest as work's equal and partner, recognize it as a playground for the creative mind and springboard for new ideas, and it as an activity that we can practice and improve, we elevate rest into something that can help calm our days, organize our lives, give us more time and help us achieve more while working less."
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
Image: Vogue UK
Mon, 5 September 2016
Have you resigned yourself to the idea that at a certain age things (not so great things) just happen to us? Well, no more! Inspired by Dr. Frank Lipman's new book 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat and How You Can Stay Young, Slim, and Happy! discover the 10 myths that we need to relinquish and how we can change the way we are living right now to make a tremendously positive difference for the rest of our lives.
In this week's Petit Plaisir, discover a Decadent Fig Appetizer. With only four ingredients and 15 minutes, you will have an appetizer to cause your tastebuds to dance.
Mon, 18 July 2016
So much of our happiness is entirely in our control, and with these 11 simple ways to immediately shift your mood from a frown to happiness, based on a handful of scientific studies, you can begin to change the quality of your days in an instant.
In this week's Petit Plaisir, two simple ways to enhance your everyday experience. First TSLL Notepads with exclusive full-color Inslee Fariss illustrations are now available at The Simply Luxurious Life: To-Do lists, and To Market, to Market (grocery list). Also, Martha Beck's The Joy Diet book is recommended.
Mon, 10 August 2015
The idea of "feeling fat" is often rather a feeling of knowing we aren't taking care of our body as we should and knowing we can feel better in our own skin. In today's episode, Shannon shares 15 simple ways to get back on track when it comes to eating well without going on a "diet" as Americans use the term.
In this week's Petit Plaisir, Shannon reviews Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman.