Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Workout music

Just wanted to briefly stop in and tell you that I did in fact make it to the gym last night, and am now halfway to my twice-a-week goal. Yay! I felt a little uncomf walking into the gym in my very functional (not cute) workout clothes. I haven't been to the gym in almost three years (The shame! The shame!) and felt very self-conscious as I got on my treadmill and started a brisk walk. But I stayed on that treadmill for 20 minutes, and then followed it up with another 20 minutes on the exercise bikes. I'm happy with that for a start.

One thing that really helped my workout along was listening to music. I listened to Pandora on my phone, and couldn't stop grinning like a maniac at their 80's Cardio Radio channel. For your own workout enjoyment, I bring you a playlist of what I worked out to last night:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Such a happy little bunch of songs! I seriously laughed out loud (I am now the official gym weirdo)when it started playing "Mickey. Do you like working out to music? What keeps you moving?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Step 5: Get some exercise!

This week will mark one month of our weekly health challenges, and I think that once we're out of January, we can officially declare this a success! We'll be out of the realms of New Year's Resolutions, and onto the path of lifestyle changes.

Before we move onto this weeks's challenge, I thought I'd write a little bit about each of the four weeks so far and tell you how I did, and how I feel like I'm still doing.

  • Week 1, drinking water: I did well on this challenge. I started noticing a difference in how I felt within about a week. Most noticeably, I found that I often have a very slight headache that I wasn't even aware of until I started drinking more water and it went away. I also find that I snack a little less and make better drink choices when trying to reach my water goal of 60 fl. oz. (1.7 liters). What worked best for me was discovering that 60 oz equals four of our kitchen glasses. Breaking it down into smaller, manageable amounts like that has been really helpful for me. Four weeks later, I'm still trying to reach my goal, but not making it quite as regularly as I did for the first week. I probably average about three glasses of water a day, or 45 fl. oz. I'm doing good, but there is room for improvement. 
  • Week 2, spending time outside: I did great at this goal, and really enjoyed doing it. We were lucky in that it coincided with a "warm" (for January!) sunny week, which meant that we took several trips to the park. I really enjoy being outside for my own benefit, but love seeing how much Espen enjoys it too. I need to make much more of an effort to keep this up, though, because the rain, snow and cold weather we've had since that has kept us inside more than I like. We've also all taken turns being sick, which kind of puts a damper on things. Lots of room for improvement here, but also lots of room for enjoying some time outside, which is a plus. 
  • Week 3, Eating a daily piece of fruit: I did really well for the first four days, because I bought a bunch of bananas. I had banana on my cereal a few times, and also for a late afternoon snack (I always get hungry around 4 PM, which is just silly). Then the bananas started getting a little brown and I got busy with a project, and things got a little tricky. I had some grapes in the fridge, though, so there were a few nights where I shoveled down a fistful of grapes before bed, just so I could reach my goal. Grapes also make a really great snack. I haven't been doing too great with this after the challenge, so need to step it up. 
  • Week 4, Healthy Weeknight treats: I was pretty terrified of this one before I started, because Nick and I have done this before and it has been hard. The main difference this time (and why I hope we can succeed) is that instead of saying no treats at all on weeknights, now we're eating healthy treats. One night this week we watched Midnight in Paris (great movie!) and ate hummus and pita chips with grapes, and it was delicious. Some nights we haven't even really wanted a treat, which is extremely rare for me. I think part of that might be that we've been busy and have had a lot of late dinners this week, which means I've been less hungry in the evenings. When the weekend rolled around, we made our unhealthy treat choices wisely: raspberry turnovers on Friday and Lindt Black Currant Chocolate on Saturday. On Sunday we had dinner with friends, and were in no need of extra treats. I like how saving tasty treats for the weekend makes them much more special and a little decadent. We'll be keeping this up, but I'm not going to lie, I'll miss my Thursday night milk and cookies with 30 Rock and Big Bang Theory! 
Tell me how you've been doing! Have you kept it all up? What have you liked and not liked? Also, if you have any ideas for future challenges, please let me know! 

OK, Step 5! 

Here's where we might part ways a little bit on this series of challenges: Last week Nick and took the plunge and signed up for a gym membership. It's going to be tricky to find the time for me to go, seeing as I take care of Espen all day, but I am determined to use the gym. This week I am going to go to the gym at least twice. I'd like to increase that number to three or four, but until I find my feet and figure out what to do with Espen, and find a good time to go, two it is. 

Obviously, this isn't going to work for everyone. Some of you don't have gym memberships and aren't about to go out and get one just because I did. Some of you already go to the gym regularly. Some of you aren't really physically able to do very much (pregnant, dealing with injuries or other health problems). These are my suggestions for you this week: 
  • If you don't have a gym membership, find a way to get some exercise twice this week. Go for a walk, go jogging go for a bike ride, do a workout video. If you don't have any available, there are lots available online. Spark People might be a good place to start, I know Netflix has some available for instant streaming, especially if you have a high tolerance for the late Nineties. 
  • If you do have a gym membership, and I am assuming you go regularly, find a way to step it up a notch. Add an extra session (if you're really hard core!), switch up your routine, try a new class. If you have a gym membership and don't go as often as you'd like, this is the week to make it over there. 
So, tell me, what are you doing this week? 

Image borrowed here

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Be a better snacker

So it's week four of my small steps health challenge, and it's time to kick it up a notch, I think. OK, deep breath:

This week I will be giving up weeknight treats.

OK, that is to say not completely. I will still eat if I feel hungry or snacky. This isn't about deprivation, it's about being more healthy. But instead of cookies, chocolate, ice cream, chips or general naughtiness of that nature, I'm going to try to go for healthier options like fruit, yogurt, nuts (unsalted).

The idea is that I will try to be smart about what I eat during the week, then fulfill whatever snack cravings I have on the weekends. I'm not swearing off sugar or treats completely, because for 99% of the population, that is doomed to fail. I'm not deciding to stop eating after a certain time of day, because I believe that if your body is telling to eat, you need to listen to it. I'm just trying to be a little more mindful about my snack habits.

If you are joining me, I'm going to leave it up to you to decide what you want to eat and not eat. I'm also going to let you decide if your weekend is Friday, Saturday and Sunday, or just Saturday and Sunday. We're all grown ups here (right?) and I think we know what constitutes healthy and not-so-healthy. However, if you need some ideas (I do!), you could try looking here, here, and here are some ideas for healthy snacks.

Good luck to you, soldier.

Image borrowed here.

PS: For those of you bored to tears with my health challenge, I am planning some typical Project Project projects to blog about soon. Just bear with me while I try to do something a little better for myself.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Feeling fruity

I'm here, I'm here! A little behind schedule, but it's a three-day weekend, so I'm cutting myself a nice big length of slack. Americans, do you have the day off for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? Do you commemorate the day? We didn't really do much (sadly), but Espen's library book ties in quite nicely for the occasion. 

For the third week of my small steps challenge, I will be eating a piece of fresh fruit every day. At least. It's kind of silly that I need to make this a specific goal, because not only do I know how good for you it is, I also love it. In fact, the only pregnancy cravings I ever had were for fruit. Some women crave raw hamburger and heavy cream, I could not get enough strawberries and fruit smoothies. Weird. 

As usual, I'm not going to lecture you why this is good for you and your body. But I will point you to some helpful reading herehere and here. The second one is especially helpful. 

And here I am two years later, needing to make a goal to eat fruit. Like I said, it's not that I don't love fruit or recognize how crazy-good it is for you, I'm just not all that great at eating it. Here are a few of my problems with eating fruit: 
  1. I like it best when it's freshy fresh and lose interest after it has spent a few days in our kitchen. 
  2. Fruit often requires a bit more effort (washing, peeling, cutting), and I am a lazy lazy girl. 
  3. Both of these often lead to less-than-appealing fruit that sits around and eventually gets thrown out at out house. Knowing we often waste it discourages us from buying more. 
But the benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables are so immense that I just need to make an attempt to step it up. Not that long ago the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables was five. Remember the 5 A Day campaign? (Or Fem om dagen for you Norwegians?) Well, these days* that recommendation is nine.  So it's time to get chomping, friends! Who's with me? If you're already an impressive nosher of fruit, maybe try adding another serving to get you even closer to that magical number nine. And if you're already at nine, can you tell us how you do it?

*OK, this "new" recommendation came in 2005, so it's not exactly cutting edge. But it was news to me!
Image borrowed here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Checking in

Well, week one of my little health challenge is behind us, and I'm going to say "so far, so good!" I more than met my goal of drinking 60 oz. of water for the first four days, and really liked it. Then Espen got sick and the weekend hit, and all of my attention was just sucked into taking care of my little boy. I know I didn't make it to my goal one day, and the two others were so busy that I'm not even entirely sure what I had to eat or drink. I'm paying for my negligence now though, as my throat started feeling sore yesterday. Is it especially hard for mothers to learn the importance of first taking care of their own needs before they can help anyone else?

A few thoughts on drinking more water:

  • I didn't really notice much of a difference until I stopped, when I became aware of a faint, dull headache that just kind of lurks behind my forehead. It goes away with a glass of water! 
  • Going to the bathroom more often is kind of annoying. 
  • On the upside, after about three days I developed the ability to stealth-pee. Completely clear, you guys! (OK, that was almost definitely too much information.)
  • Drinking water makes me feel less snacky. Not that it has necessarily helped me to snack less, but it has made me realize that a lot of the time the food cravings I feel are mostly in my mind. 
  • Discovering that our tall drinking glasses each held 1/4 of my daily intake was really helpful. I could just tell myself that I drank one glass with lunch, one with dinner and two more in between. Drinking two of my big water bottle felt a little daunting, and I only have one of it, which makes things a little trickier if it was in the dish washer. 
  • Speaking of dishes, things also got tricky if all the tall glasses were dirty. 
  • I need to do my dishes more often. 

I'm definitely a fan of drinking more water, and will be keeping it up. I'm not sure if I was just caught up in the euphoria of a new project, but I have to say I felt pretty good last week. A little more energized and a little more clear-minded. I'll take it. 

If you're following along, how did you do? Did you notice a difference in how you felt? Will you be keeping it up? 

PS: I came across this blogpost that talks about the advantages of drinking lemon water every morning. I haven't had a chance to research this much on my own, but it certainly gives you a few things to think about, right? 

Image borrowed here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Step 2: Go outside

This week I will be taking it outside by spending at least 20 minutes outdoors three times. In my mind I hear about half of you gasping "Outside? Now? But it's January!!!" and the other half saying "my goodness, what kind of a couch potato are you? You need to make an effort to spend 20 minutes outside?!?"

And the answer is... well, sometimes I do. Truth be told, I am pretty good about getting outside, especially with Espen who loves getting out of doors. But when it's cold outside I don't want to get us both bundled up, and so we stay in, and so I get lazy and so I forget how much I actually enjoy being outside. Yes, forgetting that I enjoy things that require effort is a common theme in my life, have you noticed?

Anyway, it seems that being outside is pretty great for your health. Personally, I always find it helps to clear my mind and brighten my mood whenever I spend time outside. Harvard Health mentions a few in this article: increased vitamin D levels, more exercise, feeling happier, improved concentration and you may even heal faster!

Another personal reason for getting outside is that I want to teach Espen the value and fun in being active and outdoorsy. I don't think it will necessarily be as natural for his generation to find their fun outside, so I want to try to instill that in him from an early age.

Plus he looks cuter in natural light (Joking! He is adorable in all lights):

For myself, I like the idea that being outside sort of inherently makes you be more active. I find it unlikely that I'll go and sit on my front door step with a timer set for 20 minutes, and know that I will move around more than if I stayed inside. Of course, I have a toddler, which means I will be spending most of my time pulling him out of precarious situations. Fun for him, a little exercise for me. Win-win! 

I imagine we will take a walk around the duck ponds, and spend some time at the playground. Nothing big or ambitious, but plenty of opportunity to breathe some fresh air and soak up some of that vitamin D. 

Are you in? If you're already an outdoorsy person, why not step it up a bit and go outside more than you typically do, or stay out a bit longer once you're there. If you never spend time outside and find this daunting, then maybe just aim for one trip outside this week. Small steps! 

Who's with me?

PS, I also wanted to point out that Resources for the Future has a good article here, if you're feeling the tiniest bit academic today. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The 52 Week Organized Home Challenge

Because I seem to have developed a severe case of overachiever-itis, I have also signed up for this series of weekly challenges:

52 Week Organized Home Challenge
(Thanks, Janey!)

Every week they email you a an assignment for a different area to clean and organize, along with a guide for how to do it. I got the first one yesterday, and so hopefully by the end of the week I will have clean and organized kitchen countertops and sink! You can read about the first week here

What I like about it is that it seems like each challenge is pretty reasonable, and something that you could definitely do in a week, if not an afternoon. It's hard for to take on huge projects because 1) I tend to get overwhelmed easily, and 2) with Espen around, my time is not usually my own. I mean, those trains aren't going to drive themselves! But a weekly chunk is something I can handle, so I am feeling pretty optimistic about it. 

And even if I fall off the wagon and daily miserably, at least I will have gotten clean counters out of it. I can't lose! 


Over to other things, how are my drinking buddies doing? It's taking some effort on my part to drink my 60 oz. of water, but it's not as hard as I thought. Remembering is the hard part! I think it just needs to become a habit first. It turns out that our tall drinking glasses hold 16 oz. if you fill them to the brim, so four glasses of water equals 64 oz! I just assume that by not filling my glass quite to the brim, I'm still getting at least my 60 oz., so I'm golden. For some reason, four tall glasses of water seems much more manageable than eight cups or even two HUGE cups. 

So, my pro-tip for today is to measure your everyday glasses and see how many you need to drink in a day. 

Other than that, I can't say I've noticed a lot of health benefits in the last two days (gosh!), but I have definitely noticed an increase in trips to the bathroom. TMI? Well, you try this out and see what your bladder thinks! 

How are your New Year's Resolutions coming? 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Step 1: Drink water!

This first week's challenge is going to be to drink water. I said small steps, right?!? You can decide for yourself how much you think you need to increase your intake, but I am going for 60 oz a day of water, or 1.7 liters. Let me explain a little about how I arrived at that number:

The Institute of Medicine recommends that women get roughly 2.2 l (9 cups or 74 fl. oz) of total drinking fluids per day. Men should be getting about 3 liters (13 cups or 101 fl. oz.). If I am drinking 60 oz of water, that leaves another 14 oz for other things I like to drink, like my orange juice in the morning, or my beloved milk that I cannot, will not live without. Although please note that 1) these are intended as guidelines, and 2) no one is going to a watery grave if they drink a bit more.

Also, my beloved hospital water cup holds 30 oz, so that's a significant deciding factor too.

There are heaps and heaps of reasons why drinking enough water is good for your health, and I'm not going to make this post any longer by listing them for you. But I will provide you with some good resources if you want to read up on it yourself :

PS: It occurs to me that Monday mornings are not going to cut it for any of you Europeans who might want to join in my little Health Challenge, so in the future I will try to get my posts up on Sunday night so everyone can have the benefit of starting on Monday morning. 

And, finally, while we're in the housekeeping vein: I just wanted to tell you all how much your comments mean to me! I love hearing from you, and I love checking out your blogs to learn a bit about you, so don't be surprised to find a comment or two from me! 

Image borrowed here. Randomly from a site about dogs and water. Hey, we all need to hydrate! :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A healthier 2012

I mentioned in my New Year's Resolutions that I want to be kinder to my health and my body. I've been thinking a lot about health lately. Not just in the typical post-holiday "I have got to find the way out of this chocolate box" haze that so many of us experience after an indulgent December, and not simply because everyone I know seems to be filling their Pinterest boards with inspirational photos of salads and athletic bodies.

Feeling good after a hike at Zion National Park, Christmas 2011. 

I've been thinking about my body, and how I believe it is a literal gift from God. It has allowed me to experience some incredible things, and I feel genuinely grateful for its strength and abilities. And yet I don't treat my body as well as I could. I don't nourish or exercise it as well as I think it deserves. I don't give it enough opportunity to show me what it can do, or allow it to remind me how much I enjoy using it, especially once I get started.

I could feel guilty about this, but I'm not going to. There are enough influences out there who will tell us to feel ashamed of how our bodies look or function, and I'm not going to be one of them. Like many of you, I could write a novel about the things I don't like about my body, how it looks or how it works, but this isn't about that. Like many of you, I have a number in my head that describes the amount of weight I think I have to lose before I'll feel happy about how I look and feel, but let's not make this about weight. Like many of you, I think that health and happiness come from making major lifestyle changes and, like many of you, I find it easy to stumble, fall and give up before reaching whatever goal was set before starting out.

Here's the thing: I don't want to wait to be happy or healthy. I want to start now. I want to make the changes in my life that will eventually lead to a healthier, stronger me. And so I am starting small:

Every week I will present myself with a new health challenge, one of the things I know I should be doing better at, and I will give myself all week to work on it. Hopefully some of these small steps will become permanent and help shape healthier habits, but I f I can only keep it up for one week, then so be it. At least then I will still have done something good for myself for a week, and can move onto something else that I might like better.

To keep myself accountable I will post every new challenge at the beginning of each week, along with a little recap of how things went the previous week. And, if you want to, this also allows you to join in with me, if you're interested? Just check in at the beginning of the week to see what I'll be up to, and then join in if it sounds like something you'd like to do. And let me know if you do, I'm such a fan of the buddy system!

All I ask is that if you do join in, please make the main focus your health and wellbeing, rather than obsessing about reaching a number on the scale. Because you, my friend, know so much better than to tie your self-worth to a mere number. This is about becoming better, feeling stronger and living more healthily.

Deep breath and... small steps.

Check back tomorrow for the first challenge!

New Year's Resolutions 2012

I love January 1st. The whole year is ahead of us, stuffed to the gills (provided a year has gills, natch) with promise, potential and experiences to be had. This year could hold anything! One of my favorite things about all this newness and potential is to think about the marks that I'd like to make on my own year. Changes I'd like to make, things I'd like to accomplish, places I'd like to see.

I am a big believer in New Year's Resolutions. Now, I know there are those who say that they're stupid, and that you can make changes in your life whenever you want to, and don't need to wait for some designated day on the calendar to start. To them (whoever they are) I say: Sure! But I'd rather take advantage of the excitement and motivation that I feel right now, than wait around for the fancy to strike another time. And so what if my resolve only lasts a few months/days/weeks? At least then I will have accomplished some good during that time, right?

In 2012 I resolve to
  1. Be kinder to my health and my body. (More about that tomorrow!)
  2. Take more responsibility and feel less guilt. 
  3. Take family pictures. 
  4. Attend an evening class. 
  5. Take Espen on adventures. 
  6. Better nourish my soul. 
  7. Visit my family in Norway. 
  8. Write more letters. 
  9. Paint our bedroom. 
  10. Show Nick I love him. 
How about you? 

Image borrowed here. Thank you, Yale!