Thursday, April 28, 2011

Exercise at Home?!

Autumn’s husband Ben is writing this guest column.  He holds a teaching certification in Jujutsu and is a longtime student of Baguazhang, a Chinese martial art.  He has been training in, experimenting with, and teaching others physical culture for 18 years.

Many folks seem to regard exercise as synonymous with the health club: Gold’s, 24-Hour Fitness, Bally’s, whatever.  But who says the gym is the only place to get a real workout?  And who says you need 4800 square feet of machinery (and the monthly fee that goes with it) to build the strength, stamina, and beauty that we all crave?  I say we take for granted the opportunities right in front of us… at home.

The Upside

Using your home as your personal gymnasium has a number of serious benefits.  First, it is cheap.  Dirt cheap.  Calling it free is an insult to basic economics, but if you don’t want to pay for the right to challenge your own physical abilities, the living-room floor is your salvation. 

Second, your home is always right there, and this removes one of the most serious drawbacks of the gym: time commitment.  If you’ve ever told yourself, “I should hit the weights/bike today, but it’s fifteen minutes there, fifteen minutes back, and I don’t have an extra half an hour on top of my workout,” you know what I mean.  Exercise at home eliminates the space between what you’re doing right now and the physical activity you want to do.  You just start.  Drop and give yourself twenty!

The crowning benefit of the exercise-at-home model is also the most ignored.  At the gym it’s all too easy to compare your strength, stamina or beauty to others’, and this can lead you to overdo workouts, put yourself down, or quit in despair when results don’t materialize in a month. At home, you are your own competitor and your own critic, and this allows you to be more honest about the present state of your abilities.  There’s no one to judge you, and no one for you to judge yourself against.  Exercise is intimate; you get to test your capabilities and limitations in new, sometimes threatening ways, and for many people (myself included), this is much easier in a non-competitive environment.

The Downside

Home has its drawbacks too.  First, you absolutely must vet your surroundings to make sure you’re safe should something go wrong.  Gyms have strict safety codes, and if you’re serious about using your home for exercise, you have to take safety seriously too.  Act accordingly.

The next challenge of using home as an exercise space is eliminating the distractions that surround us there: kids, TV, the Internet, chores, books… the list goes on.  To solve this problem, make the choice to sacrifice all those things just for the period of time you exercise.  For the next 45 minutes, there is no TV.  Mommy is not at your beck and call.  E-mail and Facebook have gone offline.  The dishes can wait.  There is nothing available to you except your body, the floor, and whatever equipment you enjoy working with.

The equipment part can be tricky, too.  The fitness industry loves to peddle gizmos to a public eager to get its workout at home, but many of those devices are useless and some are downright harmful.  Most are expensive.  For this reason, if you want to exercise at home it makes sense to start cheap and find out if you like it in the first place.  I suggest you check out the following three options:

Calisthenics/Bodyweight exercises: They were good enough for the Greeks, and you’ve seen their statues.  Lots of Internet, video and book options.  Initial investment: Low ($0 - $40).  My favorite: Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade; try hard to ignore the macho B.S.

Yoga: Indian exercise system, ancient and very popular.  Many different flavors, and a bajillion ways to try it via Internet, videos, and classes.  Initial investment: Low ($0 – $40).  My favorite: super-cheap audio routines from

Kettlebells: Russian Vodka-making equipment repurposed in the 1700s as a superb kind of strength-stamina training.  Initial investment: Medium ($50 - $150).  My favorite:  Kettlebells and books from  Again, ignore the hyperbole.

This list just scratches the surface of the possibilities.  Exploration is ultimately the only way to find an approach that works for you.

The Last Word

Many folks swear by the gym, and I’m sincerely glad it works for them.  It has its benefits, no doubt: if you want to get out of the house to a dedicated space for movement, the gym can be your sanctum sanctorum.  But don’t believe for a second that it’s your only option.  With just a few small changes, your home can become a physically and psychologically helpful environment where you’re free to develop your own innate potential.

Until next time!

“Mastering others is strength.  Mastering yourself is true power.”
--Laozi (Lao Tzu)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Motivation and Accountability

If you're just tuning in, FoodWise Nutrition has launched The Movement Project!  For the rest of April we're discussing how to incorporate exercise into our lives, and on May 1st we're starting 30 Days of Movement.  I challenge you to move every single day during the month of May!

Now that you've picked your movement and scheduled your movement, it's time to make yourself accountable for doing your movement!  Ever wonder how to keep yourself motivated and stick with your goals?  Wonder no more!

The first step in making any change is to decide on ONE thing to work on.  Right now, on this blog, that one thing is movement.  Decision made.  We've done the background on how to incorporate that change into your life and now it's time to do it!  Sure, the fist few days are great, maybe even the first week.  You feel energized and successful.  You're bragging to your friends over coffee.  You're life is rockin'.  But, what happens on day eight when you didn't get enough sleep, you're having a rough day, you forgot to pack the kids' lunch.  How do you stay motivated?

The answer?  Careful pre-planning.  Those friends who seem to have wills of iron didn't get that way overnight.  At some point, they went through the same process I'm going to tell you about.  The key is accountability: accountability to yourself and to others.

To make yourself accountable for following through on your commitment:
  • Keep a journal or write when you exercise into your planner.  If you didn't do it, write down why.
  • Find a friend to exercise with, someone you trust to give you a pep talk when you're wavering.
  • Email a friend your goals for the week, follow-up on the same day every single week and explain why you did or didn't meet your goals.  
  • Find a professional (such as a dietitian) to help keep you motivated and on track.
  • Post on the FoodWise Facebook page!
Every day during the month of May, I encourage you to post on the FoodWise Nutrition Facebook Page what exercise you did.  So you don't feel alone, yours truly will also be posting her movement!  And if something comes up and you're struggling to meet your personal goals or stick to your schedule, post THAT on facebook and our little community can help you figure out what's going on and how to keep you on track.

Your Movement Project Goal:
Pick at least one way to build your accountability to yourself and to others.  Don't back down, be honest and go for it!

Next up: Exercising At Home (and the challenges that go with it).

Monday, April 18, 2011

So... How Are YOU Going to Move Your Body?

The Movement Project
If you're just tuning in, FoodWise Nutrition has launched The Movement Project!  For the rest of April we're discussing how to incorporate exercise into our lives, and on May 1st we're starting 30 Days of Movement.  I challenge you to move every single day during the month of May!

Now that you've found some time to exercise, what are you going to do?  The most important question you can answer right now is, "What do you like to do?"  Really.  What movement do you enjoy?  If you haven't done much since you were a kid or teenager, remember back to what you loved to do.  Did you play sports?  Swim?  Dance? Walk around the neighborhood and visit with friends?  You will love moving so much more if you enjoy what you're doing!

Nowadays you have lots and lots of movement options: home, gym, outdoors, classes, and sports.  You name it, you can do it!  Having a combination of options available will probably be the most reasonable, given that some days you can only move for minutes and some days for a hour or more.

The advantage of exercising at home is that you don't have to go anywhere and it's very, very cheap.  You can work it in at any time of day and the intensity of the workout varies with your needs.  The disadvantage is that it can be challenging to get motivated to move while at home, life interruptions are more common, and we'll often stop before our exercise program is complete.

So, what are your home movement options?
  • Dancing to music
  • Exercise videos
  • Audio-only yoga (check
  • Kettlebells
  • Bodyweight exercises/calisthenics
  • Video games (Wii, X-box connect, etc)
Typically, people think going to the gym is a mandatory part of any exercise program, but it's only a good idea if you'll go to the gym!  There are many advantages: you can go in any weather, there are usually free classes and the gym has a variety of machines to choose from.  On the downside, it takes time to get to and from the gym, it costs money, and there is the potential for repetitive, boring exercise if you don't mix up your routine.
Outdoor exercise is a great free option, especially as we get into spring and summer.  Your opportunities are endless, including walking, running, biking, hiking, swimming, rollerblading, and more.  You can do it anytime and you'll get fresh air to boot!

Taking movement classes is a wonderful way to meet new people and learn a new skill.  You can do martial arts, zumba, yoga, pilates, dance, CrossFit, bootcamp, etc.  It's both mentally stimulating and rewarding to be with other people.  In these types of classes you'll be working your whole body and increasing your balance, coordination and flexibility.  The disadvantage of classes is that they're typically a hour or more, and they're always offered at aspecific time that may or may not fit into your schedule.  They can also be expensive.  Buyer beware.

Sports are fantastic because they give you a reason to move!  They also offer the camaraderie of teamwork and the thrill of competition.  Most recreational leagues are quite affordable, but just as with classes, the practice and game schedules are usually set.

So, again: what are you going to do for movement?  

Here's an example of a one-week movement schedule.  
This is just a sample -- your movement schedule should be unique to you!  
  • Monday: Dance class after work
  • Tuesday: 20 minute audio yoga class from before work
  • Wednesday: Gym after work (elliptical machine, free weights)
  • Thursday: 25 minute exercise video at home before work
  • Friday: Walk at lunch with co-worker
  • Saturday: Hike with husband and dog
  • Sunday: Dance video game with kids
 Your Movement Project Goal
           Write into your exercise schedule the exercise or movement type you are going to do each day.
Up next: Accountability. How are you going to keep yourself moving on day 2, day 10, day 28?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Find, Beg, Make or Steal... Time!

If you're just tuning in, FoodWise Nutrition has launched The Movement Project!  For the rest of April we'll be discussing how to incorporate exercise into our lives, and on May 1st  we're starting 30 Days of Movement.  I challenge YOU to move every single day during the month of May!

Before you decide what types of exercise you're going to pursue or nail down your health goals, you need to decide where movement is going to fit into your life.  Your goal is to find 20 minutes to 1½ hours every single day of the week.  Can you do it?  I think so!

Typically, people's schedules fall into two categories: those that have rigid structure in place around jobs, kids and hobbies, and those that have something different going on every single day.  Which are you? Perhaps you have the same schedule during the work week and then an erratic schedule on the weekend?

The trick when scheduling exercise is to plan ahead and schedule a time that works for the day, not the week or the month.  If you can hit the gym at 5:30 every morning before work because that's what works for your schedule, great.  Do it!  However, the majority of us can't work out at the same time every day, and that's OK.  That level of structure isn't necessary for a successful exercise program!

Get out your planner and look at your schedule for the week.  When can you exercise on Monday?  Tuesday? Wednesday?  Perhaps you can manage 20 minutes on Monday morning before work but Tuesday is your day to drive carpool so an hour after work is more feasible.  Wednesday might be a 30 minute walk at lunch and Thursday is another 20 minutes in the morning. Take a few moments now to lock in a chunk of time every day.

Write your exercise time in your planner, and write it in pen.  You've made a commitment to move, even if we haven't established what you're going to do yet!  If something comes up that interferes with your exercise time, don't throw in the towel. Move either the obligation or your exercise time.  It's that simple.

For people whose schedule is incredibly fluid (like business owners), it may work better to schedule exercise the night before because your schedule isn't fully flushed out until then.  That's OK too.  Do what works best for your life!

The Movement Project Goal:
      Before Monday, schedule in your exercise times and write them in your planner in pen.

Up next: What are your movement options?  What will you do?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Movement Project

Bicycling Family Courtesy of istockphoto

Do you exercise?  Go to the gym?  Run?  Bike?  Do yoga?  Garden?  Most people move some, but even if you don't, you can start anytime.  Really!  It doesn't have to be big deal.  Get up right now and go for a walk.  I'm serious.  The blog post can wait -- it'll be here.

Well, if you want to finish reading this, I guess that's OK too.

Everyone knows they need to move their bodies.  It's common knowledge.  In fact, the message is so ubiquitous that most people ignore it and only bring up their guilt in the coffee shop with friends over cookies and lattes.  "Oh I need to exercise so I can lose this belly flab for the wedding!"  "I'm SO out of shape but I just don't have time!"  "My doctor told me I have to start exercising but there's no way I'm going anywhere near a gym!"

We have reasons for not exercising.  Good reasons.  Reasons that make complete sense in this 24/7 life we lead, filled with work and kids and cooking and dinner engagements and family obligations.  Our justifications are absolutely 100% right.  We don't have time.

What if we made the time?  Why should we try?  Sometimes it helps to review the health benefits of exercise, even if we know them:

  • Mental clarity 
  • Stress reduction and relaxation
  • Depression prevention
  • Blood glucose normalization/management
  • Heart heath
  • General disease prevention
  • Self-esteem (you KNOW you want to look good for swimsuit season!)

Are you convinced yet?  Maybe you can give this exercise thing another try, or maybe you can increase the number of days you do exercise.

Introducing 30 Days of Movement!  As of May 1st, 2011 I want everyone who reads this blog to move everyday, whether it's walking or lacrosse practice or water aerobics.  It's time to make that change we've all convinced ourselves is impossible.

Not to fear, this change isn't going to come overnight.  For the rest of April I'll be talking about how to make movement happen.  This is going to take some effort on your part, rearranging schedules and shifting your perspective on what counts as exercise.  We are going to tackle all the questions: what, where, when, why, how and how much.  We'll discuss examples and then you can figure out how to apply these changes to your own life.

You can and should start exercising now.  Try out that Zumba class you've been interested in or take the dog for the hike you haven't been on since last August.  Break out of the cocoon of winter and embrace spring!

Next:  The thrilling topic of how to schedule exercise every single day.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Finding Yourself Through Scones

Cherry and Walnut Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Scones

The world of FoodWise Nutrition has been so crazy busy that our poor little blog has suffered extreme neglect.  Turns out that opening a second practice is a touch time-consuming!  Combine a new practice with networking, meetings, patients, taxes, family and the flu, and all creativity for writing evaporates into thin air.  Never fear! We are back and ready to tackle spring with gusto!

In the midst of March madness, my inclination to cook went on vacation and took all my energy with it.  Last week I did make a lovely Chicken Chasseur (French chicken cacciatore) but mostly our household has subsisted on quick and easy dishes like baked fish tacos and pasta with sausage and blanched greens.  In fact, I'm so sick of pasta that there isn't any on the menu for the foreseeable future!

One lovely discovery during this cooking vacation is frozen Garlic Jim's Pizza.  Garlic Jim's is a semi-local pizzeria that makes gluten-free pizza, and they've recently started selling their products in our neighborhood grocery store.  I don't advocate frozen pizza as a daily occurrence in your healthy diet, but every so often life's little curveballs require food that can be heated in your oven in 12 minutes or less.  

Last night, my nutrition study group had its monthly meeting and as so often happens, the conversation devolved into food.  What's sorghum flour?  How much amaranth flour should you use in a recipe?  I started pulling out cookbooks and we stumbled across a lovely scone recipe that I've used before with success.  One of our members is dairy-free and we wondered what would happen if we replaced the cream in the recipe with coconut milk and the fat with coconut oil?

Well, we wouldn't be a nutrition study group if we sat on our hands and DIDN'T give it a try!  Your experimental dietitian is back, baby!

Walnut and Cherry Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Scones

1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup sweet rice four
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 cup potato starch
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, chilled in freezer for 15 minutes*
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 eggs
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 to 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk

* The scones came out just a bit dry.  Next time I make them (which will be very, very soon), I'm going to use 1/3 cup coconut oil.  Try it if you like!
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together brown rice flour, sweet rice flour, oat flour, potato starch, baking powder, xanthum gum and salt.  Make sure ingredients are thoroughly blended.
  3. Place dollops of coconut oil into the flour mixture and work it into the flour with your hands.
  4. Mix in dried cherries and walnuts.
  5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and break the eggs into the well.  Add the honey and a dash of coconut milk.  Gently mix the wet ingredients together with a fork, then slowly incorporate them into the dry ingredients.  Add more coconut milk as needed.  Dough should stick together but not be overly wet.
  6. Turn out onto floured surface and press into a round disc 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into 8 wedges and place on a cookie sheet covered with a silpat or parchment paper.
  7. Bake 12 minutes or until the scones are slightly brown on top and cooked through.
Serve warm with a dollop of jam.

Recipe adapted from Gluten-Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly