January 2018: Exercise as Therapy

January 2018: Exercise as Therapy

 

Life is full of obstacles and riding its coat tail is stress. Media oozes millions of anti-stress remedies, which is overwhelming in itself. Just like our individual uniqueness, techniques will work for some and not others.

 

From counseling and cognitive behaviour therapy, to wine and Jesus, I’ve tried almost all.  Deep breathing, giving attention to the rise and fall of my chest. Done it.  Visualizing worries as balloons disappearing into the atmosphere. Yup. Increasing Vitamin B12 and Magnesium in my diet. Check.  Next on my list is to hot box my apartment in lavender. I’ll let you know how that goes. No matter what I have ventured into, my constant will always be exercise.  Physical fitness is my therapy.

 

Exercise stimulates the brain to release endorphins, our bodies’ natural feel-good hormones.  It improves sleep, overall health and provides a sense of accomplishment.  Fitness burns excess energy directly related to stress. The body was designed for a fight or flight response, which when threatened releases adrenaline.  Since today’s stressors do not require us to physically fight or run, the adrenaline remains as unused energy.  This can cause anxiety or antsy feelings.  Cardio takes care of that.

 

Zumba is the perfect cardio pick-me-up. An hour of Zumba burns between 350 to 650 calories.  Periodically letting loose in a dance class and stumbling through Latin routines lifts spirits for this two-stepping country girl. I will never be able to drop it like it’s hot, unless it’s a French fry.  Even still, I leave the studio feeling light, having sweated, danced and laughed with others.

 

I regularly attended yoga classes when my ex-husband and I were separating. As I elongated my body into warrior and mountain poses, tears flowed down my face. The instructor probably thought I was nuts. Pushing past the embarrassment, I allowed the tension to melt off my body, replacing it with an inner peace.  Poses that release tension, increase blood flow and reduce stress are: eagle pose, standing forward fold pose, child’s pose and reclining butterfly. Put your Google skills to work and check them out.

 

My chest is tight almost on a daily basis. To rid this feeling I have to fatigue my body, which in turn exhausts my mind. Running outside forces me to focus on my route, breathing and reaching my target distance. Stress can’t chase me here. I’ve sweated in the sunshine, soaked in the rain and sported a snowsuit in the dead of winter.  Physical fitness therapy is a must for clarity in my life.  It has helped me through many twists and turns these past few years.

 

Amidst all your aspirations for 2018, I challenge you to move your body to nurture, heal and strengthen your mind.  Burn extra energy at Drumflex or go shake your jiggly to the floor with Danielle and Amanda. You’ll be glad you did!

 

Cynthia Valene

Healthy Eating?

 

I’m a rock star when it comes to healthy food choices, burning calories and being on the move in the heat of June, July and August. However, summer rolls into fall, bringing Thanksgiving, Halloween and soon enough Christmas.  My butt hurts from repeatedly falling off the wagon these last few months.

Two words: pumpkin pie. It has such a stronghold on my taste buds. I’m actually salivating as I write this.  The other day my jeans fit too snug. It was time to do a challenge of extreme workouts, while consuming minimal calories.  I’ve succeeded twice, shedding 14 pounds and building muscle in three weeks.  While I was meal planning at my kitchen table, my mother showed up, with homemade pumpkin pie. Shit.  I inhaled it and afterwards began my three weeks of torture.

I’d like to say I trimmed my waistline and my fantasy six pack is more visible. The reality is I got a chest infection, indulged in too many mini Aero bars and drool when I think of December 25th.  Because after all, Christmas means pumpkin pie.

Take it from me, don’t embark on an extreme body make-over during the holidays. It guarantees deprivation, misery and failure.  I’m not suggesting you face plant in every casserole and binge on marshmallow Santa’s either. Enjoy yourself and celebrate in moderation.

On average an adult requires 2,000 calories per day. Use those calories wisely at family dinners and festive gatherings.  I’m a dessert buff so for me I go light for the main meal.  This makes room for the 200 plus calories of pumpkin pie or glass of egg nog I love.  If you expect to overindulge, add extra minutes or repetitions to your workout.  Thirty minutes of brisk walking burns 90 – 120 calories, while reducing belly fat, lowering blood pressure and increasing the body’s good cholesterol count.  Literally go the extra mile to compensate the added calories.  Here are a few other tips to keep your health and guilt in check during the holidays:

Food is healthier when closest to its original state. Cook fresh vegetables instead of canned or frozen.  Less packaging ensures less sugar and salt.  Eliminating processed and packaged meats reduces 77 per cent of sodium in your diet.

The more colourful the vegetables and fruit on your plate, the more the nutrients.

Whole grains contain more fibre and less sugar.  When stuffing the turkey, switch out the white bread for whole wheat.

Drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before meals helps the stomach feel full, therefore overeating is less a risk.

Incorporate physical activity into family and friend time. Go for a walk to see Christmas lights, skate at the arena, or play charades.

Enjoy the treats, parties and people, while feeling good about yourself.  If you want that date square, then eat it.  Drink another glass of wine. Don’t let December fly by without sipping a candy cane hot chocolate or sneaking candies off the kiddies’ gingerbread house.  Just keep in mind, calories in, calories out.  It’s simple math.

Cynthia Valene

Sweet Date Balls

Looking for a healthier, sweet snack? Well look no further!

All you need to create a sweet healthy snack!

Start with 400g of pitted dates and 1tbsp of coconut oil

Place in blender

Add coconut oil

Pulse until it comes together

Use your tablespoon to scoop out

Squeeze and roll into a ball

Pop into the freezer and voila, you have a sweet, delicious and healthy snack!