Change Your Choices

Change Your Life…Tips for a healthier you

Born To Run?



Today’s post is a bit more like reading a journal so bear with me.  I’m working on a goal here and need all of you to hold me accountable!

Ever since I have started seriously exercising (about 10 years ago), I have tried to run.  I run for a minute and give up in frustration because I just don’t enjoy it.  Where’s the runners high?  Where’s that feeling of exhilaration that I hear about from all my runner friends?  I just get cranky because I just can’t do it.  I know,” can’t means won'”t so I decided to give it one last shot.

If I was going to attempt to be a runner, I needed a goal.  I am taking this in baby-steps so my goal is a 5k.  (I have done one 5k before, but I don’t think the course was  that long and I ended up walking a lot of it.)  5k= 3 miles plus 188 yards.

There is a Packers 5k at Lambeau Field in July and that seemed to be a good way to start.  Run through Lambeau, get a free t-shirt…this will be fun.  I mentioned it to my boss who said “get 50 people together as a team and I’ll pay the entry fee.”  Well, this is getting serious!  If I organize a team, I have to run it.  In my excitement, I signed myself up for the 9-11 minute wave even though I had never actually run 1 whole mile in my life, let alone 3!  Whew- that’s what’s known as setting a goal.  I know, it can be called other things but I’m calling it a goal!

I first had to figure out why I can’t (won’t ) run.  My cardio endurance is good from cycling, my legs, knees, and hips are fine so there is no physical reason why I can’t run.  Shoot, that means it’s all in my head which is probably harder to fix than if it were a physical issue.

I bought some new shoes, cranked up the ipod and headed out for my first serious stab at running.  I read a few articles about running for a length of time vs running for distance and went with time.  How about 2 minutes?  haha…seriously, I am not kidding- 2 minutes and I was ready to stop.  But I didn’t, I made myself do 5.  I would like to say I kept going but I slowed to a brisk walk at 5 minutes.  I don’t want to be too crazy!

I’ve been going for a run almost daily for about 2 weeks now and am excited that I can now do 3 miles in just under 30 minutes without stopping.  This is on the treadmill in the gym, running outside is still a bit of a challenge with all the hills and wind and stuff.  (I love excuses).  I am getting outside more and pushing myself to run 15 minutes before taking a walk break.  I still haven’t experienced that running high, but it is very exciting to see the treadmill hit 3 miles. Small victories are awesome!  The next goal is to run 3 miles (in a row!) outside, and then see if I can maybe speed it up a bit.

I’m a big believer in setting reasonable goals and sticking to them.  Even if  you are in good shape, it’s fun to give yourself a challenge.  If you aren’t in such good shape, goals can help you get there.  Sometimes a goal is as easy as a walk around the block before dinner.  Then make it 2 blocks, then 3….you see where this is going.  We can’t be awesome right out of the gate–sometimes we need to build up to it!


What’s your goal?  Don’t have one?  Why not?


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Spring Ahead!

Did you remember to spring ahead… If not, you were probably late for something today!  Look how much one hour can affect us:

> A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed an 8 percent increase in motor vehicle accidents on the Monday following the time change. However, the extra hour of evening daylight in the spring may help prevent pedestrian fatalities. So, I guess you are better off walking than driving today, but then, walking is always better than driving when you have the option.

>Workplace accidents may be another side effect of the sleep loss from the one-hour time change. Accidents increase in frequency the Monday after the clocks move.  Researchers found a 5.7 percent increase in injuries and a 67.6 percent increase in work days lost to injuries so be extra careful on Monday.

>We are already sleep deprived and losing an hour does not help.  One tip- take a nap on Sunday.

>It is a well known fact that Monday is a big day for heart attacks, but recent studies show that there is an even greater increase in heart attacks the Monday after our clocks change. Click here for information on heart attack symptoms and warning signs.

So, in order to have a healthy Monday, you simply MUST take time for a nap today!

I recommend a couch or bed- it's safer!

Also- check  your smoke detector batteries and flip your mattress!


Some tips to help you sleep


This is from everyone’s favorite Doctor: Dr. Oz

Relax from Head to Toe

Sometimes, concentrating on relaxing your muscles and taking deep breaths will help you fall asleep. In a way, it’s like pressing the brakes on your body as you’re signaling it to slow down — 8-hour red light straight ahead! This is called progressive relaxation.

Here’s how to do it:

  • First, your bedroom should be dark, quiet, and cool.
  • Your bed should be cozy and comfortable.
  • Eliminate any distractions, like ticking clocks, pets, or mobile phones.
  • Get in a comfortable position and think about your toes. Are they tense? Take a deep breath and relax them.
  • From toes to ankles, all the way up to your face and tongue; focus on each muscle group. Take a deep breath and relax that muscle group as you exhale.

By the time you get to the top of your head, you should be well on your way to quality sleep. But if you’re not, don’t worry. Practice this relaxation technique every night and make any variations that work best for you.

I like these ideas, except for the pet part, they would be banging on the door if I kicked them out!  The best thing we have done is NO TV in the bedroom.  Well, we do have a TV in the bedroom, but only for watching when NOT trying to fall asleep.  This was a tough habit to break (the sleep timer made it too convenient) but you will be amazed how much faster you fall asleep and how much better you will sleep.  Even putting the cell phone on the” calls only” setting makes a difference.  No more pinging and buzzing when someone updates facebook or sends a text at odd hours!  Also, flip your phone so you don’t see the light blinking.  An easy change, but it works.

Have a good sleep!

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To sleep, perchance to dream….


Yes, a quote from Shakespeare to start the week.   (for you Hamlet fans, I know the quote is really about death, but it made for a catchy title)

Homer and Shakespeare in the same blog. Classy....

Let’s talk about sleep.  We never seem to get enough but do we really know how much we need?  Conventional wisdom says we need 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.  Thankfully, studies are being done that shows this is  most likely not be the case.  Sleep is one of the richest topics in science today: why we need it, why it can be hard to get, and how that affects everything from our athletic performance to our income.

Research shows that people who sleep between 6.5 hr. and 7.5 hours per night live the longest. It also shows that people who sleep 8 or more or less than 6.5 hours they don’t live quite as long. There is just as much risk associated with sleeping too long as with sleeping too short. Sleeping 8.5 hr. might really be a little worse than sleeping 5 hr.

A famous sleep doctor says he likes to publicize these facts because he can prevent a lot of insomnia and distress just by telling people that short sleep is O.K. We’ve all been told you need to sleep 8 hours but there was never any evidence. A very common problem he sees at sleep clinics is people who spend too long in bed. They think they should sleep 8 or 9 hr., so they spend [that amount of time] in bed, with the result that they have trouble falling asleep and wake up a lot during the night. Oddly enough, a lot of the problem [of insomnia] is lying in bed awake, worrying about it.

Whew- I have been trying to get 8-9 hours of sleep because I have always been told that’s what a person needs to be healthy. How many of you lay there looking at the clock and saying “If I fall asleep right now I will get X hours of sleep.”  When this happens to me I feel tired and cranky the next day because I didn’t sleep enough.  Well, now that I know that 6.5 to 7.5 is enough, will I feel less tired?  I certainly hope so!

“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying.  It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep.” ~Dale Carnegie


Ahhh.....quit worrying about the clock and have a good night's sleep.

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Health Benefits of Pets

This is the man who wasn't sure about having a house pet with our rescue cat, Luis.

I will admit to being a cat lady.  Yes, we currently have 3 cats living in our house, I would have more but that might be considered crazy!  I was raised in a house where rescue cats were in an out as well as our own  cats plus our rescued chihuahua that we had for 13 years.  My husband was not raised with pets in the house but our daughters and I convinced him that a cat would be good to have.  Hahaha….he now begrudgingly admits that having pets around is quite entertaining.  Having a pet can also help you live a long and healthy life- here’s how:

  • Pets alleviate loneliness. Loneliness is one of the biggest obstacles to  recovery from illnesses such as heart disease. Patients who suffer heart attacks  but own pets are likely to have five times the survival rate of patients who are  not pet owners.
  • Petting an animal induces relaxation. The act of petting an animal lowers a  person’s blood pressure. Studies have shown that owning a pet has long-term  positive effects on blood pressure.
  • Pets help people adapt, adjust and deal with many changes and losses in  life. Pet owners can benefit emotionally from the human-animal relationship.
  • Dog owners get more exercise. Walking is excellent exercise for people and  dogs. Many people who do not enjoy exercise are happy to walk their dog.
  • Dog walkers also get more social interaction, because people are more likely  to talk to a walker with a dog as opposed to a lone walker.
  • Caring for any pet requires a certain amount of physical activity.
  • In studies, people with pets have been found to have lower cholesterol and  triglyceride levels when compared with people who did not have pets.
  • Dogs can be trained to predict the onset of a seizure in their human friend  and forewarn him.
  • Children who live with a cat or dog in their first years of life have a  lower incidence of hay fever and asthma and are less likely to develop  animal-related allergies. They also have a more stable immune system and can  fight off disease more effectively.
  • Dogs provide physical assistance for the disabled as well as encouraging  social interaction.
  • The benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)for humans with mental  disorders have been well-documented.
  • A Canadian study of nearly 1,000 adults age 65 and over found that pet  owners were more physically fit and less likely to suffer a decline in health in  the course of a year.

If you don’t have a pet, think about your lifestyle and consider what type of animal would be best for you.  Visit a local shelter to see if you connect with one of the many dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, etc. who would love to help you on your quest for not only physical but good mental health as well.

Has your pet improved your life?  Please share your story.

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Sunday Morning Inspiration

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How Well Did You Sleep Last Night?

Good Morning!  Do you feel refreshed?  Did you get 7-8 hours of sleep last night or are you ready for a nap as soon as you get up?

Did you wake up like this?

I have had some real issues with sleep and a recent article I read stated that you should log your sleep habits to see what is happening.  After writing it down, it was not a shocker to see why I wasn’t feeling rested in the morning.

The alarm goes off at 4:15 AM almost everyday so I can go teach an early class at the Y.  I then go to work all day and end up dozing on the couch in front of the TV by 8pm.  I wake up at 10pm, check a few e-mails, drag myself to bed and turn on the TV to watch Seinfeld.  I wake up to some informercial blaring and grab the remote to turn it off.  At some point during the night, Randy comes to bed after his couch nap and even though he tries to be quiet, I wake up.  During all of this I have 1 cat plastered against my legs and another who likes to lick my arm whenever she gets the chance.  Many nights I’m awake at 3am and can’t get back to sleep. 

If I fall back to sleep right many hours will I get?

Do your nights sound like that?  Most of us have some really bad habits that might be tough to break but getting a good nights sleep is crucial to good health- both mind and body.

Experts suggest that most men and women need about seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Yet there are many differences in how men and women sleep. In general women tend to sleep more than men, going to bed and falling asleep earlier. A woman’s sleep also tends to be lighter and more easily disturbed. Women are more likely to feel unrefreshed even after a full night of sleep.

So- what should we do to ensure we are getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep?  

The following tips are provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to help you get the most out of your sleep:

  • Make your bedroom a comfortable and safe place. Reduce noises and extreme temperatures that might disturb you. Make the room as dark as possible.  Even light from an alarm clock can disturb you. 
  • Go to bed only when you are sleepy and use the bed only for sleeping and sex.
  • Take the TV out of the bedroom or don’t turn it on at night. Do not use a computer within 2 hours of going to bed. Light from these sources block melatonin, a hormone that is necessary for sleep.
  • Begin rituals to help you relax at bedtime, such as taking a soothing bath or enjoying a light snack.
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends and holidays.
  • If you need to take a nap, keep it to less than one hour and take it before 3 p.m.
  • Only drink caffeine in the morning, and avoid alcohol and cigarettes late in the day. You night think caffeine doesn’t affect you, but it does. 
  • Stay away from fatty, spicy foods that are likely to upset your stomach or cause heartburn.
  • Set aside time during the day to get all of your worries out of your system.
  • Increase vitamin E in your diet, or take a vitamin E supplement.
  • Hormone replacement therapy may help you sleep better by relieving severe hot flashes related to menopause. Ask your doctor for advice about this kind of treatment.
  • Only use sleeping pills when supervised by a doctor

I started a new sleep routine a few weeks ago and while it is still a work in progress, I really feel better and more awake all day.

My number one tip?  Take the TV out of the bedroom or don’t turn it on at night.  This is a TOUGH habit to break but it really does work. Most of us think we have to fall asleep with the TV on, but the light and sound affect us in ways we don’t realize.  Even using a sleep timer to turn off the TV is not enough, don’t turn it on at all

Make sure the room is dark.  The only light I have in the bedroom at night now is the alarm clock and that is set to dim.  Some people even put the clock under the bed so there is no light at all. 

Go to bed at a time that allows for 7-8 hours of sleep.  I get up at 4:15 so I now go to bed at 9 or maybe earlier.  That’s a tough one, too, but it sure helps.  Don’t allow yourself to fall asleep on the couch, if you’re tired- go to bed!

Have a light snack before going to bed and make it a routine. Have a banana, cup of yogurt or an apple.  This is especially important if you are getting up early to work out.  I like a cup of sugar-free hot chocolate and a piece of whole grain toast.

The one thing I haven’t done yet is kick the cats out of the bedroom.  Sleep experts all say that pets should not be in bed with you as they disturb your sleep but these experts must not have cats pounding at the door to get in or crying pitifully all night.  That is one habit I don’t think I can break!

With just a few changes you can wake up like this!

Changing your sleep routine can be tough after all these years but it is extremely important not only to your physical health but to your mental health as well.  Make a few small changes at a time and before you know it you will wake up refreshed and ready to take on the world!

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(I Can’t Get No) Job Satisfaction…

Sorry, Mick and Keith, I just had to mess with your song title for this post.  Labor Day is all about celebrating the American worker so I thought I would check out some stats about satisfaction in the workplace.  Here’s an eye opener:

There are 168 hours in a week, 52 weeks in a year, and usually at least 35 years in a normal person’s working life.  Given that most people work “40 hours” (that’s on the low end if we’re lucky), that means we spend nearly 25% of our adult lives (40 hours a week, 2080 hours a year, and 72,800 hours in our lifetime) at work.  You subtract a modest 6 hours of sleep per night (if we’re lucky), and it turns out that roughly 40% of our waking hours are spent with our jobs.

 Spending 40% of your waking hours in a job you don’t like, with an employer who doesn’t treat you well or around co-workers  you can’t stand can lead to a very miserable and unhealthy life.  I feel fortunate to have landed in the supermarket business, it wasn’t something I planned to do and while it has had its rough moments,  I can honestly say I love what I do, my employer treats me well and I work with a great bunch of people.  I have had employees who hate their job and make it their personal mission to make everyone around them miserable.  I used to spend 90% of my time dealing with those 10% who will never be happy.  I wish I had figured out many years ago that you can give people the tools to be happy, but it is up to them to make it happen.

Where do you suppose these folks work..or what have they been drinking!

I once had a job that I greatly disliked.  The work itself was fine, but the management/union issues were just horribly stressful for me.   I lived for the weekend but by Sunday afternoon the headaches would set in and I would dread the arrival of Monday.  I worked there for 6 years so when my husband’s career moved us to another city, I took the opportunity to make a change.  I just couldn’t bear the thought of doing something I hated for the rest of my life as it seriously impacted my health and my family.  Some people thrived at this company but it just wasn’t for me.  Others stayed there for 20+ years and hated every minute of it but the money and benefits were good so they stayed.  Those are the choices we make. 

I recently saw a poll about which professions are the happiest and it appears the most satisfied workers are those who are in a creative field or helping others such as firefighters and clergy.  Generally, people in low skill jobs that involve customer service and serving food are the unhappiest.  Bartenders, clothing and home furnishing salespeople, cashiers and meatpackers all rank low on the satisfaction scale. This makes me laugh because I am in a customer service job, I cashier, and I sell food! 

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams writes that there is a limit to how happy anyone can be at work. Many people trapped in lousy jobs rationalize that they’re satisfied so they don’t have to admit they probably couldn’t get a better job, he said.

“When the economy was good, everybody was happier, no matter what the job was,” he said.  “The fact you can’t change jobs in this economy makes you think your current job is worse.”

My motto: Change your job or change your attitude. I know changing jobs isn’t easy these days so make the best of what you’ve got.  Look at the positives, improve the negatives, and avoid people who want to keep you down.  Put some fun into your workday.  If you feel really stressed out, try exercising.  Working up a good sweat will burn off some of those stress hormones

Happy Labor Day!

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This Was a Surprise!

We had a sudden storm blew up in our area and I ended  up with a barn on my car!   Yes, a barn was on my car.  Let me clarify, I was at work which is next to a large home improvement store.  They have garden sheds/barns in their parking lot and the wind picked up several of them  throwing them into our lot.   (As a  sidenote my husband is a bit obsessed about where we park so we don’t get any door dings from inconsiderate people who fling their doors open or wayward shopping carts.  He did not figure flying barns into the equation when selecting the best parking spot!)

I think this is the bottom of the barn. A forklift was needed to move it

What does this have to do with health?  I guess it has to do with mental health.  It was interesting to see how people reacted to the storm.  We asked our shoppers to stay inside the store while the sirens were going, most were fine with this,  but others said we had no right to keep them in and they were leaving and they were not going to be stopped, common sense be damned.   Fine ,but don’t blame us when a barn hits you!  Some people were crying, some were frantically trying to call loved ones, others saw  it as an interesting turn of events.  The power went out briefly  and some people laughed while others screamed when it went dark.  Even more interesting was how the children reacted they followed the cues of the adult who was with them. 

One mom with 3 small kids under the age of 5 pulled some keys and another small toy out of her bag,  set the kids on the floor and started playing as if nothing unusual was happening. The kids were perfectly content with this. Another adult with 2 kids was on the phone frantically shouting at someone about being “trapped” in the store and she didn’t know what to do.  The kids were screaming and crying as well.  I’m not a psychologist but working in a supermarket for 20+ years has given me a pretty good insight into how differently people react under stress and how it affects the people around them.  I often wonder how people survive when something really big happens when they go ballistic over a smashed loaf of bread or can’t decide between paper and plastic!

The storm was over in less than 10 minutes and while  there were a number of damaged cars and  a lot of debris in the parking lot, thankfully everyone was safe.  I’m sure some of them went home to find trees down, shingles blown off the roof, no power and other assorted inconveniences but nothing that can’t be fixed. 

Yes, it is a pain in the butt to have my car in the shop for 10 days and dealing with insurance companies isn’t fun but in the overall scheme of things everything will be ok and life goes on.  Take a look at the conditions that many other people in the world live under day after day, year after year and give thanks for what you have and where you live.

How you choose to react to a situation can greatly affect you and others around you- Don’t sweat the small stuff! 

I'm thankful for this truck driving by and preventing a second barn from hitting my car!


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Train Your Brain!

While we spend alot of time getting our body in shape…what about your  brain? We take for granted all the things our brain does until it stops doing those things.  Your brain has 5 cognitvie functions and each needs to be challenged and stimulated on a daily basis.  Here are some easy ways to train your brain!

1- Memory

Memory plays a crucial role in all cognitive activities, including reading, reasoning and mental calculation. There are several types of memory at work in the brain and loss of these skills are what we notice most when they begin to fail. To maintain a good memory, you need to train for it, which can be easier than you think. Listening to a song you don’t know and memorizing the lyrics will boost the level of acetylcholine, the chemical that helps build your brain and improve your memory skills. Here’s a fun challenge:  Use your opposite hand to brush your teeth. Or- try getting dressed or showering in the dark.  These exercise help build new associations between the neurons in your brain.

2- Attention

Attention is necessary in nearly all daily tasks. Good attention enables you to maintain concentration despite noise and distractions and to focus on several activities at once. You can improve our attention by simply changing your routines. Drive a different route to work or reorganize your desk, I moved my phone to the the other side and reach for it with the opposite hand, this was actually quite difficult!   Doing these things will force your brain to wake up from habits and pay attention again. As we age, our attention span  decreases, making us easily distracted and  less efficient at multitasking. Another challenge: combine activities like listening to abook with jogging or doing math in your head while you drive. This forces your brain to work at doing more in the same amount of time. 

3- Language

Language activities will challenge our ability to recognize, remember and understand words.  Your Language Challenge: Read a section of the paper that you don’t usually read.  You’ll be exposed to new words, which are easier to understand when read in context or easier to look up on a dictionary site if you are reading the news online. Take time to understand the word in its context, which will help you build your language skills and retrieve the word more readily.  It’s amazing how many words we skip over because we don’t know the  meaning, take a moment to look it up.   Need a more difficult challenge?  Try learing a new language!

4- Visual-Spatial

We live in a 3D World. You need to analyze visual information to act within your environment. Your Challenge: Walk into an unfamiliar space and pick out five items and their locations. When you exit the space, try to recall all five items and where they were located.  If this is too easy-wait two hours and try to remember those items and their locations. Actually, try this in a familiar room, you’ll be surprised at how many things you see every day and can’t remember or place them. 

5- Executive Function

Without even realizing it, you use your logic and reasoning skills on a daily basis to make decisions.  We are constantly
 working on strategies to reach our desired goal or calcualting to find solutions to everyday problems. Your challenge?  Video games. Yes, I said video games.  They  require strategy and problem -solving to reach a desired outcome — like making it to the final level.  A few mintues a day with the Playstation or XBox can be good for your brain, but too much stimulation is not!  I’m a little old-fashioned with this, I prefer a good crossword puzzle. 

As we age, it’s important to flex our mental muscles as well as our body.  Now that you’re aware of the five main cognitive functions and how to exercise them, it will be easy to find daily activities that will help you break a mental sweat and keep your brain in shape!

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