Tagged: endorphins

10 Minutes To Smile

The other day I was in a real funk of a mood, dramas with my kid, changes of plans, unexpected bills – you know the drill. In the midst of my moodiness I decided to take a few minutes and hop on the treadmill. I pulled up an uplifting play list of songs from my phone, stuck my earbuds in, and did 30-second sprints with 30-second rests for 10 minutes. The result, I got rid of my blue mood, refocused my perspective towards the positive, and the rest of the day was great.

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After my ten-minute shake-up, I realized how easy that had been and how rewarding on so many levels, and I knew I had to share this reminder with my readers: No matter what’s going on, with as little as five minutes of aggressive movement (that doesn’t mean it has to be high impact mind you), you can lift your mood and re-energize your spirits. Plus you’ll get the added bonus of burning some extra calories or adding to the building of your muscle tone.

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It doesn’t matter if you don’t have gym equipment at home, or even if you’re not at home (i.e., traveling). If the weather is fine, take a fast-paced walk, climb a tree or some rocks. If you’ve got access to a pool, try some impromptu water aerobics (blast fun music and pretend to jazzersize in the pool).

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If you’re stuck inside: trot up and down your stairs (if you’ve got them), or perform a circuit of burpees, push ups, and crunches, or even hula hooping.  There’s always some way to MOVE for 5-10 minutes that can stimulate endorphins wake up your brain, body, and mood.

For those of you who watch Grey’s Anatomy, you’ve no doubt seen that when things get really heavy on their heads and hearts, Meredith and her friends dance their blues away in the living room with mindless music blasting. You can do this too. Your form and style is irrelevant, all that matters is that you move your body and distract your mind.

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This works great for kids too.  If they’re sulky and/or tired from a summer’s day of doing nothing but watching videos, get them up and moving in a drastic but fun way for at least 10 minutes.  Make it fun and youthful and they’ll play along — like jumping on the bed or  having a pillow fight! You’ll all benefit in the long run.

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So the next time you find yourself weighted down by circumstances – turn that frown upside-down by moving and literally shaking things up for at least 5 minutes. Your body, heart, and mind will thank you.

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Cardio Wimps Take Heart!

Cardio wimps, take heart, you’re not alone!

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I’ve admitted this before in my blog, but in case you missed it – I’m a cardio wimp! Every time I hop on a treadmill, stair climber, or elliptical I start with an enthusiastic committment to plow through 45 minutes of heart strengthening, fat burning cardio, and every time I get to about 20 minutes and my brain says stop this insanity, stop right now! I try to ignore my brain and usually make it about 30 until my all I can focus on is my aching knees, or how winded or light-headed I think I am. Sadly, though I know my brain is lying to me, I succumb because I just don’t like cardio.

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I truly envy all you people who can mindlessly run, cycle or climb stairs for ridiculously long periods of time, enjoying the surge of endorphins that result from sustained anaerobic activity which allow you to keep on moving and reap the rewards of lengthy cardio. I especially appreciate the fact that one’s ability to sustain cardio is not directly affected by a person’s external shape. In other words, there are many people carrying extra body fat that can perform cardio exercise for much longer than other lower-fat bodies. It’s all about your body’s internal set up (i.e., slow twitch muscles vs. fast) and how your brain operates and handles different movements.

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For those of you who feel like I do – you just can’t turn off your brain and run – I felt like I should remind you of certain truths that I have been needing to remind myself of lately. Cardio exercise is all about getting your heart rate to a certain level and keeping it there for a certain length of time. The key here is to remember that you can achieve “cardio” without actually “running” or performing the same monotonous exercise at a set speed for a sustained period of time (i.e., 30+ minutes).

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My approach to cardio therefore, is to perform a wide variety of specific exercises in a specific manner for an hour. In this way I not only train my heart to stay in a specific fat-burning range (HRT=heart rate zone) but I’m also working my muscles and core to be stronger and more toned.

Circuit Training Defined

So if that sounds like your kind of work out, here’s the gist of how you can do this for yourself (or request a customized workout routine from me via http://www.workouts247.com). Follow the sample workout noted below, all the while maintaining your target heart rate to the levels noted. This means you’ve got to keep a pretty quick pace throughout the resistance training portion, so all rests between sets should be no more than about 30 seconds.

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Try this entire workout at least 3-4 times to build up your stamina and you will definitely see better results than 60 mins of boring, non-stop cardio! Your cardio vascular system will be improved, your muscles will see more tone, and your brain will be at east!

THR GOAL = 130-150*

10 mins Cardio equip of your choice

15 mins Cluster of 5 lower body resistance exercises repeated 5x**

10 mins Different cardio equipment

15 mins Cluster of 5 upper body resistance exercises repeated 5x**

10 mins Different cardio equipment w/cool down last 2 mins

*I’m offering up a generic target heart rate that will still be effective for most, but if you really want to be fully effective for your fitness goals, you need to have the THR established that works for you and your body. Any personal trainer can tell you this very quickly, and of course I would supply you with this if I made a workout for you.

**Clusters are 5 exercises performed in a row, one after the other, with no rest, followed by a brief rest, and then repeating the exercises back from the top, etc.

Smile Away!

I have never been a very “smiley” person. It’s not that I’m mad, sad or hostile, I just do not walk around smiling. Perhaps it’s my childhood inherent shyness still lurking beneath the surface, or the fact that I’ve always been self-conscious of my teeth (five years of braces will do that to you), but even if I’m feeling happy and carefree, my face doesn’t display it. I’ve heard from others who have joined me in complaining about strangers who walk up to us saying smile pretty lady, why so serious? This has happened at the gym or grocery store on more than on occasion, and I know I’m not alone in this. I usually find it to be quite annoying, as it sounds a tad demeaning, not to mention that they really have no clue what’s going on in this woman’s world – maybe there’s a very good reason why she’s not smiling!

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But recently at the gym as I pondered my smile-less demeanor, I simultaneously noticed how many women wouldn’t smile at me as I passed by and made eye contact. My initial reaction was one of defensiveness – what’s wrong with them, are they threatened by me or feeling superior? Then I realized how many people must think the same thing of me. These other women could be shy, could be seriously focused (as I usually am), or could be suffering from a bad day or some sadness I could never know about. I also reflected upon some of my friends who are very “smiley” people, and how they’re always quick to smile and say hello, and consequently receive a lot of friendly acknowledgment back.

Having heard for years (from doctors to yoga gurus) that smiling had huge health benefits, I did a little research and found a myriad of “benefits” cited out on the internet. Here are the most common and compelling:

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  1. LOWERS YOUR HEART RATE.  Smiling slows the heart and relaxes the body. This lets the heart work without overworking. People who smile and laugh often are less likely to develop heart disease. Smiling also temporarily reduces blood pressure.
  2. LOWERS STRESS, IMPROVES MOOD, BOOSTS IMMUNE SYSTEM. There is a definite lowering in physical tension when we smile as smiling releases endorphins that counteract and diminish stress hormones while also lifting your mood. Endorphins also are natural anti-inflamatories which help to reduce pain in our bodies (another reason we might not be smiling). The reduction in stress also allows our bodies to be more ready to fight infections or viruses, thus boosting our immune systems.
  3. ENCOURAGES TRUST.  Studies show that we are more trustful of others when they smile and smile genuinely. Trust is an important aspect of our social health when dealing with people, whether loved ones, co-workers, or even strangers.
  4. CONTRIBUTES TO SUCCESS.  Smiling makes us appear confident, self-assured, and approachable. Those who smile are more likely to earn more money through tips and raises, and are more readily approached with business ideas and other career opportunities or advancements.
  5. LOOK YOUNGER.  Smiles naturally lift the face which studies have shown can make people look younger (around 3 years younger on average).

There were many more smile-benefits listed, but I figured these five were strong enough. So I decided to run a test – I would smile randomly throughout my day, with a specific attempt to make more eye contact with people while I smiled.

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The results … first off, my workout was more relaxing and thus effective. I had fun working out while smiling at my fellow “gym rats,” and left feeling more satisfied, both physically and emotionally. My interactions at stores and restaurants were far more pleasant and I received better service and prices (grocery checker offered me several coupons just because she had them). At the end of the day I looked less tired too (i.e., younger).

Based upon this, I say smile away people! You might have to force yourself initially (though don’t force the smile – those look creepy and fake), but once you garner a few positive reactions it becomes easier. Just find something to think about that puts a smile on your face and you’ll look (and be) sincere. The benefits will follow. Please feel free to share your test results with me and my readers!

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