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Robin D. Stone is a New York City based psychotherapist, coach and consultant who works to help you achieve your most optimal self. 

Posts tagged exercise
Ready to Hit the Reset Button?
 

In late 2013, with a grueling semester in graduate school, three major deadlines, client sessions and rich holiday meals, I ended the year with 12 extra pounds, fatigue, dry mouth, a dry, flaky scalp and zits like I haven’t seen since I was 15. 

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What happened? The short answer: Too much to do with too little time. The longer one: in the face of late nights (and snacking), less exercise (and more sitting) and tunnel vision (less time with friends and family -- and with myself), I stopped taking my own advice. Then my treadmill -- my go-to source of exercise -- broke, and that threw everything out of whack.

I talk to clients about these issues all the time. But in the face of new stressors (demands on my time and attention) and a broken treadmill, I hadn’t asked myself kinds of questions that I ask clients, like, “Where exactly can you fit that workout in your jam-packed schedule?” And “How can you get more sleep and cut the late-night snacks?” And “What can you do to recharge?” 

As the new year started and I teetered at the edge of my wardrobe and could barely button my favorite jeans, I knew I needed to change course. I took a hard look at why I had stopped taking care of myself and explored what my life was missing: more water, more sleep, more regular workouts, more connections and balance. Then I hit “reset,” and one-by-one, began to include those missing elements. 

I know that when our primary foods -- relationships, spiritual grounding, exercise, work -- don't fulfill us, we often turn to the foods we eat for satisfaction. And stressors slow down our metabolism, making our bodies slower to process what we do eat.

I tossed out those old dieters’ delusions that I’d get quick results, and then I jumpstarted my plan:
 

  • 30 minutes walking/jogging three times a week (wake up a half hour early to get it in), and 15-20 minutes other exercise two times a week (crunches, squats jumping jacks, pushups)
  • 7-8 glasses of water daily (one just after waking up, one with each meal, one between each meal, and one at night)
  • 6-7 hours of sleep daily (and no late-night munchies)
  • Connections and fun: At least one “play date” with girlfriends or my son per week, and a real date with my honey 
  • More meditation and journaling


Three weeks in, I’m three pounds lighter, and with a little less around my middle, my clothes already fit better. I have more energy, my face and scalp are clearing up, and I don’t wake up feeling tired and parched. Of course, breaking old habits can be like turning around a big ship, so it will take time to get back up to speed on exercise, and I’m still working on the sleep (but no more snacks). But I’ve been patient, forgiving and encouraging. I'm giving myself 60 days to get back on track, and as a new semester starts and clients and commitments come in, I know I'll need to follow my own advice and stick to my plan.

My plan doesn’t look like yours. That’s why it’s important to consider what you need to reset in your own life. One Facebook friend shared that she was looking to get her “mojo” back. She asked friends to describe what mojo meant to them. She got 10 different answers from 10 people. She then defined what mojo meant to her, and has since inspired us with #Projectmojo postings as she works on hers. 

One thing I love about a new year: We can wipe the slate and start all over. As 2014 gets in gear and you strive to do this one better, happier, healthier, make a commitment to stop, reassess and reset. And then stick with it. If you need some help to start or keep it up, get it. If you stumble, get back up and keep going. My mojo is Momentum. And you've got to start to get it.

Are you ready to hit a hard reset? Let me know the first thing you’ll do differently, and why.

Be well,
Robin

 
Fast Fitness for the Workout Weary
 

I recently blogged about interval training, the exciting workout trend that blends high-intensity bursts of activity with periods of rest. Interval training isn’t new; in fact, pro athletes have done it for years. But now there’s a stack of I-T research that should encourage the most sedentary among us to get moving.

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In May I wrote about how a study showed that seven minutes of high-intensity I-T produced the same results as 30 minutes of traditional aerobic movement. Now more research highlights a four-minute exercise program. I don’t know how low you can go, but it seems that, according to this study, you can get fitter and stronger doing just four minutes of exercise several times a week! 

How can you put interval training to use right now? Well, let’s say you typically get your cardio by walking. On certain blocks, or between certain park benches, boost your pace to the max.  Go as fast as you can – or break out in a jog – then slow down to your normal pace for the next block or bench. Do this several times during your outing. That’s a form of interval training.

If you’re a gym rat who likes to mix it up with equipment and running, try these Cross Fit moves.

If you’re into DVD’s or want to invest in a simple, whole-body routine, try 20-Second Fitness, a series of high-intensity moves that will work you in 4-minute segments. And as I’ve mentioned previously, there’s also Insanity, a DVD series of push-you-to-your-limit I-T workouts for those who are already active.

It doesn’t take a lot to reap great health benefit. Even if you have the busiest of schedules, you can find an interval training workout that fits.

Whatever path you choose, be consistent and you’ll see results: Your endurance will grow. Your heart health will improve. Your metabolism will function better. Studies show these health benefits occur largely because your body learns to use oxygen more efficiently.

So give these fast and furious bursts a try. Be careful, though; unless you’re used to exertion, make sure to check with your doc before you jump in. You might find that pushing yourself to the max for a minute – or four or seven or more – certainly has its benefits. And then before you know it, you’re done.

 
My New Film Highlights Black Women's Stories about Stress & Self-Care
 

I was honored to premiere my mini-documentary "THICK: Black Women Weigh In on Body Awareness, Food, Stress and Self-Care"  recently at the Black Women’s Life Balance and Wellness conference at Spelman College in Atlanta. Featuring the stories of nearly 20 Black women nationwide – myself included – the film asks how can we take care of ourselves in the face of stressors like job demands, relationship issues, family drama. 

    Black Women's Life Balance and Wellness conference, Sept. 19, 2015.   

 

Black Women's Life Balance and Wellness conference, Sept. 19, 2015.
 

THICK centers on healthy weight, as Black women contend with weight-related health concerns like heart disease, diabetes and fertility problems in disproportionate numbers. This project was a part of my master's thesis, which focused on using narrative techniques like storytelling and writing to promote healing among Black women.

Joining us were two of the sisters featured in the film who are from Atlanta. They loved seeing their stories on the big screen. One, Elizabeth Montgomery, shared that she was thrilled to go from "homeless" -- a reference to her tenuous life as a young adult -- "to Hollywood!"

We followed the film with a powerful writing workshop focused on the body and self-care. The women gathered, wrote and witnessed, and some shared from deep within their hearts. 

I now incorporate narrative techniques in my coaching work. A beautiful thing about writing for healing is that it is a way to get your “stuff” down on the page. Sometimes you don’t even know what you’re struggling with until it’s there in front of you, talking to you, telling you about itself. And once you name it, whatever it is, you can begin to deal with it. 

I look forward to showing "THICK," to writing and sharing our stories, and to continuing conversations about what it takes to be healthy and whole.

Click here for a preview of "THICK," and let me know what you think at robin@robinstone.com.

 
How Walking Saved Me from Despair
 
Down in front with my old Zumba crew.   

Down in front with my old Zumba crew.
 

I have never considered myself much of a fitness buff.

Family and friends, on the other hand, would beg to differ. I’ve been called a fanatic, been told that my vacations are “Outward Bound” adventures, and dubbed by my niece “that crazy health lady.”

What I am is a mover. I walk, jog, run and golf. I vibe to P90x and 20 Second Fitness. Back in the day, Tae-Bo was my thing. Before that, Jane Fonda (I’ve still got my three-part step). And way before that, I taught low-impact aerobics at a local Living Well Lady. I don’t like to sweat, but I’ve always I loved how I feel when I move my body.

Intellectually, I know how exercise boosts those feel-good chemicals called endorphins. After an intense workout session, I’ve even felt the “runner’s high” that we’ve read about. 

But it wasn’t until when I needed it most – when I was so down and out that it was hard to get out of bed and get dressed for the day – that I saw how exercise could lift you up from the depths of deep despair.

Cancer was killing my husband. The doctors referred us to hospice. My son was 10 and writing letters to his future self to come back in time and bring the cure. After a stressful day of work and tending to family, I found that nights became my friend. Before I rested, and as I said prayers for comfort, for peace, and for the strength to go on, I started walking on my treadmill. Almost every night I walked. Sometimes at 8 p.m., sometimes I got out of bed at midnight. And then I slept hard. On weekends I walked with girlfriends and at the rise-and-shine hour of 7.

I asked my therapist about medication. I hated feeling so bad. She didn’t dissuade me but she did ask, “What are you doing to take care of yourself?” I told her about all the walking, and confided that I was worried. Was it an addiction? Who walks at midnight? Keep going, my therapist assured me. I’m glad she did.

These days Americans are all too quick to reach for a prescription – after painkillers and cholesterol-lowering meds, antidepressants are the country’s most-prescribed drug. A part of the reason, as in this recent report, is that doctors are so quick to prescribe meds when movement might be enough. When you are feeling low, it’s important to know that you have a choice.

After my husband made his transition, I added meditation and golfing to the mix of what I was doing to take care of myself, and I walked and walked and walked. At some point, an older woman passed me on the neighborhood track, salt-and-pepper dreadlocks bouncing with each step. More encouraged than outdone, I started to trot. And so I became a runner. Growing up with chronic asthma, I had always told myself that vigorous exercise was beyond me. But once I started, and my asthma stayed in check, I saw how challenging exercise bolstered not only my lung capacity and my endurance, but also my spirits.

Walking gave me the motivation to get up and go on. I had a son to parent, a life to lead and dreams to fulfill. Running gave me the confidence to do more than I thought I could. Moving works. You may need more if you are down and depressed, but exercise is a good place to start. Studies show it, and I’ve lived it.

 
More Reasons to Get Up & Move
 
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One of the most common complaints from many clients is they just don’t like to exercise. It’s inconvenient, it’s awkward, it’s ... sweaty (especially their hair). They’d rather just cut calories, often through super restrictive dieting and detoxes. Which, we know, can’t last and often lead to rebound weight gain.
 

Folks will debate “dieting” vs. exercise til they are blue in the face, but research shows that even if you eat too much to do you good, exercise will help. One recent study suggests that going from no exercise to some exercise (say, walking briskly for 20 minutes) a day could lower your risk of death. Not disease or disability. Death.

The benefits are not just about weight and waistline; here are other reasons to work out:

Fewer infections: Moderate exercise boosts your immune system. Studies show that people who exercise catch colds less often.

Great sex: Aerobic activity increases blood flow, enhancing your libido. Stretching, yoga and strength training keep you agile and flexible, affecting the intensity and quality of doing the do.

Protection from cancer: Studies have shown that no matter their weight, people who increase their physical activity can reduce the risk of developing colon cancer by 30 to 40 percent compared to those who don’t exercise. Physical activity recues breast cancer risk in premenopausal and postmenopausal women.

Beat stress: Regular aerobic exercise helps reduce stress hormones and promote endorphins, those feel-good hormones. And for some who battle depression, exercise has been proven to be as effective as antidepressant meds.

Slow down aging: Increasing aerobic activity can shave years off your age. One study of highly fit older women and men showed that they had younger people’s levels of balance, reflexes, metabolic health and memory ability.

Mental sharpness: Aerobic exercise increases a protein that’s key to brain health. It contributes to the brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and develop new ones.

Deeper sleep: Get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, and you’ll enjoy better sleep and feel more alert the next day, one study showed. That is, unless the person you’re sleeping with has apnea. In which case you need to get them on your program. Exercise combats that too.

You don’t have to be a gym rat to get your workout on. Go take a walk – just do it double time. And then reap some of the rewards above. Did I mention great sex? Now that's worth workin' up a sweat. 

Photo illustration from blackwomendoworkout.com

 
A 7 Minute Workout that Works?
 

Have you heard of interval training? It’s at the core of trainer Shaun T’s crazy workout sensation known as Insanity. If you can get through Insanity – even halfway through – high-five to you. If you’re like the rest of us, then you may need to set your sights a little – OK maybe a lot – lower than that hour-long high-intensity drill.

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Good news: New research backs up the theory behind interval training – where you exercise in intense bursts at maximum capacity with short breaks in between – and suggests that a little goes a long way.

“There’s very good evidence” that high-intensity interval training provides “many of the fitness benefits of prolonged endurance training but in much less time,” Chris Jordan, the director of exercise physiology at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Fla., and one of the study’s authors, told The New York Times.

The researchers studied the effects of a seven-minute routine of 30-second bursts of intense activity intermingled with 10-second rest periods. This workout ain’t easy, but researchers likened results to taking a long run and a visit to the weight room. Hmm. Seven minutes of Insanity …

Check out the research and the moves.

 
Bored With Your Workout? Add Dance to the Mix!
 

I once had a client who swore she didn’t like to exercise. “Nope, nah, no way,” were her responses to my suggestions to do yoga, lift weights or try a spin class.

She found workout routines boring and was adamant that boredom kept her from including regular exercise in her routine. Instead of reminding her about the benefits of exercise for weight loss, which she already knew, I suggested that she not do anything she felt “forced” to do, but to consider what kind of movement she liked.

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“Really?” she said, “All I like to do is dance.”

And really, that was all she needed.

I suggested she put together a “move your body” soundtrack and sent her fun DVDs like Shaun T’s “Hip-Hop Abs.” And I encouraged her to commit to dancing for 30 minutes straight at least twice a week.

Not everybody likes the gym, or to work with trainers, or to even put on a sports bra. But I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like to dance.  Getting your groove thing on goes beyond burning calories; it can even lift your spirits.  Just get moving and keep moving until you work up a sweat. Start in the privacy of your own home, and if you’re adventurous enough to give a class a twirl, sign up at your local community center or Y, your house of worship or more formal studios.

From salsa to African to tap to belly dancing, you can find a class that suits your taste and level. If you’re a couple, take a class together as a new way to connect.  If you’re single, try a dance class to meet and mingle. 

Dancing boosts our bodies and our moods: It burns calories (anywhere from 250 to 500 per hour) and builds endurance and muscle strength – improving posture as it works your core.  It also releases those feel-good hormones called endorphins.

Dancing also helps your mind and memory. Studies have found that folks who practice ballroom dancing have a reduced incidence of dementia.  Evidently, the mental concentration you need to learn new dance moves keeps your mind agile, like crossword puzzles or learning a new language.

 So if you’re like my client and all you like to do is dance, then get on the good foot – and get it in!

 
5 Steps for a Food Hangover
 
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Ok, so after a couple days of feasting on fabulous Memorial Day fixings of potato salad, baked beans, barbecued chicken and turkey hot dogs (yes, hot dogs) and apple pie, I faced the down side to veering from a clean diet.


For three days I felt as if I was hung over – not from too much drink but from too much food. Instead of an achy, foggy head and upset stomach, I feel stuffed, sluggish and stopped up.

That might be too much information, but when you’re eating clean – as in lots of fresh fruit and veggies, whole grains and simply prepared fish, chicken and lean meats – food passes through you easily and regularly. 

 
 

Regularly as in at least once and sometimes more a day. But when I went off the grid and ate too much typical-though-lightened-up holiday favorites, adding extra fat, sugars, and processed foods to my system, I felt the effects almost immediately.

It started with sleepiness just after dinner on Sunday, the day I cooked. And I didn’t just cook, I burned. Put my foot up in it, as some folks say. The kids were ecstatic that we had “real” food for a change, instead of my usual (though not predictable) grilled chicken/fish/shrimp and salads. And I enjoyed longtime favorites right along with them, eating small portions, but taking second helpings. Then sleepiness set in. Along with a bulging belly, that was a sure sign that I’d eaten too much.

I felt full when I went to bed and I still felt full the next day when I woke up. But I had another helping of for lunch anyway, and then for dinner, then topped it off with another slice of pie that night. Not once all day did I “feel” my body telling me it was hungry. By Day 3, I recognized that I was veering back to old habits, so I stopped and switched gears. 

It took about three days to get my system back on track. Here’s what I did, and what you can do to cure a holiday food hangover:

* Drink more water – more than your daily 6-8 glasses – to help get things moving again

* Eat cleanly and simply again as soon as possible and for as long as possible. Fruit and protein for breakfast, a light salad for lunch and lean meats and simple veggies for dinner. No prepared, processed, wheat or dairy.

* Boost exercise – I went from a 2-mile walk every other day to a 2½ mile walk/run three days in a row, then off one day. Moving your body helps aid digestion.

* Leave 12 hours between your last meal of the day and your first of the next (snacks included!) – to give your body a chance to process what’s already there. You should feel hungry when you wake – The sensation of hunger tells you that your body is processing properly and is ready for more. 

* Be patient. It typically takes 48-72 hours for food to make its way through your system. So while you may be back on track with clean eating, your body is still on overdrive, processing all the excess calories, carbs and sugars from your splurge. It may be five days before you sense your body responding to changes you made three days ago. Think of this adjustment as turning around a big oceanliner: You can't just spin on a dime. But follow these strategies and your body will respond and "catch up" with your clean routine. A sure sign that it's catching up: You're "regular" again.

Have a Healthy Day.
Robin

 
Essence Fest Highlights
 
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So they still know how to let the good times roll in New Orleans!

I had an amazing experience there recently, as well as the honor to share the stage with some phenomenal women to discuss smart, simple ways that we can take better care of ourselves.

The panel, "Health Journeys and Transformations," was part of ESSENCE magazine's spectacular ESSENCE Fest, a 4th of July weekend jam-packed with great music, empowering, uplifting dialogues, rich, flavorful food and parties all night long!  

The panel covered a wide range of topics, from how to eat more healthfully to the importance of getting in regular exercise to thriving in spite of health challenges such as diabetes, digestive problems or severe alopecia (hair loss). 

One of the delights of the Fest was meeting the talented and suave actor Blair Underwood and his lovely wife and children. They all look to be the epitome of health!

Here are some of the highlights from my whirlwind weekend:

For video: Panelists included Denise Warren, far right, founder of Body by Denise fitness center in New York City, and Laschaunda Cogburn and Michele Bercy, two of her clients who, combined, have lost hundreds of pounds!

Talking "Health Journeys and Transformations" before more than 3,000 people. Dr. Aletha Maybank, left, myself, interior designer and author Sheila Bridges and moderator Sharon Boone, ESSENCE's health editor. 

Talking "Health Journeys and Transformations" before more than 3,000 people. Dr. Aletha Maybank, left, myself, interior designer and author Sheila Bridges and moderator Sharon Boone, ESSENCE's health editor. 

The one and only fine and friendly Blair Underwood! So great to connect with him and his fam. Catch him in "Ironside" on NBC this fall!

The one and only fine and friendly Blair Underwood! So great to connect with him and his fam. Catch him in "Ironside" on NBC this fall!

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Greeting guests at the book-signing for my book  No Secrets No Lies . During that power hour, I also had the pleasure to get to know the gorgeous and talented interior designer Sheila Bridges, whose searing new memoir,  The Bald Mermaid , explores her experience of losing her hair to alopecia.

Greeting guests at the book-signing for my book No Secrets No Lies. During that power hour, I also had the pleasure to get to know the gorgeous and talented interior designer Sheila Bridges, whose searing new memoir, The Bald Mermaid, explores her experience of losing her hair to alopecia.

My all-access Talent pass.

My all-access Talent pass.

Panel's done-- now time to play!

Panel's done-- now time to play!

Caught Les Nubians schooling folks on their Afropean soul in one of the intimate superlounges.

Caught Les Nubians schooling folks on their Afropean soul in one of the intimate superlounges.

Did I mention the crowds? More than 500k -- a record for ESSENCE in New Orleans! 

Did I mention the crowds? More than 500k -- a record for ESSENCE in New Orleans!