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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 workout
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

 
8 Ways to Stay on Track This Holiday Season
 

It’s holiday time, and with the family gatherings, the mistletoe and hot toddies come temptations to eat and drink to excess. We all look forward to the festivities, but if you’re not careful, those joyous holiday gatherings can be diet disasters waiting to happen. Here’s a plan of action that makes it easy to enjoy the get-togethers and goodies without piling on the pounds.   

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1. Make Time to Move  
 

  • Schedule in a workout – for everybody. Suggest a new family holiday tradition: taking a walk together after your holiday meal to burn some calories and “make room” for dessert. Or crank up the iPod and get everybody dancing down the “Soul Train” line. Combining family time with exercise will give you a chance to bond and give you a break from the holiday fuss. Build snowmen, shoot some hoops, go ice skating, even rake up some leaves.
  • Dust off your home gym. You may be too busy to get to the gym, but you can work that stationery bike or treadmill while watching the morning news.
  • If you’re traveling, take your workout with you. Pack light stretch bands and a favorite exercise DVD and put them to use!                 


2. Don’t Skip Healthy Snacks and Meals Before Parties

Starving yourself before you go out won’t help you mind your portions. If you step up to a buffet and you’re famished, chances are you’re going to eat too much. Make sure to eat a light but satisfying midday lunch, and before you head for the party, take the edge off your hunger with a snack like a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit.


3. Only Eat What You Really Like

Be a food snob! You don’t have to sample everything on the buffet. If you don't love something, don’t even bother tasting it. Check out the spread for foods and flavors you adore and skip what you can have anytime. Indulge in your holiday favorites, then find a seat, take your time, and savor every mouthful. 


4. Choose Wine Over Mixed Drinks

Wine has substantially fewer calories compared with other alcoholic beverages. Wine weighs in at about 125 calories, as opposed to vodka and tonic (165 calories) or eggnog (320 calories).


5. Alternate Alcohol With Water

Since alcoholic drinks are loaded with calories, try alternating each drink with water or seltzer. You’ll save calories - and stay grounded!


6. Get Enough Sleep

With all the shopping, the cooking and taking care of guests, sleep gets shoved to the back burner. A lack of shut-eye can do more than compromise your skin and appearance. It has been linked with a higher incidence of obesity, hypertension, and other metabolic disorders. Sleep-deprived folks also exhibit higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite.


7. Socialize Instead of Eating

Don’t stand around the food table when you’re at a party. Focus your energy on spending time with family and friends instead of raiding the buffet and bar!


8. Bring your own dish

I have a friend who is allergic to wheat and dairy. If she eats just a bit of cheese or bread she ends up in digestive despair. Whenever we go to a dinner party, she brings her own dish. She even brings a plastic sandwich bag to restaurants with rice crackers or rice bread. If you bring your own food, you’ll have just what you need to indulge worry-free.

 
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.

 
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.

 
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!