Pattern Interrupt, Pushing Through and Improving Your Workouts

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Usually habits are really useful. When we are on “auto pilot”  our brains have become so efficient at doing something we can tune out our conscious minds, which can be helpful sometimes, like when brushing our teeth, but not when working out.

More about the upside of habits in this awesome book:The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Problem with Mindless Patterns

Habits and patterns can also be a real problem. We can eat mindlessly and therefore overeat. We can tune out important people and not actively listen. We can exercise without paying attention and not get the most out of our workouts.

Russian Twists

I’m focusing on a bit of mid-course correction while making sure I don’t become weary from unconscious behavioral patterns during my morning exercise routine. The minute boredom sets in, I am reminded to “pattern interrupt”. It keeps things fresh – and improves results. So I do something different – I step up my stride, moving faster; add 20 more squats with calf stretches and try new exercises, like today – the Russian Twist (see illustration above) for toner abs.

Chi Walking and Core Movement

I’ve also been practicing engaging my lower abs throughout the day, especially when walking, jogging, running and sprinting. It has taken my routine to the next level.

When you correct your posture, you will be able to tighten your abdomen while you are walking. Leading your stride from your pelvis or what some call “Chi Walking” teaches us how to redirect the workload of propulsion to our core muscles around the pelvis and lower trunk area.

Pushing Through

When you are working out  every single day, it is easy to find yourself in a state of apathy about the mundane routine. Four things that help me push through –

Focusing on my super hero strength.  Yes, that’s me, in my mind, when working out. Lara Croft. Beautiful and brainy, with a fearless quest criss-crossing the globe, in an amazing attempt to save the world. 

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Break it down into small increments. 200 squats in a row my ass. I do 10 sets of 20 deep squats and jog in-between. Before I know it, I’ve completed 200 squats with a tighter tush.

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Feel your body and get to know the slow, soft burn. Get to know what small progress feels like in your muscles. Where there is energy, there is life and growth – Seneca. More philosophy and wisdom here: Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)

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Don’t focus on the time. Cover the clock and speed up the pace, even if it is just a bit quicker.

What are your workout tips? 

Do you have tips to push through to the next level? Something awesome to help make workout routines more fun? I’d love to know what you recommend. Leave a comment below.

 

Eating at Airports and Healthier Chow for Commuters

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I have been spending way too much time passing through airports this summer. I love to travel, but the food options along the way, let alone the lack of hospitality, leave much to be desired.

I’d like to think that I’m that girl that packs a healthy lunch from home for the plane, but I’m not.

The Commuter Chow Dilemma

In my humble opinion, airport food options haven’t gotten any healthier, tastier or better. When it comes to eating on the go, this whole “food revolution” might just be a farce.  It’s just pretty packaging and pricey promotion. Shake Shack – the new modern roadside burger – is simply a replacement for the old McDonalds brand. Exotic veggie chips-  just another processed fattening mindless bag of nothingness –  a big fat “0” of nutrients.

The shelves and signage look prettier – with better eye-popping packaging to lure you in with sugar-dense, dried-fruit (kettle-cooked??) candy replacements –

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Fattening Nuts – Weighing the Options

These pumpkin seeds and “healthy nuts” should come with a high calorie – extremely fattening warning. 1 cup of seeds = 747 calories.

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Wait! Terra chips seem to be “high fiber”. 12 grams per serving.

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Photo from the bathroom plane – an ashtray in the door?  – smoking was banned in 1988 – wait, but this means my plane is over 25 years old.

I’d love to hear from nutritionists on what the healthiest food options are for airport travel. Do we have to pack our own snacks?

On the Go Movement, Growing Good Habits and Elon Musk

 The Emotion & Motion Connection 

I stay in youth-mode – powered with an ageless mind – armed with a liberated, open, playful, light-hearted and free-spirited attitude. In youth-mode, I am limitless.

Not exercising each day makes me feel lethargic and depressed. Over the past decade I have noticed that all forms of daily, disciplined movement – walking, biking, running, yoga, Pilates -helps to soften the rigid suit of armor I call my body. Tense from head to toe, my body takes in and holds all of my emotions – memorized in the tightening of each muscle. The connection between my emotions and motion is fascinating to me. Stretching releases the ache and tightness I feel in my neck as I release the “weight of the world” from my shoulders. Sit-ups strengthen my lower back so I feel strong and “supported” as I feel my “intuition” making better “gut reactions” from strengthening from my core. Squats help tone my legs and my knees and joints give me more balanced, confident  “legs to stand on”.

Habits are Everything

We are an accumulation of everything we do daily. To see change in our lives we must change the way we go about our day. I use to wake up worried, now I turn the channel in my mind  to gratitude – literally forcing my mind to think about what I truly appreciate in my life from the moment I open my eyes.

Eat More Salt to Curb Sugar Cravings and eating healthier on the go.

My next good habit will be switching my taste buds to healthier on-the-go eating  – especially for days like today – when I have been on a golf cart buggy to the dock, boat to the mainland, taxi to the airport, plane to the States, and finally train to my car. I will shop, plan and make snacks to bring along – fresh vegetables, salads and home made health to eat along the way.

Elon Musk -Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future  by Ashlee Vance

I just started reading the incredibly fascinating life of Elon Musk. creator of the Tesla and now working on a way to have us living in outer space.

Where Mark Zuckerberg wants us sharing baby photos, Musk wants to save the human race from self-imposed or accidental annihilation. He’s wired like a scientist and suffers mental anguish at the sight of a factual error.

Love this thought from Musk – “It seems like one should make the world a better place, because the inverse makes no sense.”

A Sky Like Mind, Active Abs and The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating

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Have you thought about what pace feels right for you? At times I do have a need for speed and love the energy and creativity that feels supercharged in big cities like Manhattan. Right now, I feel the need to breath deeply, chill out and slow down to refocus. Not unplug, just down shift to first or maybe second gear.

Something clicked the minute I stepped off the plane at Providenciales. An assuring voice inside my head delivered a comforting message “a more intentional pace.” This slower island pace. Not the harried, brisk and hurried hustle of New York, but the more deliberate and intentional easiness, much like the gentle movement of the waves and soothing breezes of this island.  I am not describing a snail-like, creeping, lazy/boozy pace, but that of speaking, thinking, walking and working which is more conscious, considered and purposed. More thoughtful living. This is the pace for now.

And so it goes with meals, especially meals together. My memories of my youth bring me back to four hour dinners around the long outdoor communal table, under the grapevines, with my loud and excited extended Italian family. The never-ending conversations, the slow and relaxed experience of enjoying a meal together.

The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating begins with an intention to create an experience. Setting the mood, dimming the lights, selecting soft and slower music and smaller plates,  create an atmosphere for mindful eating.  Imagine setting a stage to enjoy and savor your meal. This mindful eating ritual can be extended to any meal – from breakfast to dinner. For more tips on mindful eating, check out Dara Rose, PhD, neuroscientist, foodist, author and the creator of Summer Tomato.

I start my meals by saying grace. Sometimes privately, sometimes with my family. Saying grace can transform a mere meal into an act of celebration, focus, and gratitude.

Listening to meditation talks from Tara Brach, I actually envisioned what she describes as “A Sky Like Mind“, a more expansive mind that allows me to open to the very healing, healthy and beautiful moment that is right now, this healing presence.  Tara’s podcasts and book, Radical Acceptance has really helped release the fear, worry and pain that stems from the mental swirl of anxious activity, the grasping and wanting that only proves to enslave my mind.

It is by meeting each moment throughout the day with radical acceptance for what ever is going on and holding those feelings that arise with a compassionate and open heart, a forgiving heart, this is feels like true freedom.

Reading
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Active Abs

With everything moving at a slower pace this week, I had the opportunity to try Pilates class for the first time. One of the slowest classes I have attended in a long time, a slight pick up from yoga, nothing about the Pilates Method is haphazard. The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment.  The one reminder that I have walked away with today is Active Abs and focusing on my posture, especially when sitting at my desk for hours at end.  Two exercises to help you feel your abdominal muscles correctly.

A Beginner’s Mind, The Power of the Mindful Pause and Cultivating Self-Compassion

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As with everything I do, I try to keep a beginners mind.  Shoshin (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

Although I’ve been challenging myself daily to improve my mental and physical health and wellness, each morning requires a daily reset – a reboot to remind myself of my hopes, dreams and aspirations.   If I don’t awake each day with this reminder to tread this path leading to a more deliberate and intentional life, than I backslide. It’s similar to training at the gym, I find that my mind must also be trained, daily.

The Power of the Purposeful Pause

Communication experts will tell you to be aware of the power of silence between conversations. When the other person finishes speaking, take a breath, relax and smile before saying anything. They know that “the pause” is a key part of improving communication and relationships.

I’ve been reading Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance and I am going to share  her mindful technique of practicing the purposeful pause.  Now, while pausing when having a conversation with others is always an intelligent idea, pausing to listen to the conversations happening inside your own head is another. To bow to this experience happening within and around you, whatever it is, right now.

For example, if I’m worried about an argument I had with someone and thoughts of revenge fog my brain, I pause, accept that this is how I am feeling right now, I do not fight it and just accept it and let it go. It’s powerful. Actually recognizing the pain helps make way for a better decision, a better outcome.

Cultivating Self-Compassion

We can practice radical acceptance (note: Tara is not talking about building a victim narrative here), by pausing and then meeting whatever is happening inside of us with an unconditional friendliness and compassion. The way you might treat your best friend or brother or sister.

I practice remembering that I cannot be a fair weather friend to myself. I will not push away anger, jealousy, or pain. Instead I will treat myself with compassion and understanding and recognize the anguish of this moment. This will allow me to create a safe haven for my vulnerability and to be present to the healing that can happen in my mind.

Recommended Reading from Tara Brach
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Creating Passionate Value for All – Should vs Must from Elle Luna

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Today’s inspiration, artist and designer, Elle Luna, and her 100 Day Project. The idea is simple. Choose one action that feels like passion for you and do it for 100 days.

Need ideas? set out to meet 100 new people, take 100 cool photos,  volunteer for 100 hours,

whip up 100 new recipes, do 100 jumping jacks – whatever floats your boat.

My 100 days will be to intentionally and deliberatly set out to create one thing of

true value each day to share with others –

while not looking for anything in return.

It might be as simple as a smile, a hug, a kiss, a love letter, a text, a meal,

whatever inspires me that morning.

Now that’s intentional fun.

Read more from Elle Luna

The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion

However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” – Stanley Kubrick

Smarter, Stronger, Wiser Workouts

girl,headphone,headphones,music,illustration-27065f4052621ed175246266a0ba660e_hI use to spend over three hours on a Sunday afternoon creating a fresh Spotify music playlist for the weeks to come until one day during an experiment I listened to bunch of Tony Robbins videos (the man is pumped) and a very long interview on The Tim Ferriss Show podcast and said to myself – – myself, you should be learning and training, put those two together and take your workout routine to the next level. It worked. I’m hooked. If you haven’t tried it, you should consider your own experiment.

Listening well

So, I began subscribing to all sorts of podcasts on iTunes. I also had to drown out the yakkers at the gym, so I upgraded my headphones, which don’t get wrapped around the elliptical arm when I’m going hard, because they’re bluetooth and they wrap around my neck.

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Smartest investment for 2015 right here-
LG Electronics Tone Pro Bluetooth Stereo Headset – Black HBS-750

img-thing Awesome Podcasts I am listening to right now –

The Tim Ferriss Show. He deconstructs world-class performers from all walks of life, giving you tips, books, wisdom and daily habits to help you excel in whatever you are trying to achieve.

Srinivas Rao’s The Unmistakable Creative dives deep into the stories of authentic and creative achievers.

Tara Brach has a weekly talk on Buddhist teachings. Admittedly, I usually go for long meditative walks when I listen to Tara and then repeat her podcast with my husband on Sunday’s for our one hour meditation ritual together.

Another favorite is The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes. He’s a former pro athlete, humble as hell and great at digging into what makes pros great at what they do.

Note: I usually get so inspired from listening to these amazing people while I am biking, hiking, lifting, etc, that I stop to take notes in Evernote on my phone and sometimes go back and listen to the whole interview all over again at home.

I just listened to Phil Libin @PLibin on the Tim Ferriss show and discovered that as much as I love @evernote I need to discover all of  its potential @evernotehelps

And finally, yet another workout and travel upgrade, the travel hoodie by Baubax.

jacket

Built in neck pillow, gloves and hand warming pockets? Hello people, why didn’t we design this? It’s been the most funded fashion item on Kickstarter ever.

If you listen to podcasts and have favorites you want to tell me about, please do in the comments below. I am always open to learning and growing. Thanks for reading and sharing what you have found to work for you.

Monday Motivation and The Art of Taking Action

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I’m challenging myself to shut off the autopilot switch on this brain of mine and and move forward with deliberate and intentional steps today. This can’t be done if I’m always “future-ing” – constantly thinking about my fears and concerns about the future, sinking into the trance of troubles to come and not focused on what must get done in order to get where I want to be.

It seems so simple, but it’s not that easy. Why? Mel Robbins does a great job of explaining how to activate your energy with the intentional force required to change what you are doing on autopilot to do something new. We need to do the hard stuff we don’t want to do, so we can be everything we are suppose to be. Watch Mel Robbins 

I’ve been enjoying Brian Johnson’s Philosopher’s Notes channel on YouTube. His short summary  of Greg Krech’s book The Art of Taking Action (25 years of self-mastery Japanese psychology) is excellent. This is definitely on my must read list. 
The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology

Going after something you really want? Listen and take action on those ideas, those impulses that float into your brain and than immediately jump on them. In her Ted Talk, Mel explains that you will be even more successful in the long run if you do something (no matter how small) within 5 (five) seconds of having an impulse or idea. The action of making that idea happen is what will get you closer to your goal. So go ahead, write that email, craft that tweet, go for that fun, prepare that meal, make that call, send the text. Just do it. Now.

Mental Training and Mindfulness

stone_buddha_faceOne of my favorite Sunday rituals involves listening to meditation insights from TaraBrach with my husband. For us, it’s like going to church or temple, but a whole lot more fun.  We sip our coffee and get to sit on the beach or lie in our bed and just listen and absorb the wisdom. I think of it as a mental workout for my mind because  physical workouts and fitness training will only get me so far. It is the combination of mental training and exercise that will help me succeed at being a better version of my former self.

About Tara

Tara has been  practicing and teaching Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening, with a focus on vipassana (mindfulness) meditation for over 35 years. She is a senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington and author of several books including one that I am currently reading.

Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Tara explains that meditation stimulates our capacity for empathy while improving our ability to collaborate with others while benefiting from mutual creativity. It also has made me a more patient person. Just ask my happy family.

I began meditating for about 10 minutes daily about three months ago and started with the Headspace App. Andy, the surfer turned meditation coach, guides you through calm breathes to soothe the mind. The clarity of mind and inner calm that I received from these brief breaks before I started the day have been astonishing. So much so, that I searched for more and stumbled upon Tara.

While I have been committed to a simple ten minute practice of Vipassana meditation, I do want to try some of the other meditations that Tara mentions in her recent interview on The Tim Ferriss Show.

Specifically the “smile meditation” – to soften my entire face and body and relax throughout the day; “inviting Mara to tea” to help face my enemies and challenges head on and the “body scan to melt away stress” to ward off feeling depleted and exhausted.

Click to listen to this podcast interview with Tara on the The Tim Ferriss Show.

Have you incorporated mindful meditation into your daily routine? If so, what have you found helpful? I’d love to know more.

Had to share this one from Instagram – so #true about me.

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Morning Rituals, Mindful Breathing, Spinning and the Slow Carb Breakfast

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The Importance of a Motivating Morning Ritual

When I decided to change my daily habits to create a more fulfilling life, I created my very own morning ritual. The idea was to create a more inspiring way to begin each day and then in turn, create a better life for not only me, but for all of those that I love around me.

I urge anyone trying to improve their lives  to awaken one hour earlier every morning to learn, read, meditate, move and take a moment to think about all that you have  to be grateful for, even the smallest of things. This daily habit has  made a huge impact on my life.

I am currently studying the teachings of the philosopher Seneca, because I believe that without a philosophy to guide my work and life, I will succumb to daily excuses and distractions. I will make the mistake of acting on my moods throughout the day and not on my principles.

Many of us want to place blame and responsibility on external objects because it’s easy to do, but the truth remains that all conflicts start internally, in our minds.”

Taken from this essay @99U written by @PaulJun_ of Motivated Mastery “The Stoic: 9 Principles to Help You Keep Calm in Chaos.”

Read an essay a day  Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)

I’ve been experimenting with breathing techniques to help me stay energized and relax throughout the day. Who knew that the simple act of mindful breathing could actually improve the way I do just about everything –  exercise, work, write and deal with frustrating craziness throughout the day. Evidently proper breathing has profound effects on our health and unbelievably most of us don’t know how to breathe properly. Crazy.

The Power of Vital Breathing

As I was sleep-driving to 7:30 spinning class at Covert Fitness this morning, I tried the four short & fast breaths  that I heard Tony Robbins talk about as part of his Power Hour morning ritual. It’s a simple technique of breathing in and out through the nose rapidly four times with about 10 repeats. Hello and good morning, my brain just woke up! Now, I am not an expert on the topic but there are plenty of tutorials on  breathing techniques .

How can we improve our breathing? Well first by recognizing the bad examples like over-breathing, holding our breath and/or shallow breathing. These breathing patterns are very stressful for the body and lead to a shortage of oxygen and energy. Read How to Breathe Properly

Spinning away the Stress

Let’s get this straight, Spinning is not for everyone, although you may wonder with Soul Cycle and it’s cult-like following now filing an IPO.  I lost my last 10 by Spinning on the weekends and found my self to be a lot less stressed. I join Saturday & Sunday morning classes at Covert Fitness which have also helped me power up my outdoor cycling routine. There is something very motivating about letting the instructor take over your brain for 60 minutes while you zone out and focus on your body doing the hard work. After a few sessions of Spinning (along with my regular daily workout routine) I became even more energized and motivated as I watched my weight melt away.  The calorie burn is intense and there are plenty of residual effects.

Schisandra chinensis & the Slow Carb Breakfast

If you are looking to lose extra weight and eat to sustain your day, then the slow carb diet from The Four Hour Body is a must try. My breakfast begins with two soft scrambled eggs (yolk included) with a few tablespoons of small white beans and fresh spinach or left over vegetables. The white truffle salt that Tim Ferriss recommends helps to spice things up.

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman

I drink a ton of coffee, but in the morning I also take steep a small glass jar of Traditional Medicinals Detox Tea which contains organic chicory and dandelion root. Side note: my grandmother use to boil dandelions and drink the water which she claimed helped clear her kidneys and liver.

This tea also contains a strange, exotic berry from China and Russia. The berry of Schisandra chinensis owes its name Wu Wei Zi (five flavored berry) to the fact that it is sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent. Schisandra chinensis has been digested to prolong life, retarding the aging process, increasing energy, as a fatigue-fighter, and as a sexual tonic.

I am always looking to learn how to make my morning rituals and work outs even better, so if you have something that you think I should try, please share it in the comments.