Prevent Exercise Injuries by Building a Solid Foundation

By Chrissy MacDonald

Injuries can happen by jumping into an exercise program too fast and without proper planning. Just like building a house, we need to build a solid foundation when starting a new activity or sport. Increase the intensity of an exercise gradually.

Before you start a weight training program, for example, make sure your joints are strong and stable and able to handle the additional weight.  Practice the exercise in front of a mirror to make sure you are using the proper technique. Start by doing one set of an exercise for each muscle group at a light weight. Increase the intensity gradually by adding more weight every couple of weeks. Doing too much too soon can result in sore muscles, aching joints and frustration.

If you want to run, first practice walking faster for longer periods of time.  This is building a solid base. When you’re comfortable walking regularly at a good brisk pace, start inserting one minute runs into your walks (or even 30 seconds to start) until you can go longer.  It’s important to plan this increase gradually so the knees are not put under sudden stress. It’s also easier on the heart and lungs.

If an exercise doesn’t feel right or causes any type of pain, stop and re-evaluate what you are doing. You should never feel pain while doing an exercise. If your neck hurts when doing abdominal crunches, you are either doing it incorrectly or it is just not a good exercise for you.  There are many ways to strengthen the abdominal muscles without lifting your neck off the floor. Check out Pilates which focuses on strengthening the core of the body – the back and abdominal muscles which form a “girdle” around the middle.

When starting a new exercise program, be patient and start slowly. Learn the proper technique and add intensity gradually to help ensure a safe and productive workout with less risk of injury.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

By Chrissy MacDonald

Getting a good night’s sleep is something we may take for granted until it doesn’t come easy. If you have a hard time falling asleep every night, it can affect your whole life.

We spend about one third of our lives sleeping. Most adults need about six to eight hours of sleep every night. Children need more sleep than adults to be at their best. Teenagers need a lot of sleep. People usually need less sleep as they get older. Getting too little sleep can affect productivity and creativity.

When sleep is repeatedly disrupted, it can have a negative effect on our health, well being and mood. Many factors can affect the quality of sleep such as indigestion, breathing problems, pain, stress, depression, caffeine, some drugs, deficiency in calcium and magnesium, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Here are some things you might like to try to help you sleep better:

  • Go to bed and get up at approximately the same time each day.
  • Establish a ritual before bedtime. This might include a warm bath about an hour before then a cup of chamomile tea.
  • In the late hours of the day and early evening, avoid eating foods such as chocolate, cheese, ham, tomatoes and sugar which tend to be stimulants. Foods such as bananas, figs, yogurt, turkey, tuna and whole wheat are more likely to help promote sleep.
  • Eat a healthy diet. When the body is deficient in copper, iron, calcium or magnesium, normal sleep can be disrupted.
  • Avoid alcohol which can contribute to disrupted sleep.
  • Keep the television and other distractions out of the bedroom.
  • The bedroom should be comfortable, calming and quiet. Keep colors and lighting soft.
  • Pay attention to your pillow and mattress. When buying new ones, try them out in the store for a few minutes to make sure you get what you need.
  • If you have trouble falling asleep because of worrying, try to focus on happy memories and thoughts. Think of ten things you are thankful for.
  • Learn relaxation techniques such as meditation.
  • A regular program of exercise can improve the quality of sleep.

If you find it difficult to sleep on a regular basis, look at all of these things, examine your diet and any drugs you are taking. See if you can find a reason your sleep is being disrupted.  Do everything you can to fix the problem instead of relying on drugs to help you sleep.

How to Eat Healthy in Restaurants

By Chrissy MacDonald

A night off from cooking can be a nice break. Eating out in restaurants is no reason to sacrifice healthy eating. I’m a very particular eater and when I have the opportunity to order a meal, I make sure it’s what I want. Here are a few tips for ordering a healthy restaurant meal.

Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to the standard selections on the menu. You’re paying for the meal so you should get what you want. Of course there are exceptions to this. We went to a restaurant a few years ago that had cheese burgers on the menu. One of the kids wanted a plain hamburger without the cheese. The waitress said they didn’t have plain hamburgers. It had to come with cheese. Of course this was a crazy exception. Most are happy to accommodate personal choices.

Ask how the food is prepared. Avoid animal cooking fats. Most restaurants use vegetable oil now.

Drink lots of water. Have a glass before the meal to take the edge off your hunger.

Have your salad dressing on the side (they usually pour on too much). Choose romaine lettuce and green and red peppers which are more nutritious than head lettuce and celery.

Many entrees are too large. You could order a salad and main course and share it with a friend instead of ordering both for each of you. Or put a portion of the food on a bread plate and ask the waiter to doggy bag it. Do this at the beginning of the meal so you won’t be tempted to pick at it at the end of your meal.

Ask for tomato based sauce for pasta rather than cream based.

At the buffet table, try just a small scoop of each item if you like a variety of different foods.  Watch out for salad toppings. Bacon bits, croutons, salad dressings and cheese can make salads very high in fat and calories.

Use only a thin spread of butter on bread or dip the bread in olive oil which is a healthier fat.

Don’t be taken in by “mega sizing” for a few cents more. Think of all those extra calories you don’t really need.

At fast food sandwich restaurants, try whole wheat tortilla “wraps” with a variety of vegetables and just a bit of meat or cheese. Heat it up to bring out the flavor.

Don’t be “on a diet.” Enjoy the foods you love but learn to modify and substitute or just have a smaller portion with a big salad. You will enjoy the food more because you’re doing your body a big favor and you won’t be overstuffed when you’re finished. Notice how much better you feel physically after eating a modified meal. You’ll feel like going for a nice walk instead of lying down!