20161025_autumn-treeWe don’t really have four seasons here in the Valley of the Sun. We have two: nice weather and summer (which most people don’t consider “nice”, LOL!). It’s late October and our afternoons are still in the mid-90s although overnight lows are in the upper 60s to low 70s – nice and cool in the mornings! I spent the bulk of my life in the Midwest so I feel like I should be wearing jeans, sweaters, and boots this late in the year but I’m still wearing shorts and sandals during the days. I loved autumn in the Midwest and miss those crisp, fall days. What to do?

To start with, I follow my long-time fall routine, just maybe a month or so later than I used to. That means – heavy duty cleaning. True, the house was mostly closed up all summer with AC on so not much dust got in. It just seems the air must be stale, so I open the windows and clean! Once upon a time I was really ‘scrubby Dutch’ but that time is past and I really have to have a reason for this now. Like, company coming from out of town to stay a few days – that gets me moving! They will be here in two weeks so I better get rolling.

Heavy duty cleaning means I move a lot of things around to clean in, under, and closer, and that means I find things that really, we don’t need. “Why did we keep this?” I wonder. There’s not a lot of storage room in our condo so space for needless things just doesn’t exist, and have I ever mentioned that I don’t like clutter? Someday I will get up a lot of motivation and clear out the garage, but that day is not here yet! Still, I’ll end up with a bag or box or two to donate, and probably a fair amount to toss. So I find this a good time to de-clutter.

While I’m taking a break from all that cleaning I might browse a new magazine or the web and come across recipes for soups and stews and chilies that sound delicious and warm and cozy and cold-weather satisfying. But it’s still too hot for those dishes, I tell myself! That doesn’t stop me from saving the recipe for ‘later’ although by now I have dozens of these recipes saved and few of them actually tried. Still, a few will get tested, a few will get tossed without trying (why did I save this one??), and a few more will morph together into one brand-new recipe. I do make some soups in the summer but they tend to be lightweight, like a cool gazpacho or a nice, light cauliflower soup that is good hot or cold. My cool weather soups are heartier, with heavier flavors, bigger chunks of veggies, and more beans and/or grains. I also do more baking in our cooler season, for obvious reasons!

Another habit that came with me from my roots is stocking up the pantry as the weather changes to winter. Who wants to go out when it’s cold, windy, snowy, or icy? Not me! So I’d make sure I had plenty of ingredients on hand for the days I didn’t feel like getting out. Not that we encounter many of those days here in the valley; it’s just habit. And now that habit seems to last all year, because who wants to have to run to the store when it’s 114? I try to always have staples on hand – onions and garlic, dried and canned beans, plant-based milk, frozen veggies, canned tomatoes, spices, dried pasta, and nuts and seeds. Summer meals usually mean lots of fresh salad veggies and ingredients for dressings. Winter meals also have lots of fresh vegetables but I make fewer salads.

My last transition activity is shifting clothes. Like I mentioned, not a lot of storage here so sweaters, heavier pants, long sleeved items get packed in boxes in spring and brought out in fall; shorts and sleeveless tops and summery skirts go into the boxes. This year I need to take a really critical look at my wardrobe because really, I have too many clothes. Since I gave up corporate work, I don’t need all the clothes I did before but it’s been hard to get rid of perfectly good items. Now I think I’m ready to let some go to a better home. Still not time to pull out the heavier sweaters and switch to wearing boots, but it will be soon!

Living here has simplified my seasonal transitions for two reasons. One, I only have to switch twice, from hot to cool, and cool to hot. I used to have to adjust to four seasons. Two, no daylight savings time – that change always hit me hard and I love not messing with adjusting my internal clock to arbitrary clock changes.

What are your seasonal transitions like?

20150728_movegrooveExercise more, eat less – that’s the common answer for weight loss, right? There is some truth to the thought – if we don’t expend the calories we eat our weight will increase. Of course exercise is not the only answer to weight loss, and weight loss is not the only reason to exercise. This article is about getting your move on for lots of other great reasons.

       What other reasons? Better overall health. Improved lung capacity. Better mood. Improved brain function. Endorphins. Self-satisfaction. Self-challenge. Competition. Strength. Toning. Healing.

       As many reasons as there are for finding your own move-groove, there are at least those many ways to get it on. Home or workout facility or outdoors. Structured classes or videos or free style. Alone or with a friend. Same routine each time or mix it up. Two days a week or five days or seven. Ten minutes or thirty minutes or two hours.

       And as many ways there are to get it on, there are at least that many excuses to not start or to skip your class or to give it up all together. Too tired. No time. Too much work. Obligations with the kids/spouse/friends. Don’t like the gym. Don’t like the teacher. Hurt my back/arm/leg/fingers. Too hot, too cold, too wet. Just don’t want to.  (Yes, I’ve used them all.)

       Why is it so hard to establish and maintain a solid exercise routine? Is it because we often call it a workout and maybe “work” is too negative? Is it because the current routine is boring? Is it because you haven’t found the right routine? Maybe it’s lack of commitment to you, to do this for yourself. Lack of commitment allows us to make all kinds of excuses, valid excuses with which everyone else can empathize. (Because they make the same excuses!) But maybe you are committed and just can’t find the right thing. Here is some help.

       First, figure out what types of movement you like and which do you not like? I love yoga for its physical and mental benefits, but many people dismiss it as not even being a true ‘workout’. Many years ago I saw a program on the effects of jogging on joints – swore I would never jog; besides it just doesn’t look like fun to me. Yet I know people who love their jogging and are cranky when they have to skip it. So we each have to contemplate what kind of movement suits us – we cannot really be committed to something we dislike. If you are currently doing a workout because “everybody” is doing it but you hate it – stop! Find what suits you!  Consider: hiking, biking, weight lifting, walking, jogging, dance, yoga, karate, Zumba, CrossFit, bodyweight training – the list goes on. And see if there aren’t two or more types of movement you enjoy. One way to keep your interest and commitment is to vary the exercises you engage in each week. Varying the routine also balances the focus of the benefits from cardio to strength to flexibility.

       Maybe you already know what you love doing for movement but somehow can’t find the time. Or, now that you know what you like you wonder how to get this scheduled into your week. Number one rule: you have to make time for it! So the next step is figuring out when to fit in your routine. That may be somewhat dependent on what you have chosen – if you are taking yoga, karate, Zumba, etc. classes you have to look at available class times. Your work schedule may be a factor – how flexible can that be? Can you go in later or leave earlier or make sure you take the lunch time allowed? And be sure to consider your own body clock. I am a morning person so it would not work well for me to do a strong workout at 8 pm. Yet my job had me on conference calls as early as 5:30 am, so mornings were inconsistently open for exercise. I had to compromise between my body’s energy cycle and my work commitments and chose to make sure I left work early enough to get my workout in before dinner time. Finally, what is the optimum amount of time to give to your exercise? Make a promise to yourself to set aside a reasonable schedule for your exercise. Don’t plan an hour every day if currently you are not in the habit at all. The schedule can increase to whatever is optimum as you build the habit of doing it.

       So, you know what movement you want and you know when you can get it in. How to make it a habit? Just do it, as the saying goes. The only way to get started is to start! We all have a way to motivate ourselves, whether post-its on our mirrors or reminders on calendars or placing the running shoes strategically. Having accountability helps also.  Here is where a health coach can help!

       Don’t be hard on yourself as you try to build the habit and make exercise a regular part of your life. Remind yourself of the benefits of regular movement and then re-commit to yourself any time you miss your scheduled session, and get back on track. Your body will thank you for years to come!

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

20150630_cheerleaderA few days ago I knew I needed to get writing my post for this week but was not very motivated to get it going. Summer doldrums, other things on my mind, who knows why. But, gotta get going so I reviewed the list I made a few weeks ago with some topics for future blog posts, and guess what one of the topics was – Motivation! Voila! What better way to find motivation than to research how other folks get themselves motivated?

How do people get into a workout routine? How do they create and then stick to a business start-up plan? How do non-cooks become great home chefs? Some days, how do some of us even get out of bed?! Certainly one factor is whether the task or project is something you want to do, something you need to do, or something someone else promised you would. (“Sure, Pat would love to help you with that project…”) It seems some people have more self-motivating powers than other people, and some people just can’t past their procrastination. This week, I’ve been in the latter group!

There are many articles online with tips, with reasons, and with motivational programs to purchase. Most of these narrow down to some common sense steps, steps we all know and just need reminding. For starting a new project or habit, these are some tips:

  • Focus on why – why do you want to develop a workout routine? Why do you want to start that business? What drives you to cook at home? Make a list of the whys and keep it visible, on your desk or mirror.
  • Plot out the steps. Looking up at the top of the mountain is daunting – look for that first handhold, the first foothold as you climb. Then list the next step, and the next. Once you see the steps, the mountain doesn’t look insurmountable.
  • Examine your obstacles – are they excuses? Some hurdles are not of your making but may be gotten over with creative thinking, delegation, and cooperation. Other hurdles are self-imposed, like fear of failure or feeling like you don’t have the tools you need. For these you need to build your self-confidence and do some inspirational reading of others who triumphed over their self-blocking thoughts.
  • Test the waters. Baby steps may be all you need to fire up those motivating juices. Find some simple kitchen techniques to try and see how it goes; then move on to simple recipes – next thing you know, you’re cooking!
  • Get a partner. Maybe someone to try that new gym with you, or do a daily walk. A mentor for your business planning. A friend who wants to try their hand at cooking. A partner brings help, accountability, and fun.
  • Reward small successes. Taking those baby steps or the first full step on the way to your goal is a success in itself, so reward yourself, even if it’s only a verbal compliment. Appreciating your efforts helps you keep up your momentum.

However, sometimes we find it hard to be motivated to do something that is already well ingrained or underway. Like not being inspired to write this post. Or not wanting to cook dinner even though I cook at home all the time. Or not motivated to help the neighbor as your parent/spouse/friend said you would.

  • Focus on why – why don’t you feel like doing it? Maybe you are not feeling well, something else is distracting your time and attention, or you simply don’t like the neighbor that well. Then you can decide whether to postpone, delegate, or cancel the task/project/plan and stop fretting.
  • Take a walk, actual or virtual. Sometimes stepping away provides the break you need to be reenergized.
  • Stay positive. Just because you run into a wall of sorts doesn’t mean it’s permanent. If you like what you’ve been doing, the drive will return.
  • Give yourself a break. Lack of motivation does not mean failure. It means you are human, not a robot, with a human life and all its complexities. It could also mean you are trying to force a square peg (you) into a round hole (something you don’t need to be doing).
  • Remember why you wanted to do this task/project/plan. Reminding yourself of the reasons you began may be enough to reinvigorate your efforts.

So, following the tips I found and sticking to my commitment to myself, I completed this post on time! And, in the process, fired myself up to work on the other topics on my list!!

I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I know I can, says the little train.20150630_train-bottomofpost