Fitness is Still Where You Find It

Finding Your Fitness

Finding Your Fitness

January is the time of year when folks think and do something about their fitness and exercise regimens.

It is very easy to give up on attempts at exercise when the weather is freezing cold or you and everyone around you are dealing with illnesses and colds. Even I have to force myself to get that gym workout in every other day, and yes, my dogs always need walking.

I am thankful I have my Fitbit to gently nag me to get my 10,000 steps in every day. Do I get them all in? Not every day, but that external motivation does push me a little but further.

With my school schedule set up differently this semester, I can take my favorite Friday morning yoga class again. Boy do I need it!

I end up parking far away on campus from my office so that I have to walk a ways. Every little bit of activity that you can sneak in every day counts for more benefits than you think.

I am sharing some older posts that may help and motivate you toward your fitness goals.

Please check out this previous post. Comments are closed here.

Original image by Scott Webb via Unsplash

via Fitness is Still Where You Find It

Ten Ways I Beat the Winter Blues

How I Dealt with SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder

How I Dealt with SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you reside on planet Earth, you are aware of the storms and wild weather that have affected the U.S. and beyond. California has made the news, not for its famous 5-year drought, but for the record rain and mountain snowfall the entire state has experienced all winter.

The rain and foul weather is a blessing…and a curse. A blessing because the state desperately needs the rain and snow-pack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

A curse because… 1. It’s too much water too fast (see link on Oroville Dam); 2. Gloom, rain, clouds and lack of sunlight affect many people and may lead to a form of depression in a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short.

Winter rain pours from the sky on a dismal gray day
This much rain poured from the sky and from my roof recently!

The Mayo Clinic website suggests “The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression. A drop or change in both serotonin and melatonin (neurotransmitters) levels can bring on seasonal depression.”

Fellow blogger, Sally Cronin, writes extensively about Seasonal Affective Disorder in her blog, Smorgasbord: Variety is the Spice of Life.

This insidious condition does not affect everyone. You would think that by my living in “sunny” California, SAD would not be an issue. I’m here to tell you, um, yes, it’s an issue.

Since 2011, our winters have been mild. We’ve seen much more sun January through March—our typical rainy season. Sure, we had a decent amount of rain in November and December in those years, enough to keep the Sierra ski resorts open for business. In 2011, we even had record snowfall that kept snow in the Sierras well into June. After that? Nada! No wonder I have not experienced the “winter blues” in a while!

What is SAD? Here are some symptoms:

  • Lack of energy—feeling overwhelmed and helpless. These are confusing and horrible feelings for a rather positive person like myself.
  • Feeling guilty or worried—heightened anxiety. I found myself frowning and unconsciously grinding my teeth. Why??
  • Weakened immune system. I got two severe colds in December and January. I am rarely sick, so getting two colds within a two-month time-frame now makes sense.
  • Experiencing sleep disturbances, lack of sleep or the ability to socialize. This did not affect me that much, thank goodness, or you might be visiting me in the hospital!
  • Irritability—Having a lower threshold of crankiness and impatience. Oooh, no wonder I’ve snapped at my poor hubby lately.
  • Overeating and weight gain (or craving carbs and sugar more than usual). After a year of successfully using Weight Watchers to lose 30 pounds, I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t gain any weight at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but started craving carbs and sugar in mid-January and gained two pounds. What was different? It also didn’t help that we celebrated a few family birthdays in January.

“Many (may also) attribute these symptoms to the lack of vitamin D in the winter. To help battle these symptoms, it is advised to get as much natural sunlight as possible; which may mean heading outdoors in and around the lunch hour, or during a bright winter day. Even on the coldest of days, if the sun is out, bundling up, and heading outside for a least an hour, can improve SAD symptoms significantly.” 10 Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

It would be unwise of me to live in the far northern hemisphere without access to a sunlamp.

All of this explains my feelings of being disorganized, always overwhelmed, and unable to multi-task (my super-power). It also explains lately why I am slow to read blogs, comment and share on social media. The low energy just makes it difficult to engage. So, I apologize now for my sluggishness, and soon I will be back to my bubbly self and to your blogs!

I now have a new appreciation for the depression and anxiety my daughter went through in the last few years. She told me, “people would ask, what do you have to be depressed about? That made me even more depressed and anxious.” For her, graduating from college and landing her first job with the State of California pulled her out of her anxiety.

How did I beat SAD, or the “Winter Blues?”

Spring brings clouds of blossoms
Spring brings clouds of blossoms

1. First, simply recognizing the symptoms. I had all but forgotten them because of the (abnormal) winter sunlight. Even reading about the symptoms, it still did not occur to me that I was currently suffering.
2. Talking it over with family members went a long way toward acknowledging my problem. For many, depression is difficult to discuss and carries a social stigma.
3. Getting on with my life and not letting anxiety and blue moods get the best of me. Now I have a better understanding of my youngest daughter’s anxiety in the last few years and what she went through. It is easier than you might think to get caught up in these moods,  leading to Number 4.
4. Not giving up or giving in to defeat, or making rash decisions about life events and hobbies that can’t be undone. It was literally on the precipice of giving up writing and blogging altogether, thinking “I have nothing left to share.”
5. Recognizing that the blues and doldrums will affect me occasionally and strive to pay better attention to those cues.
6. Opening the blinds and letting more light into the rooms. Yes, that means I will see dust and know that “spring cleaning” is imminent. But that’s OK.
7. Just getting outside and letting a little sunshine wash over me. March is here and with it, stronger, longer sunny days. The sun arcs a little higher in the sky each day.
8. Pulling favorite spring clothing items out of my closet and gazing upon their bright colors (“oh, hello, pretty pink shirt—I can’t wait to wear you”).
9. Investing time in small indulgences like buying a new, brighter lip gloss or new make-up always makes me feel better. And it is definitely time for a pedicure!
10. Keeping within the structure of my fitness and weight loss routine. Exercising regularly and eating healthy foods are critical to normal functions.

“Since I started writing this post, we have had four days of wonderful sunshine! I can already feel the difference!”

What should I do for future gray days?

  • Mark a big SAD on my calendar in mid-November as a reminder. The frenetic pace of preparing for the holidays may mask the symptoms. It did in my case, leaving me hollow and empty right after New Year’s.
  • Plan a sunny winter trip. Next January, I hope to spend three weeks in San Diego and Baja, Mexico. Those three weeks I spent last January 2016 in the warm sun, were just enough to stave off that year’s SAD symptoms. I better start saving for an annual January trip! I’m thinking Baja and Hawaii in alternating years!

I do not want to make light of this potentially serious situation. Depression in any form is dangerous and, if undiagnosed, can eventually lead to health problems, feelings of suicide and death. If you are experiencing the “winter blues” and the feelings are not diminishing with the coming spring and sunlight, I urge you to see your doctor right away.

I am also linking this post to Colleen Chesebro’s blog, A Mindful Journey

My haiku and image to celebrate the end of SAD!
My Haiku: Spring blossoms flutter, whisking away winter blues, hope springs eternal.

Have you experienced the “winter blues?” Please feel free to share in the comments what helped you lift your mood.

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Spring Cycling

Recumbent bike
Recumbent bike
Cyclists zoom by

Spring has sprung in the northern hemisphere and it came in with cool mornings and warm afternoons. Spring also brought tree pollen which aggravates my allergies. With hankie at the ready, and the American River Bike Trail calling my name, I set out for a one-hour morning ride.

I use the app, Map My Ride, which records my workout. I am always amazed at the stats, like how many miles I ride, how many calories I burn, my speed, and it provides a map of the ride. At the end of my ride, I had logged 15 miles, averaged 13.5 mph, and burned 1077 calories!

The American River Bike Trail (a.k.a. the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail) hugs the banks of the American River as it flows through riparian habitat preserved by the American River Parkway. The trail runs for 32 miles between Discovery Park in Old Sacramento and Folsom Lake’s southwestern banks at Beal’s Point.

The two-lane trail is completely paved, with mile markers, trail-side maps, water fountains, restrooms and telephones along the way. There are also plenty of places to stop to eat, rest or enjoy the scenery. Most of the trail is shaded and level, although the route does traverse some rolling terrain. Along the way you’ll pass through several parks and swimming areas, as well as through the suburban enclaves of Sacramento.

About 2 miles of the trail is on-road in a designated bike lane. In addition, the popular trail is shared by many different users, including in-line skaters and equestrians.”

As I rode the first 30 minutes, I made some mental notes of the spots I wanted to photograph on the ride back. You can see by the photos what a glorious morning it was. As I started out, it felt like I was the only one on the trail. Gradually, other cyclists and walkers joined me on the trail. When I normally ride on weekends, there is a lot of company, so it was refreshing to ride on this weekday morning with fewer people.

One of my favorite sights was seeing a large group of seniors riding along in a large group. (See the top photo). I assumed it was an organized riding club.

Because the bike trail is a sanctuary for wildlife, there is a large variety of birds, including snowy egret, seagulls on the river, wild turkeys, geese and ducks. Squirrels cavort everywhere (nearly ran one down) and wary deer suddenly appear from behind trees, then go back to grazing. On one trip I saw a coyote bounding off into the woods!

I am fortunate I live so close to this bike trail, and it is such a thrill to get out and ride. I hope you get the chance to get out and exercise on this spring weekend.

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