“Be Here Now” To Improve Your Daily Life

“Be here now.” Three short words that when linked together can create a powerful message. It’s been used as a book title and I’m sure as the title for many inspirational speeches.

I was at a conference a few months ago and the crowd was getting rather rowdy and off topic. The workshop leader told everyone to please pay attention to her and to “be here now!

I think that phrase reminds us that we are often NOT in the moment but that staying in the moment over an extended period of time, free of distractions, is what we need to do to accomplish our goals.

It’s true that if we want to achieve our goals we’ll have to learn to apply “Be here now” in our daily lives.

Here’s how to apply it to your goals:

Rule #1. Concentrate on defining your objective.

What do you want to accomplish? What matters to you? Why do you want to achieve that particular goal?

Rule #2. Concentrate on one part of your goal at a time.

Break down your ultimate goal into smaller chunks. Keeping an eye on the big picture is great. However, you have to focus on the individual steps that will get you there.

Rule #3. Concentrate on controlling your situation. Here’s where the “be here now” resolve must be strongest.

When focusing on those individual steps, control your natural tendencies (we all have them) to drift away from the task at hand and/or stop trying if it becomes too challenging or takes too long.

Rule #4. Concentrate on completion.

To achieve any goal, you have to make a commitment to reach the finish line. Strengthen your resolve and keep yourself motivated by visualizing the end result. Think about how excited you’ll be and how great you’ll feel when you reap the rewards of your hard work.

If you’re already practiced in the “be here now” idea, then that’s great. I know for most of us, myself included, it’s a challenge so I thought I’d remind myself of this practice and remind you all as well, too.

Antioxidants: Don’t Leave This One Out!

We hear the message about antioxidant supplementation and how good they are for us. Yet there’s still a controversy as to whether they have benefits or have harmful effects.

Yet research supports that one kind of antioxidant is GREAT for us. It’s called regular, moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise. Combine that with a diet high in natural antioxidants and you have a winning combo.

Food choices such as fruits, particularly berries, vegetables (like beans and artichokes), nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts), and spices (cloves, cinnamon, oregano) are high in natural antioxidants.

So stay committed to your exercise programs and be creative in your antioxidant food choices and enjoy abundant long-term health!

How’s Your Posture? Or Would You Rather Not Answer That Question?

Here’s another question I get quite often: “Why am I not seeing results in my posture/performance/whatever?” Does my training program really work?

The answer? IT DEPENDS!

In all honesty, without seeing your particular training program, it’s hard to say whether that’s the problem. With in-person clients it’s pretty easy to discover issues as we work with their programming, or nutrition or training. If they aren’t getting results, most of the time it’s due to things they are doing OUTSIDE of the gym or work-out time versus what they’re doing during their training time.

For instance, imagine the typical computer programmer who comes to see me. Their hips are constantly in flexion, and their upper back and shoulders are slouched over. Even if I gave this person the absolute most perfect program and they executed it to perfection, they may not get results.


In general it’s due to the law of repetitive motion. Particularly when it comes to posture. I’m a stickler for healthy posture. Sometimes when I see someone slouched over, I just want to walk over to them and put them in proper alignment. They can’t possibly be breathing deeply.

As a strength coach, yoga teacher, and running coach I’ll bring your attention to your posture when we’re together and we’ll review your programs making sure that your quad dominant and hip dominant movements are balanced, and that your horizontal pulls match your horizontal presses. HOWEVER, it’s what you do the other hours of the day that matter, and they matter A LOT.

We too often forget to account for what we do all day everyday! That’s where the idea of repetitive motion comes in.

This is one of the many reasons I’m such a huge advocate for more soft-tissue and flexibility/mobility work. No program can overcome poor postures that you assume throughout the day.

Think about it for a second, do you really expect 3 hours in the gym every week to counteract the fact that you sit at a desk or in your car for 40, 50 or even 60 hours every week?

No way!

According to the research, adaptive shortening of muscles can occur in as little as 20 minutes; that means if you’re sitting at a desk for 8 hours every day, your hips are adapting to that position by getting shorter! This epitomizes the saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

If you are really serious about getting yourself healthy, mobile and resilient, you absolutely must take into account the positions you’re in throughout the day and try to optimize them.

If you sit at a desk, get your hips in extension by performing lunge stretches. Or better yet, get a stand-up desk and cue yourself to tighten up your stomach and glutes while standing. Those of you who have been reading my articles for some time might recall that three years ago I gave up sitting at a desk while working!

If you drive all day long, set a timer on your phone to go off every 15 minutes that will cue you to sit-up straight and move around a bit. Fidgeting is not always a bad thing!

In essence, everything we do influences our posture and our performance. The question becomes is what you’re doing right now positively or negatively affecting it?

Make the conscious decision throughout the day to optimize your posture and alignment. Doing so will not only help you outside of the gym, but it will improve your performance in the gym as well.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Remember the song “Let The Sunshine In” from the musical Hair? Well, that’s what we’re talking about today. No NOT Hair…..SUNSHINE and its benefits.

When our eyes don’t take in enough sunlight, we can experience a serious mood change. Sometimes you’ll notice you start sleeping too much, or that you go through energy slumps. You might start to crave sweets and starchy foods.

Studies link those symptoms to low levels of brain chemicals like serotonin and melatonin. Not only do we need sunlight in our eyes to produce those neurotransmitters, we need sunlight on our skin to produce vitamin D.

We’ve long known that vitamin D is critical for building and maintaining strong bones. But a big surprise in recent years has been that vitamin D also plays a critical role in insulin regulation, making it important for the prevention of diabetes and heart disease. It’s also important for the regulation of your immune system, with studies linking low vitamin D levels to an increased risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers, as well as to multiple sclerosis, which is an autoimmune condition.

Depending on where you live, it’s hard to get enough sunlight during the winter months. And in summer, many people avoid exposure to direct sunlight because they’re concerned about skin cancer. In addition, drugs used to treat heartburn, acid indigestion, and ulcers can deplete the body’s stores of vitamin D.

What this means is that you have a good chance of developing a deficiency of this critical vitamin.

It’s easy to restore the vitamin D your body needs. You can get it by spending a few minutes in the sun each day. You can also get it from food sources, especially eggs, fatty fish, and fish liver oils. And if you don’t like fish, there are supplements.

I’ve long been a proponent of having your vitamin D levels checked the next time you get a blood test.

If you decide to take supplements, avoid the old form of vitamin D (ergocalciferol). Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the best form to use. Experts are now recommending that we get at least 1,000 IUs per day.

So enjoy letting the sunshine in and keep up your levels of vitamin D.

Feeling Crappy? Relax Your Ego

We all feel crappy sometimes. There are times we might even say we’re feeling depressed.

60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace defined depression this way: “Sunshine means nothing to you. The seasons, friends, or good food mean nothing. All you do is focus on yourself and how badly you feel.”

My own experience and the lessons I’ve learned from others who have gone through depressing times seems to suggest that this intense inward focus doesn’t seem to help much. I’m going to suggest 9 steps you can take to defeat depression, but first allow me to share some philosophy with you.

I read about this theory and it seems to make a lot of sense. It goes like this…….

There are essentially two impulses in the universe: contraction and relaxation. Everything, every animate and inanimate thing, is, literally, becoming more or less dense at any given moment. The ultimate denseness is a black hole, which sucks in light but gives out none.

As psychological creatures, our consciousness is always in flux between the contraction and the dissolution of the ego. Our egocentric impulses are the source of much of the work we do and the art we create, but they are also the source of tension, sickness, and despair. Our dissolution impulses are the source of our loving relationships. They relax us and prepare us to accept the ultimate dissolution of the ego, which is death.

Contraction gives us the egoistic pleasure of being loved and being acknowledged and appreciated. Relaxation gives us the exocentric pleasure of doing the loving, in our work and in our lives.

Both contraction and relaxation can deliver pleasure, but the pleasure of contraction (the pleasure of the ego) is temporary, whereas the pleasure of relaxation is the enduring pleasure of the soul.

It feels good to have people pay attention to you. But even at its most intense (imagine being a movie star), the pleasure dissipates almost as soon as the attention shifts away. And when the pleasure of the ego leaves, a vacuum of sadness takes its place.

It’s like taking drugs. The effect is temporary. It’s addictive. It leaves you wanting more. And each time you get more, it is not enough. Eventually, it kills you.

“Enough of all this deep thinking,” you say. “What does this have to do with me?”

Just this: The next time you are feeling depressed, sad or angry, recognize that there is a way to become happy again: relax your ego.

Here’s how:

1. Accept the fact that it is perfectly normal to feel crummy sometimes.

Despite your core strengths and your many accomplishments, you will occasionally find yourself down in the dumps. It’s natural for people to feel that way.

2. If you are upset because of something you did to yourself, forgive yourself.

It’s okay. What matters is what you do next, not what you just did.

When I recognize that my mood is being affected by my own prior actions, I say to myself, “It’s okay that I’m angry. But I don’t have to be. I can get through today. And I can have better discipline or make wiser choices tomorrow.” That’s what I tell myself, and it helps me feel better instantly.

3. If you are upset because of something someone else did to you, take a chill pill.

Count to 10. Recognize that you can’t control the behavior of other people. The only thing you can control is your response to their behavior. Nobody can take that away from you.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space,” said Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning. “In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Getting upset when your family, friends, or colleagues made a mistake doesn’t do you any good. And it will make you unproductive, unhappy, and unpleasant to be around. Try learning to turn the other cheek. The moment you can stop resenting others for their shortcomings, you’ll likely feel better about yourself.

It’s amazing how well this works.

4. Don’t allow unrealistic expectations to interfere with your relationships.

Accepting people for who they are does not mean allowing them to make your life miserable. On the contrary, it means being realistic, realizing that 90 percent of the time a person’s fundamental characteristics cannot be changed. If you find a certain behavior unacceptable, you change the way you deal with it (something you can do) instead of trying to change the person (which you can’t do).

5. If you are upset because of circumstances beyond your control, take a double dose of chill pill.

You can deal with your troubles more effectively if you define them as “problems” (which can be solved) or “predicaments” (which can be coped with).

6. If you are unhappy at work, find a way to care about what you’re doing.

As Albert Camus said, “But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?” You won’t experience happiness if you work at a job you hate or if you do poor work on a project you like. But if you learn to care about the work you do, you will find that your energy will improve and you will start to enjoy it.

7. Engage in some sport or challenging exercise – something that is so demanding you can’t do it while thinking.

Walking, stretching, and yoga are great forms of exercise. If you do them with a tranquil mind, they will make you healthy and happy. But if you do them when you are sad and feeling sorry for yourself, they will give you no relief. It’s more likely you will forget about the exercise and focus on your negative thoughts. That will make things worse. Try an exercise that demands your attention. For me, that’s golf.

8. Recognize that the health of your body has a great deal to do with your mood.

If you are feeling bad much of the time, you probably need to make a few lifestyle changes. For example:

  • Eat healthy. Eating too many carbohydrates will make you crazy, cranky, and tired. To have consistent energy all day, use food like fuel. Try eating six smallish meals a day, avoiding junk food and favoring healthy fats, veggies, fruit, and plenty of protein.
  • Sleep and rest adequately. For me, adequate sleep is a major contributor to feeling good. Studies show that people who get seven good hours of sleep a night live longer, suffer from fewer illnesses, and achieve more because they have more energy. If you get tired during the day, take a short nap.

9. Take positive steps to focus “outward” instead of “inward” – to pay less attention to yourself and more attention to others.

A few examples:

  • Make your friends happy. Smile when you see them. Listen to their stories. Become the person they turn to when the chips are down.
  • Be a reliable and steady resource for your work colleagues. Help them achieve their goals, not because you want them to reciprocate in some way but simply because you care about them and want them to succeed.
  • Do something for someone you don’t know: a stranger you meet, a foster child, or a sick or poor person who can benefit from your help.

Make this outward focus a natural part of your daily life. Do it purposefully and deliberately until it becomes second nature. You will know when that happens because you’ll be feeling happy most of the time, and when you become sad or angry, you’ll be able to get over it quickly and easily.

How To Stock Your Pantry For Diet Success

What’s in your pantry?

Have you ever wondered what’s in a registered dietitian’s pantry or what she does when she wants to get off the diet rollercoaster?

Recently I had a chance to find out! Here’s what she and I decided were five important steps in making successful nutritional changes.

Believe me when I say that even those of us in the health and fitness field can go on the same rollercoaster ride as anyone else when it comes to diet. But as I’ve said many times before, FIRST you must change the environment before you can change yourself. Trying to do this backwards by trying to make changes without addressing your environment only leads to frustration and failure.

  1. Step number one is getting rid of temptations. If you take away the high fat/high sugar snacks you’ll make room for healthier alternatives.
  2. Step number two is being honest with yourself about what foods you enjoy. You need to enjoy what you eat. It also helps to learn to balance the foods you crave but in a quantity that fits into your eating plan.
  3. Step number three is stocking your pantry for success. Include a variety of the foods you enjoy that will meet your nutritional needs. And not just food for your main meals. Healthy snacks are important too. If you allow yourself to get too hungry between meals, you’ll overeat at your next meal. The type of snacks you choose can often make or break diet success.
  4. Step number four involves dessert. For many folks, a day wouldn’t be complete without dessert. Craving something sweet after a meal is based on habit. If it’s your habit, make your dessert a healthy choice. I usually suggest berries or a small piece of dark chocolate.
  5. Step number five is using herbs, spices and flavorings to create interesting meals that you’ll enjoy.

I hope that these five steps got you thinking about your own pantry and will help you smooth out your own diet roller coaster ride.

Do You Feel Like Your Metabolism Isn’t What It Used To Be?

Is it true that metabolism decreases with age?

That’s a question I get asked quite frequently.

Do you notice that last year’s clothes are tight on you or that the number on the scale reads higher than it used to?

Whether that happens because of a decrease in metabolism or sloppy nutrition and decreased physical activity, it seems true that with each passing year, most people gain weight.

We hear a lot about childhood obesity numbers increasing. However, the adult rates are alarming as well. In the U.S. 35 percent of adults are obese and over 67 percent overweight or obese.

Some research suggests that susceptibility to permanent weight gain seems to be highest during adolescence, pregnancy, and midlife for women and the period after marriage for men. For most, the weight gain doesn’t end in middle age. Researchers say this is due to an “energy imbalance.”

The concept of energy imbalance is easy to understand: eat more calories than you burn and you will gain weight. Eat fewer and you will lose weight. With 3500 calories in a pound of fat, it doesn’t take much to put on a pound or two per year. It could be as little as a two extra sodas every month or a few too many neglected 20-minute evening walks.
But what is metabolism’s role in age-related weight gain?

It turns out that for most people, age-related weight gain is due in large part to a dramatic decrease in calories burned. While lower levels of physical activity play a large role in the decreased energy expenditure, an age-related decline in metabolic rate is also to blame.

A study evaluating total energy expenditure (TEE), which includes your metabolism, plus the energy required to digest and absorb food, and physical activity, confirmed what most people already know: energy expenditure decreases with age.

Basal metabolic rate, which accounts for about 50 to 70 percent of TEE, is thought to decrease about one to two percent per decade. That is, after a person reaches 20 years old, daily energy expenditure decreases about 150 calories per decade. The decline is probably due to decreased muscle mass (which is highly metabolically-active) and increased fat mass (which is relatively metabolically-inactive).

This decline seems to be most rapid after age 40 in men and 50 in women.

To sum it up,, the number of calories burned per day decreases with age. This reality is widely accepted and is even built in to formulas that estimate resting energy expenditure.

BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, while a small decrease in daily energy expenditure is probably inevitable, with a committed fitness program, “aging” adults (anyone over 20 years old) can avoid sizeable decreases in metabolic rate.

So what’s the key to fighting age-related weight gain and a declining metabolic rate???

Incorporating these elements into a committed fitness program!

  1. Strength training and muscle building to maintain metabolically active muscle mass.
  2. Cardiovascular physical activity to maintain a high level of energy expenditure and prevent increased fat mass.

That’s why I focus on those topics in so many of these blog posts!

6 Changes I’m Making In My Diet

I’m making these changes in how and what I eat, so you might want to consider them as well.

  1. I’m eating more slowly and I’m already a slow eater. It’s a good idea for all of us to slow down. Try this just as an experiment. At your next meal, eat as slowly as possible. See if you can extend your usual meal time by at least 10 minutes. When you take the time to eat more slowly and really taste your food, you’ll not only feel full from less food but I’m betting it will change your whole dining experience.
  2. I’m snacking on pistachios. I’m usually a pecans/almonds/walnuts eater. However, I was finding that I was grabbing handfuls of them too often and eating too many nuts. Because you have to eat one pistachio at a time and shell them, it’s a whole different snacking experience. I’m really enjoying it.
  3. I’m going to give hemp milk a try. Why? It has a few more grams of protein than other milks and I like to switch off and use different “milks.”
  4. I’m increasing my vitamin C intake. The more I study the research, the more important vitamin C becomes. I’m making sure I get about 5-6 grams a day.
  5. What am I blending for my smoothies these days? Well, I’m going to add hemp milk, protein powder, something green (like spinach or a green powder), frozen banana, and some nuts or nut butter. Sometimes I’ve also been adding yogurt in my smoothies.
  6. What do I eat when I want to “cheat”? IF I could get good pizza, it would definitely be that. I know I could make pizza at home but it never tastes as good. So until I can get good pizza, it’s pasta!

Let me know if you make any of these changes and how they work out for you!

How To Manage Your Energy For Optimal Performance

I’m going to let you in on a secret today. But it’s one of those secrets that may not be too secret after all. When I meet other healthy energetic people they seem to be doing the same things I do, so what I do to maximize my health and energy may not be too secretive at all.

We all have 24 hours in the day. However, I’m not convinced that when people want to do more each day, the issue is necessarily time management. I think they need more and better energy!

Many times at the end of the day I say to myself, “Whew, what a day,” and wonder how I accomplished so much. But I have great energy and focus.

So here are the 5 things I do DAILY to keep functioning at my best. See if you do them too.

1. Include a healthy protein source into every one of my meals (this includes snacks as well).

Healthy sources of protein and good fat slow down the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose (sugar) in your blood stream. This keeps your blood sugar stable throughout the day. Many times the “crash” people feel after lunch or breakfast is their blood sugar spiking high and then “crashing” low because they ate a meal that was carbohydrate dense and not balanced with enough protein.

Adding in a healthy protein source like organic eggs, natural meats or poultry, wild fish, or raw nuts ensures your blood sugar doesn’t go on a rollercoaster ride every time you eat. As a snack, raw almonds and fruit will keep your energy levels sustained for the rest of the afternoon.

2. Stay hydrated all day.

Most people know they should be drinking water, but what they don’t know is that it directly affects their energy levels throughout the day. Consider this: your brain is approximately 80% water. Staying hydrated helps you maintain mental energy while avoiding fatigue and headaches. Water also plays a vital role in your body’s ability to flush toxins. Organs have to work harder when you don’t have enough water. This makes you tired, so drink up!

3. Be cautious with caffeine intake.

I am not suggesting you completely eliminate your morning coffee or your breakfast tea. I haven’t. But many people take their one cup and turn it into too many cups. Their cup runneth over all day long! Yes, caffeine will give you a quick boost in energy, but will almost always send you crashing just a few hours later.

Caffeinated beverages will also dehydrate your body, and dehydration will cause you to feel fatigued. Try to keep your caffeine beverages to a maximum of 1-2 per day. I would also suggest drinking those before 1pm as drinking caffeine any later can disrupt your ability to fall asleep at night.

4. Beware of “white” carbs.

“White Carbs” (breads, pastas, cereals, baked goods) break down quickly causing a fast spike in blood sugar. You’ll feel a quick rush of energy, but then a big drop, causing your energy (and your mood) to drop along with it. Also, when too much sugar floods the system all at once, your body can’t use it all for energy and converts it to stored fat.

While it is true that carbs give you energy, too many carbs at once will actually lead to fatigue and lethargy. Keep the “white carbs” to a minimum and eat healthier, fibrous carbs like oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes and a variety of fruits and vegetables. And always be sure to eat those carbs alongside a healthy protein.

5. Do a quick 5-minute mini-exercise circuit at any point during the day.

Yes, even a quick 5-minute exercise routine is enough to get your blood circulating, sending more oxygen to your muscles and brain and giving you a boost in energy. Quick bursts of exercise will also increase your metabolism, not only helping you keep the excess weight off, but giving you a burst of energy as well.

If I start to feel the “afternoon energy crash”, I will get up and do some body weight squats, 1 minute of pushups, 1 minute of jumping jacks, and 2 minutes of lower and upper body stretches. It may not sound like very much, but I assure you that in less than 5 minutes, I am energized and ready to get back to work.

Give the above 5 suggestions a try and you will see firsthand that you do have more than enough hours in each day when your energy levels are at their maximum all day long.

How To Visualize For Goal Setting

Visualization, or imagery, whichever word you prefer to use, is an excellent tool for accomplishing any goal.

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts:

  1. Do create an image in your mind as vividly as possible of what you want to achieve in your sport, in your health, or in your life. Just let distracting thoughts and feelings float away as you refocus on your image.
  2. Do bring in all five of your senses so you can see, hear, and feel what it’s like to have already obtained your desired result. Sight, hearing, and touch are the most powerful senses for incorporating day-to-day imagery into your life. Bring the scene into the present tense so you are totally focused on the task at hand.
  3. Don’t just visualize the end result; focus on seeing the process. Focus on what it takes to get there. In a sport for instance, that would be your form, your breathing, your pacing, your confidence.
  4. Mentally rehearse your actions at the same rhythm and pace that you want in actual execution to establish the appropriate neurological patterns within the brain.
  5. Don’t replay your mistakes. This is a challenge, I know. You want to remove the memory of errors. If you see yourself doing something incorrectly, edit the film in your mind and replay it exactly as you wish it to happen. Imagine that you’re performance is equal to or better than your previous best.
  6. Use visual models. Before going to sleep at night try watching a video of a superior performance (e.g. get out your recordings from the last Olympics). Then visualize yourself moving just as fluidly and powerfully as your visual models. I use this with my swimming and IT WORKS!

Give visualization a try. It’s a powerful tool to have in your self care, performance enhancing toolkit, no matter what goal you’re working towards.