Change Your Position, Change Your Health

I haven’t been sleeping well lately. For a long time, actually. I have difficulty falling asleep at night and frequently wake up feeling tired and lethargic, even on days where I’m able to get a solid 8-9 hours of sleep. I had brought the subject up with my doctor recently, but he informed me I was doing all the right things – eating well, exercising regularly, avoiding caffeine before bed, etc. I thought it had something to do with the fact that I was a vegetarian – low iron or vitamin B12, perhaps? Nope – blood work indicated both levels were fine. I figured maybe I just have a poor mattress, but I can’t exactly afford to buy a brand new one at the moment.

Then I had an interesting “a-ha” moment earlier today at work. Every Wednesday we offer free 15-minute seated massages to staff. Someone didn’t show up for their scheduled appointment, so the therapist offered me the spot. I’ve only ever had a massage once in my life because I’m extremely ticklish, but today I obliged because my muscles were feeling tense. As soon as the masseur placed his hands on my shoulders he said, “Ah.. You’re not sleeping well.” His hands applied pressure to various spots on my back and he said, “You haven’t been sleeping well for a long time.”

At the end of the massage he described how he thought I was sleeping – curled up on my left side, back rounded, shoulders tucked up towards my ears, with one leg bent and the other straight. I laughed, surprised, because he was exactly right. Who knew he could determine all of that from a 15-minute chair massage?? It had never really occurred to me that my sleeping position was having that big of an effect on my quality of sleep. I usually just gravitated towards whichever position I found to be most comfortable.

This led me to wonder if there are certain sleeping positions that have been found to improve sleep quality. I found this recent CBS news report which was helpful. I don’t normally like falling asleep on my back, but the news report suggested it might be my best option for improving my sleep quality and reducing back pain. I also found this graphic from The Wall Street Journal which was insightful:

A Better Night\\\

I’m going to give some of these suggestions a try over the next little while to see if there’s any improvement. The massage therapist also recommended that I do some stretches and deep breathing first thing in the morning in order to avoid muscle tension – I’ll be giving this a try too!

Have you been experiencing sleep issues lately? Maybe it’s time to change up your sleeping position!  Changing your position could change your health :)

Be Well xo

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It’s Time For A Pep Talk

Got a bad case of the winter “blahs”? With all the cold weather and grey slush surrounding us, the winter months can seem like a pretty miserable time. For a while, all I wanted to do was stay curled up in a warm bed. But over the past month or so, I’ve been working hard to try and stick to my new year’s resolution and get UP and MOVING.

I’m proud to say I’ve done pretty well so far. I do cardio/weight training twice a week, and quick yoga sessions whenever I can. I’m only working part-time at Toronto General Hospital, but on the days I am working I make every effort to walk to/from Union Station in order to get to the hospital. This takes me about half an hour, each way. Despite the mind-numbing, teeth-chattering cold that hit us last week, I still forced myself to walk to Union. And guess what.. it felt great!

In fact, I’ve been feeling so great that I woke up at 5am yesterday to squeeze in a quick cardio workout before leaving for work. For me, this is pretty impressive since I am FAR from a morning person. I plan on making this a more regular occurrence, because I found I had SO much more energy throughout the day. I didn’t crave coffee once, and I usually drink one cup first thing in the morning on the days I have to wake up early for work. Instead, I spent the day sipping on cups of steaming hot peppermint tea (so delicious – and so many health benefits!).

If the winter months have you feeling like you’re in a bit of a rut, or you’re just having a bad day and need a little pick-me-up, I think it’s time for a pep talk. My mom forwarded me this video earlier today and it brought a smile to my face. I hope it inspires you and makes you smile too!

Be Well xo

How To Open A Pomegranate

Pomegranates are such beautiful fruit. I’ve always had a habit of ignoring them because I wasn’t quite sure how to open one. Turns out it’s really not so difficult! If you’ve been avoiding this delicious fruit, I highly recommend giving one a try. When you’re selecting a pomegranate, pick by weight, not colour. The heavier fruits have juicier arils (the edible, bead-like red seeds inside the pomegranate).

This video walks you through the steps it takes to open a pomegranate. Helpful tip: Do NOT wear a white shirt when trying to open one :) If you’re wondering why it’s best to open a pomegranate under water, it’s because the white-ish membrane floats. This makes it easier to separate from the arils, which sink to the bottom of the bowl (picture shown below).

Arils are packed with polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants, and are a good source of fibre and other nutrients. They can be enjoyed on their own, sprinkled on salads, or stirred into some yogurt. I sprinkled some on top of my bowl of oatmeal this morning – delicious! When stored in a sealed, refrigerated container, they can stay fresh up to 10 days. Enjoy!

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Be Well xo

Green Nostalgia

Ah, St. Patrick’s Day… The greenest day of the year, and for university students, one of the most widely anticipated holidays.  I knew for a while that I needed to do a post prior to the big day, but I’ve been struggling to figure out what exactly to write about. My initial thought was to write about all the calories that are in different types of drinks, and then try and provide some lower-calorie options for people to drink on St. Patrick’s Day. You know, try and promote “healthier” ways to enjoy partying.

But let’s be honest. Considering a majority of the people that read this blog are my friends (aka college and university students), I think it’s safe to say that most of them wouldn’t even bother reading a post like that.  I could preach about “drinking in moderation” until I turn blue in the face and it wouldn’t make a difference. St.Patrick’s Day is pretty much an excuse to party and drink, whether you’re actually Irish or not. While I find this especially true for students, I do know some families as well that take the holiday just as seriously (those of you familar with my boyfriend and his family will understand).

So… for today, I am going to refrain from my usual approach to blogging and instead take a little trip down memory lane. For those of you hoping to read some healthy tips, I truly am sorry. However, there is a healthy recipe included at the bottom of this post if you just want to skip down to the end. :)

Green Nostalgia

When I went to Laurier, St.Patrick’s Day was magical. The entire city of Waterloo (or at least the immediate area surrounding our school) would be blanketed in a sea of green and drunken giddiness, and it didn’t matter what the weather was like. Some years the weather would be mild and fantastic, and others there would still be snow and mud on the ground. But did that stop us? Of course not. We’re Goldenhawks. We don’t wear our purple and gold “Rawk Out With Your Hawk Out” t-shirts because they keep us ‘warm’. St.Patty’s Day is like a second Christmas to us. Seriously. You know how when you were little you would be up at the crack of dawn, anxious to run down the stairs and dive into the mountain of gifts Santa had brought you? Well for us it was something similar to that, except we would be up at the crack of 9am eager to indulge in green pancakes and “breakfast keggers”. Of course, you would have to get decked out in all your St.Patty’s Day gear before hittin’ the streets (see photo below). I like to think that the picture featured above is the Official Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day Uniform for all female Laurier students.

My friends and I enjoying some mid-afternoon “socializing” :)

Anyways, after the breakfast kegger we would usually walk around either to look for another party or just to wander around soaking up the school spirit and energy that was everywhere you went. You may remember a CTV news reporter describing it as “pandemonium”.  Did most students that day partake in an unhealty amount of binge drinking? Well, perhaps just click the link to the CTV video clip and that should answer the question for you… I have to say though, the school spirit that was present on that day each year was incredible. It was that sense of community that immediately made me decide I wanted to go to Laurier. Sure, I may have partied a little too hard once in a while, but what university student doesn’t? At the end of the day, the memories I have from that school and the friends I met along the way are the things that provide true enrichment and balance to my life.

If you’re in the midst of figuring out your plans for St.Patty’s Day, I stumbled upon a healthy recipe for green pancakes, courtesy of Cravings Gone Clean. These would be an excellent [healthy] start to the greenest day of the year! No matter what you decide to do tomorrow, drinking or no drinking, be safe and have fun :) I know I always enjoy being Irish for the day!

Cheers!

How to Burn Fat in 4 Minutes

Hmm, the title of this post sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? If you haven’t heard of Tabata, you’re going to want to read this. Tabata was developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata and a team of researchers from Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports. Although it has traditionally been used with elite athletes, this workout is quickly gaining more popularity – especially with new mothers trying to lose baby weight.

What is Tabata?

Tabata is high-intensity interval training. You do an exercise, such as push-ups, at maximum intensity for 20 seconds, and then get a 10-second break. This is done 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. Sounds pretty easy, right? I did a fitness class last night that incorporated multiple Tabata intervals and I can tell you right now that it was INTENSE.  My entire body – particularly my shoulders and arms – is feeling it today. I remember one of the first times I tried a Tabata class the instructor described it as “working your body to complete exhaustion”. Sounds fun, eh??

How is it effective?

High-intensity workouts help burn fat. According to an article in the Globe and Mail, a very recent study found that participants that engaged in high-intensity interval training such as Tabata for 1.5 hours each week enjoyed the exact same physical benefits as participants that did 4.5 hours of endurance training on an exercise bike. Martin Gibala, chair of the kinesiology department at McMaster University, explains that Tabata training is highly effective because your body continues to burn calories during the recovery period.

This is why Tabata is quickly becoming popular – you can exercise for a small amount of time and still reap effective physical health benefits. The fact that a single interval only take 4 minutes to complete means that people can easily incorporate it into their busy schedules. Why not start your day with a couple of Tabata intervals? It literally only takes a few minutes!

How to get started

If you have never tried Tabata or are currently not very active, I strongly urge you to slowly ease into these workouts in order to avoid injury. Take time to warm-up first. It might even help to consult a personal trainer, as they can help ensure that you are demonstrating proper technique. If you do a Tabata interval that involves weights you may be at risk of injuring yourself by not executing the correct form.

Here is a sample Tabata workout I found:

Just a couple of notes:

  • Tabata is 20 seconds of maximum intensity. This instructor clearly isn’t giving it her all. However, her videos are primarily geared towards beginners, so if you are new to Tabata this might be a good place to start.
  • Sometimes people like to do multiple exercises within one Tabata interval, as is demonstrated in this video. For a longer workout, you could do 4 minutes for each individual exercise. This is typically how Tabata classes are structured. Sometimes I do a 40-minute Tabata class on Wednesday nights and WOW is it exhausting. Very effective though!

If you’re interested in incorporating Tabata intervals into your exercise routine and happen to have an iPhone, you can download the Tabata Timer app for free!