Archive for the ‘Exercise’ Category

Spring! Time for New Beginnings!

May 26, 2017

It’s Spring! Time to hike! The woods are alive with Painted Trillium, little Yellow Wood Violets, Wild Oats, Goldthread, and more!

While Fish and Game notes there have been almost as many rescues so far this year as for all of 2016, the good news is that more people are getting out and hiking. The physically fit are not the only ones on the trails. This spring, I am also meeting more of the not so physically fit on the trail, people who have decided to get out there and shape up! Their energy and delight in the forest is obvious and welcome!

To fully enjoy hiking, Hikesafe.com is an excellent website for information about hike planning, gear, hikes with kids, and hiker insurance. The first rule of thumb is to Carry Out What You Carry In. This includes orange peels, tissues, water bottles, etc. Our gift to the forest is that we Leave No Trace behind us.

The White Mountain Guide lists every trail in the White Mt. National Park, tells how to get to the trailhead, what you can expect on the trail terrain, the elevation gain, total mileage, and connecting links. This book with 4 maps is available in AMC Visitor centers,  book stores and State Park Visitor Centers. Many small trail guides for local areas are also available in book stores, general stores, the Rey center and specialty shops near the hiking area. Always ask.

Footgear needed depends on the hike. For well packed gravel trails like Smart’s Brook, the Flume Nature Walk, Lincoln Woods, or Mt. Agazziz, sneakers are fine.  A safer option for rocky trails and the granite slabs of higher elevations is a sturdy hiking boot with vibram sole that grips granite and gives support for awkward steps.

Best to start with short hikes on easy terrain. This gives you time to figure out what feels best for you, how much water and snacks you need, time to check out hiker information, perhaps join a local group, and gradually figure out what works best for you and your family.

Keep an eye out for Coltsfoot, the little yellow ray flower people often mistake for dandelion. This early bloomer puts up its flower first and the leaves that give it its name come later. You’ll find it along roadsides and gravelly places.

Wherever you find yourself, enjoy spring’s abundant welcome! May we each be inspired to honor and protect our forests, land and waters so that abundance will continue to flourish.

Advertisements

Holiday Feasting Needs Joyful Exercise!

December 15, 2016

Most of us dive into all the sweet treats our favorite people guarantee they will make for the holidays. Yet, our bodies only need a modest amount of sugar, found naturally in fruits and vegetables.

The problem is that the liver converts added sugar into fat and stores it all over the body as a backup fuel for future energy calls unless…. we burn up that extra energy before it has a chance to be stored where we don’t want it.

The hormone, leptin, takes our appetite away when our fat index jumps. However, leptin has no upper limit on fat intake. Actually, when we binge over the holidays, leptin will just see that we keep our fat index as high as we have binged. That index becomes the new normal for leptin and the reason why we pay dues for every binge, unless…. we get creative.

Holiday shopping is a great opportunity. Park well away from the store, theater, or mall entrance and guarantee yourself a good, brisk walk to and from the car. We make better choices when our circulation flushes our whole system and keeps our minds clear while we cash in on surplus energy.

Brisk walks, daily when possible, keep everything moving smoothly. Include a hill and enjoy the benefits of a good sweat to energize your whole system. Enjoy walks, skiing, skating, dancing, or action games while visiting. Is there a park, golf course, woods or field walk near you? Let your joints move, and you will sleep well at night.

Check out wheelchair-freed people. They are the people who use their wheelchairs to go wherever they need to go. I see them slipping in and out of their cars’ driver seats, out doing errands, or heading for work, skiing on ski-chairs or sit-skis. They have strong arms, erect spines, and sharp intellects from years of figuring out new ways to move around smoothly and energetically. In short, they are keeping everything that still moves moving! And they enjoy radiant health.

Check out folks with artificial limbs who figure out ingenious ways to get around and keep themselves maintaining eye contact, standing tall, energized, and in shape. Their persistence and stamina make them inspiring role models for us all.

Better yet, notice what types of exercise leave you feeling refreshed, and indulge yourself!

May this Holiday Season be a happy and energizing one for us all!

Enjoy Hiking Safely in NH Mountains

April 22, 2016

Weird weather patterns are not new to NH. Ice has been slow to leave the trails this spring and several hikers have fractured ankles, wrists, legs, and more when negotiating open ice falls or when sidetracked from sneaky patches of ice covered with a little snow.

Right now, Mt. Tecumseh Trail in Waterville Valley and the Kinsman Ridge Trail up Cannon Mt. in Franconia Notch continue to greet hikers with trails covered by frozen waterfalls that are a challenge even to hikers wearing crampons.

NH Fish and Game has a Hike Safe program, complete with a $25. annual insurance card should you ever need a rescue. Meantime, revenue from this fund assures that should you or others need a rescue, qualified people will respond. Without the card, you may be billed for rescue services. Just google “Hike Safe” and you will not only bring up the insurance website, you will find more information about how to prepare for your hike.

Here are a few cautionary measures to assure safe hikes this spring: Know the trail, including brook crossings and springs that feed the brooks. Carry and use the White Mountain Guide Map or local trail map that locates your hike.  Save new explorations for later when free of ice. Stay with your group and count noses at every trail junction.

Know your body, ie, sore knees, heart problems, breathing problems, and pace yourself. If your dog hikes with you, be sure that your dog has the stamina and social skills needed for your hike. Be mindful of wet lichen on the rocks, and dry or wet leaves, which may be concealing ice, all potential fall stimulators.

Prepare for weather changes with extra layers, hats, mitts, and rain gear. Be ready with first aid kit and a stuff sack for emergencies. Be willing to turn back if necessary for safety, even if you took a day off from work for your hike. Carry more water than you expect to need, an extra sandwich and snacks.

Should you ever need a rescue, remember that cell phones often only work at higher elevations. By calling 911, Fish and Game officials will be contacted. The nearest rescue group will then be called if needed, usually local Fire Departments who then alert their on-call members. A crew of 12 or more people may respond, depending on the situation.

Your best protection is careful preparation. A list of pack contents to check off makes it easy to have what you need as you prepare for each hike. Here’s to the wonders of spring blooms, grand vistas, and the sheer freedom to enjoy walking our beautiful land with confidence.

Pemigewasset’s Free Health Spa

January 28, 2016

Sunday’s bright sun invited me up Mt. Pemigewasset in Franconia Notch for the thrill of One Winter Day at a Free Mountain Health Spa (FMHS.) I grabbed my microspikes and poles, packed my first aid kit, bivy sack, ginger tea and snacks, and headed north for the 1.7 mile hike up the mountain.

Thanks to earlier rain and high temperatures, there is a sneaky layer of ice under what few inches of snow we have, so it is best to keep that in mind with every step you take just about anywhere, but particularly over the variety of rocks and logs, puddles and streams that need to be negotiated on a hike.

An FMHS hike is different than other winter hikes because the object is to pump up a good sweat. On other winter hikes, we must layer our clothes judiciously to avoid any heavy sweating and potential chills. The last thing any winter hiker wants is a mishap needing a wait for help in wet clothes, or even a de-energizing slow cold walk out.

An FMHS hike is all about breathing. On the uphill, I usually pace myself using 2:1 breathing. My exhalations have to be twice as long as my inhalations. For example: exhale for 6 paces, inhale 3 paces and shift gears as necessary. When it becomes difficult for me to exhale for 2 paces and inhale for 1, it’s time to stop and rest a bit. The advantage to this breath is that it keeps me hiking in a relaxed state, yet gives my muscles a good stretch and squeeze. Hiking in tune with your own body is crucial. First, it guarantees that you will work up a good sweat. Think of it as the final spin on a complete wash. You still need the rinse cycle, but that comes later. Especially on the uphill, it is important to maintain a good sweat, not a roast, just a sweat. You may need to pocket your hat and open your jacket a bit.

Sweating clears the toxins and debris from our systems. An FMHS hike necessarily needs a brisk walk up a small, well- traveled mountain, one you have climbed before and know it is reasonable for you to complete the round trip and head home immediately after. Pack an extra layer to stay warm on the hike out. These recommendations are for an intentional FMHS hike only.

Using poles helps to distribute the weight so that our legs AND our arms are pumping us up the mountain without straining our knees. The Pemi trail winds its way around swells and streams, through hardwood forest gradually joined by evergreens that take over the nearer you come to the summit. The Pemi summit is a huge field of granite that wraps around evergreens to the east, looks south through the notch and west to Mt. Mooselauke.

At hike’s end, head right on home, treat yourself to a hot as you can stand mineral or solar salt bath, enjoy a warm meal, a good night’s sleep, and a fresh start on the rest of your life!

Laughter is the Best Medicine

December 16, 2015

This week, many people focused on the art of being happy and its effect on our health. At church, the whole service was on the importance of laughter, whatever the internal or external circumstances. Hymns continued the theme. We sang all four verses of, “If you’re happy and you know it,” and, “We Gather Together.” Thanksgiving is another important ingredient.

We had a “Laughing Meditation,” and the sermon drew on Norman Cousins’ 1974 recovery from a normally incurable illness by watching hilarious movies and literally laughing himself well. He spent the rest of his life writing books, including, Anatomy of an Illness, and lecturing at Medical Schools on the benefits of laughter to healing.

When the pianist played as a postlude, Mozart’s “Alleluia,” her fingers danced over the keys in a bright staccato variation that I am sure Mozart himself would have cheered and laughed right along with all of us.

Later in the day, PBS interviewed our Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy and asked him what advice he would give us to be healthy. His spontaneous reply was, “Be happy, Eat plenty of fruits and veggies, and Exercise” – in that order!

In Yoga, one of the breathing practices is the Laughing Breath. It is probably one of the most robust of practices and has the effect of relaxing the whole body so that we can move into more demanding postures. In yoga, we emphasize lengthening exhalations. The laughing breath is one people usually can extend for a long time. By emptying the lungs fully, we make room for a big inhalation of oxygenated air that fully charges and relaxes our body.

I scanned through the research literature on the effects of laughter on health. It does matter whether we do it solo or with other people. Even laughing with one other person promotes relationship well being, a sense of belonging that promotes longer, healthier lives. Studies have been done that show group laughter triggers the release of endorphins (pain killers), improves sleep, enhances memory and creativity, improves cardiac health, lowers blood pressure, improves digestion, and more….

Caution: avoid unhealthy laughter that enhances self or group at the expense of others. Despite the tenuous world situation in this century of escalating greed and refusal to address climate change, perhaps the best thing we can do is continue to look for the bright angle of each moment, alert to ferret out the humor and joy that helps us to bond with and encourage each other. What innovative solutions might we then enact that enable people of the world and all life forms to share the joy of living?

Earthing For Health

August 20, 2015

Clinton Ober, a pioneer in the cable TV industry, discovered real health benefits for what he calls Earthing, his term to describe going barefoot outside or having bare-skin contact with special conductive mats or sheets indoors that are connected to the ground (via an outlet or wire). His book, Earthing, explores this simple remedy that relieves conditions, sometimes deadly, that are created by various kinds of inflammation.

Inflammation – that is the buzzword alive on the internet. A variety of providers are in on the act with expensive diagnostics and products. However, to explore Earthing, we don’t have to buy lots of products that help to ground us to the earth; anyone can try going barefoot for free and keep track of the changes.

Natural energy from the earth may be the ultimate anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging medicine. Those of us who grew up going barefoot from the time school let out in June until our feet stretched out to the next size by September, know something about how good that felt and how strong and healthy we were by summer’s end.

I realize that chores to help with the gardening, putting food by for winter, building huts in the woods, swimming, and more, were all part of summer, but those activities all kept us in close contact with the earth’s energy.

We wore leather-soled shoes to school, great conductors that have been replaced by synthetic soles that insulate us from the earth’s energy by means of an outsole, midsole, insole, footbed, cushioning, and sock liner. A guaranteed energy blockout.

It took us a while to toughen up the soles of our feet as kids. This week, I tried toughening up my foot soles for a few days and then decided to hike around the Smart’s Brook loop barefooted. Hardly into the hike along the Pine Brook Trail, I stepped on some dog pooh. I knew immediately what I had stepped on! It was not mud and definitely not the soft pine needles I had in mind. With the help of a nearby sapling stump and a root that conformed to my foot arch, the pooh was eliminated and any remains swiped out in the next mudhole. Nature does provide.

Half way up the trail, I decided to call it for round one and headed back to my car. We do need to reconnect to nature, to the earth, and I will continue to explore Earthing. I will also continue to oppose power lines that threaten our possibilities to connect with the earth, that threaten to wipe out the wildlife we need to keep our ecosystem in balance.

My only advice at this point is that if you decide to try Earthing, watch your step!

Keep Everything Moveable Moving!

November 14, 2014

Winter is a time when we huddle more and move less in our attempts to stay warm. Ironically, it is when we keep moving, shovel snow, ski or enjoy some snow sport that we generate the body heat that keeps us warm.

A 96 year old woman told me that she attributes her remarkable good health and flexibility to the fact that she does 200 bicycles in bed each morning before getting up. I told this story to a friend who was having ankle surgery that would keep her off her feet for two months. She immediately latched on to the practice and attributes her smooth post surgery recovery to the fact that she did indeed keep everything moving and healing by doing bicycles each morning in bed.

Returning veterans and people who have lost limbs or become paraplegic often become role models as they build their upper body strength and use it to take themselves wherever they need to go, be it driving a car, skiing, or working in their field of interest. Those with artificial limbs enter marathons, paint, teach, farm, and more according to their interests. They know that keeping everything moveable moving generates robust health for body and mind.

A woman visiting the Flume Gorge lamented having left her cane at home and asked at the desk if there was a cane she could use, since she was recovering from knee surgery. She just wanted to be able to take the short walk up through the Flume Gorge but thought the two-mile loop was probably too much for her to walk. Someone loaned her a set of poles. When she came back, she exclaimed, “I can walk with these! I just did the whole two miles! Where can I buy some poles? I’m not going to hobble with a cane anymore!”

Hikers know the value of using poles on strenuous or long hikes. Poles enable hikers to use their arms and legs to carry them up the hills and to use shoulders and arms to relieve knee stress coming downhill. Since hands don’t pool when they are holding poles, fingers remain flexible to work with equipment because circulation continues to move through them.

An easy way to keep everything moving is to choose a pleasurable activity that becomes part of your daily routine. You may practice yoga, tai chi, walking, weight lifting, skiing, intentional house cleaning, reclining bicycles, play a musical instrument, sing, dance or whatever you dream up that keeps your circulation pumping through your whole body rhythmically.

Underlying all movement is the breath. By making our exhalations long and strong, we open up more space for fuller inhalations, which then keep our circulation moving throughout our bodies, keeping us flexible, accessing energy, and feeling fully alive!

Franconia Ridge’s Free Health Spa

September 12, 2014

New Hampshire’s mountains offer continual free health spas on a daily basis. Depending on the day, you may get the full physical treatment with lots of sun and sweat to lubricate all your joints and wring out your organs so every system gets a fresh start. You may get to stand under waterfalls or be pummeled in cascades and relax into a nap in the sun.

Other days provide a different sort of health spa experience. If it’s your day off, you’ve just heard the latest world news and just need to be in a spot where the inhabitants all get along for a change, even if the mountains are socked in with a firm “cloudy” forecast, grab your pack and head up.

Health spas, the paid ones, usually include massage, saunas, hot tubs, swimming, and some sort of calming practice like meditation or yoga. The main goal is to cleanse and relax the body from the inside out as well as from the outside in. That means keeping hydrated with plenty of water.

The walk itself can be a meditation, even if there’s some chatting going on. Conversation tends to be a sorting out, rethinking, brain cleanse, with the last leg of the hike to the top often being in silence to better access fresh air.

Hiking poles make the hike kinder to your knees and hips by spreading the weight-bearing load to include the shoulders and arms as well, while still allowing you to build up a good sweat. They also encourage a good upper body workout.

The Franconia Ridge Loop, most favorite hike in the White Mountains, is a mid-week wonder, even when the wind is socking in the ridge with a steady parade of clouds. Such were the conditions when I started up the Falling Waters Trail this cool, early September morning. Having rained heavily the night before, the rocks were all wet, which meant I had to pay attention, no mind wandering; just watch the rocks and forget about solving any kind of problems, world or otherwise. Then the trail upped the ante with stream crossings at every waterfall, calling for yogic balancing on rocks.

If you want to hike in a truly relaxed state, breathing 2:1 is the way to go. Just make your exhalations twice as long as your inhalations. The easiest way to practice this breath is to count your paces. You may start out breathing 6:3, then shift gears to 4:2 and 2:1 as you gain elevation. If you cannot exhale for 2 paces to every 1 inhalation pace, it’s time to stop and rest. This practice develops the habit of deeper breathing regularly.

The morning was cool, and while I paused to inhale the essence of Stairs, Swiftwater, and Cloudland Falls, my body was in the ‘keep moving’ mode to maintain body heat. I noticed the great diversity of trees; all seemed to be comfortable with each other, made space as needed. Lush stands of young spruce and fir presented themselves. Occasional mountain ash appeared with their berries beginning to turn.

As the trail continued, smaller rocks graduated to rock slabs and much reaching and stretching to get up and over them. Arms and legs got a full workout. Suddenly, I was out of the trees and into the west wind blowing over the ridge. I headed over to the east side of Haystack Mt. for a mid-morning sustenance break. The sun seemed to be trying to break through the clouds without success. I was glad I’d packed a hat and wind/rain shell.

Just as suddenly, out of the ether appeared a young man running the ridge. He’d started at Mt. Liberty and was “only running over to Mt. Lafayette.” All workout routines welcome up here.

I continued hiking over the ridge, which is an alpine garden walk with huge spreads of Diapensia that lays a white carpet in June along the ridge. Rhodora’s buds were all set for spring and sprigs of Mountain Sandwort were still blooming. I also saw bright red Bunchberries and tiny Alpine Goldenrod in brilliant bloom enhanced by the fog. A steady carpet of alpine garden beds greeted me all the way over Lincoln to Lafayette with a big dose of Vitamin W (for wildflowers).

At one point on the ridge, I followed the trail over a boulder and found that it continued down a steep section covered with wet lichen, like greased lightening, definitely something to avoid if possible. I squatted down, planning my route when I heard, “Hey there! Need a hand?”

A trail angel! Another young man was out hiking the ridge on his day off. He went around the boulder, reached up and gave me a hand down! Why do serendipitous events like that happen on a cold day when the mountain is socked in? Are we more connected than we realize? Is part of a full health spa treatment recognizing how interdependent we are?

Two more sustenance stops, one on Mt. Lafayette in the shelter of the old hostel foundation, and another at the hut before the final trek down the Bridle Path. Included were several encounters with hikers heading up and over the ridge as we compared tales, and encouraged each other.

Depending on the day, you may need an extra layer of fleece as you hike out, then go home and take a salt bath or hot shower to complete your free spa treatment.

PS: I also carry at least 2 liters of water, a wind/rain shell, light fleece, hat, first aid sack, high protein sandwich, nuts, and an orange to assure the full treatment!

Flora, Fauna, and Flossing

July 17, 2014

While the challenge to see that the food we eat is free of mercury, pesticides, hormones, and whatever else threatens rather than supports robust health, we sometimes need reminders to be sure that we toss our food into a clean mouth bowl after going to all that trouble to check the food out.

It may help to visualize how perfectly arranged the mouth bowl is to house a variety of bacteria, not all of them friendly. Bacteria love dark, moist places and a steady diet of sugar. Any pockets in the gums surrounding our teeth are a housing bonanza for bacteria, depending on how welcome we make them. Unchecked, bacteria create gum disease, get into the blood stream, and create plaques in our arteries that lead to heart disease.

While we deplore the amount of sugar degenerating our diet, this is not really a new phenomenon. I was raised in the penny candy days and there was a regular stash at the corner store in my neighborhood. There was a sugar bowl on every kitchen table and plenty of home baked cookies and bars. Cakes had an inch of frosting on them and fruit pies were common desserts. However, carbonated drinks were only had on special occasions. They took up a minor section of an aisle in the grocery store, not the whole aisle. Orange juice was only had by squeezing oranges so it was consumed in small glasses.

The problem with today’s soda is that it is sipped throughout the day, along with snacks providing bacteria with a steady diet of sugar and setting off just as steady a stream of bacterial plaque and tooth decay. Hygienists patiently demonstrate flossing technique and the necessity of routing out the bacteria before they form plaques and start eroding the enamel on our teeth. It is not enough to slide the floss up and down between each tooth. We need to wrap it around the base of every side of every tooth to rout out any bacteria in residence. If you then rinse your mouth with about a tablespoon of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide– brace yourself– you will immediately see the spots you missed.

Food is meant to be digested standing up. Anyone who regularly takes a nap directly after a meal is in for a foul awakening as remnants of the meal shift into reverse, travel back up the esophagus, and start over again in the mouth, definitely not as tasty the second time around.

Step one is to remain in an upright position for 3-4 hours after eating to give the meal a fair chance to enter the relay race through the digestive tract, at least to make it beyond the second gate, the pyloric valve, at the entrance to the small intestine. Water we swish and swallow between meals also keeps nutrients moving easily in the right direction.

So, on any visit to a dental hygienist for a cleaning, listen up for a longer, healthier life.

PS: The most effective toothpaste I know is a tsp. of baking soda with a squirt of lemon juice. Watch it foam and load up your brush!

Snow, COPD, and the Benefits of Exercise

April 5, 2014

I was surprised to hear a college student say, “I don’t mind the cold but I don’t like snow!” Having been born in a giant snowstorm that tied up Boston for several days, snow has the opposite effect on me. Snow makes me feel safe and protected, gives me a sense of wonder. As kids, we spent every daylight hour we weren’t in school outside building forts, igloos, sledding, or just eating the snow and checking our mittens for unusual formations of snowflakes.

Snow continues to be an important part of winter for me. Having joined the ranks of those with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease), getting out in the snow and pumping up my lungs as much as possible tops the list of healthy exercises. The only difference now is that I have to be sure I intentionally exhale fully. If I make my exhalation twice as long as my inhalation, I squeeze my lungs out like a sponge ready to take in a big new breath. With COPD, when people continually take short breaths, their lungs get more sluggish than ever and the last thing we want is rigid, stuck, air bags.

So here’s food for thought if you or a friend are dealing with COPD. The 2:1 breath can be practiced whether sitting in a chair, walking up stairs, running, hiking or just about any activity. You can simply count the time it takes to fully exhale and then inhale to half that amount of time or you can count your paces.

Here in New Hampshire, we have a beautiful natural environment with a variety of free, built in attributes for exercise. Most of us live on or next to some sort of hill. Since we’ve been inundated with snow this year, woods trails have all been smoothed out with 2-3 feet or more of snow. With microspikes, most popular trails and roadways, especially when icy, are safely doable.

It can be a scarey shock to find that when hiking with a group, all of a sudden, you’re winded when you talk while hiking uphill, or when you can’t keep up with the group. As Sam Levenson would say, “So don’t talk on the uphill.” You’re probably not the only one gasping for breath. If necessary, find a group that hikes at a more comfortable pace but keep on hiking! Use ‘em or lose ‘em applies to lungs as well as to muscles.

It helps to find a friend or friends to exercise with both for incentive and companionship. One of the ways we can keep each other well is to get out and enjoy this snow while it lasts. This week, the group I hiked with did the Sugarloafs off the Zealand road. It was a bit steep going up but we had exhilarating luge runs coming down. All that’s needed is a big black trash bag wrapped around your tush and a great hooting “Whoo!” Ah, snow.