Running just for me!

In an earlier writing I built upon the idea of doing what we can do that serves others. Today let’s focus a bit on just doing something for ourselves. I am going to concentrate on running but it also serves as a metaphor for whatever it is that you really want to do just for yourself. It could be writing poetry. It could be climbing that hill/mountain. It could be working up to lift a large weight. It could be learning a new language. Whatever it is, do it for yourself!

I have always wanted to run. It was a time that was just for me. I had nothing to prove to others. Others were not affected by how I ran. I ran just because I wanted to and I could. I had a very busy life as most do. A family and all those wonderful activities. Different work functions that allowed me to dedicate myself to helping/serving others. Being there for parents and in-laws in their end years, weeks, days and hours. I am a server by nature. What about you? I imagine you are as well.

Take some time just for yourself to do something just for yourself. I run. I always have – except when illness or disease prevented it. Then I worked hard to overcome the restrictions, do what I had to in order to recover and be able to get back to running. I consulted the Dr.’s and took the meds. I accepted that rather invasive surgery was needed, underwent that, recovered and adjusted to the new reality (much better than the disease!). If there are things that are getting in the way of you doing what you really want to do for yourself, do whatever you can to remove the blocks. This is your very own life and you need to find ways to do at least this one thing for yourself.

Remember, I am encouraging you to do this for yourself. You don’t need to earn awards and so on. You aren’t out to show the world. Well, actually, sometimes you want to have a tangible proof for yourself. Go for it! I ran a marathon in the National Capital run weekend when I was 55. I just wanted to have that little certificate to put on my den wall that was proof to me that I did it. To me it served to show what can happen if you just do it! There were months that I could not walk without a cane in my 30’s. Now I can run again. But very few people know about that. I did not do it to be able to show off my accomplishment to others. I still just did it for me.

Age does not need to get in the way of doing this thing for yourself. Remember, you are not doing it for others. Adjust as you must but do it anyways for yourself. It is part of living well, loving others and laughing out loud every day. 😎

Use it or Loose it! Applies to Muscles and the Brain!

Growing older is not for the faint of heart!

I have run across this quote many times. It has recently got me to think about what it is all about and if it can affect our happiness. Some of the things we deal with as we age is the loss of strength and muscle tone, decreasing resilience, memory changes, cognitive changes and so on. Right? Well I do not think it is necessary to fall into the trap of accepting any of those things as inevitable and normal. I think we can do something about each. As we age, we still want the same thing as always – to be happy anyway!

I read a great article in the Globe and Mail newspaper that dispels the myth that we naturally loose muscle after the age of 40. Take a look here for yourself if you like. Essentially it says that the loss of muscle after the age of 40 is really due to life style changes. We stop doing the things we used to do and therefore stop using those muscles. That leads to muscle loss. We sit more, we walk or run less. We use modern aids instead of just lifting and moving things like we used to. We might even get the kids to do it!

When I sit and think about it, I feel about 25 or so inside. It is only when I get up and look at a mirror that I see that I am actually 64. The mind stays young, why not the body? That can lead to depression or at least sadness. So, as most of you readers know by now, I decide what to do about it to be happy anyway! I do strength training to increase my muscle tone and mass. Yes it does reverse the loss of tone and lean muscle mass. I do not continue to jiggle when I stop moving! I feel great and therefore feel happier. Do something if you are concerned about loosing fitness levels as you age.

There are lots of things you can do to keep your mind from “shrinking” as well. I have read studies that show that we do so many things each day that our brain sets up neural roads that wear deeply so that we can do lots of repetitive things without thinking about them (habits). The problem is that the areas that are not used start to deteriorate. There are many studies that show that the brain is very plastic and can adapt other pathways if required to, in order to get things done using other parts of the brain. The key is to keep as much available as we can. What sorts of brain workouts can we do?

Whatever you decide, change things up as much and as often as you can. Sure, take up Bridge or chess, do crosswords and so on. BUT, change it up. Put your pants on starting with the other leg for the next month (just try it). Brush your teeth using the other hand. Use a different route to work. Read a different genre of book for a while.

Lifetime learning is more than just taking courses. Especially in these days of electronic media. Keep up with the new media. That alone is a form of life-long learning. 🙂 When you come across something new, look at it with wonder and investigate – learn. Just like when we were kids ourselves.

I am rambling on here. I will break this off and do a specific blog about brain use. Until then, remember, you can be happy anyway – just decide and act.

Brain Plasticity

Our brain is like any other part of our body. It will loose its abilities if it is not used regularly. It will atrophy just like any other muscle if it is not used. I have heard an expression long ago that has resonated throughout my life – we start to die when we stop learning new things. I took that literally for a long while. Part of being alive is to be learning all the time. Learning stimulates the brain. But it is much more than that.

The brain has billions of neuro-transmitters that form connections that serve lots of functions. Memory, speaking, moving, understanding concepts, and so on. When we learn to tie our shoe laces, our brain forms a series of connections that are a pathway and that pathway is triggered when ever we need to tie our shoe laces. That is stored and accessed with very little effort so as to keep the brain ready for higher and new things coming in.

Dr. Doidge, in his great book, “The Brain That Changes Itself”, shows us how the brain is quite plastic. We have thought that the brain has certain functions that are exclusive to certain parts of the brain. If that area is injured or destroyed, we loose that ability forever. Not necessarily! Our brains have a remarkable capacity to form new networks and linkages if properly trained.

Where am I going with this? The brain is a sort of muscle. If we work it out and exercise it, it will stay healthy and actually grow (and I mean that literally). Our brains have stem cells that regularly form new brain cells all the time. So we have room for lots more capacity if we have new brain cells being formed throughout life. However, most of the new brain cells die quickly because they are not given a function. We don’t use them, so they simply die!

How can we keep more of the new brain cells? How can we keep our brain active and working? How can we stay sharper as we age? Can we fight off the ravages of time?

Our brains work a lot like our muscles. They build in a “memory”. We can do most things without thinking about it very much at all. What about if we just did things differently sometimes? Studies have shown that if we change up how we do a regular activity, our brain adapts and forms new pathways and that stimulates other areas of the brain to be able to do more. In other words, we can work our brain just by doing things differently once in a while. That has the effect of keeping some more of those new brain cells.

What can we do?

Change things up to exercise your brain and slow down the aging process. Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand for a week. Drive a different way to work. Try using other senses when you are taking a shower (close your eyes and keep them closed while you undress, turn on the shower, get in, find the soap, wash yourself, shampoo your hair, turn off the water, get out, dry yourself, get dressed having set out your clothes in advance). Give your other senses a chance to show you what they can do. This forms more and new pathways.

In short, do regular things in different ways. Life-long learning is not just “book learning”. It is everything. Stay engaged. Observe and experience always. By all means learn new stuff, but also enjoy new experiences and regular experiences in new ways every day.

Live well, love always and laugh out loud every day! (And brush your teeth with the other hand ;))

Be Fit – Be Happy! :)

I have said it before, what we all really want is just to be happy. There are several post here about some various things to consider. Right now I want to address one more issue. Weight – specifically overweight and obesity and the potential health problems related to those conditions.

Here are a couple of things that I found that demostrate the problem and what we might want to start considering:

Facts from World Health Organization.
http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/facts/obesity/en/
FACTS:
Globally, there are more than 1 billion overweight adults, at least 300 million of them obese.
Obesity and overweight pose a major risk for chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and certain forms of cancer. (emphasis added)
The key causes are increased consumption of energy-dense foods high in saturated fats and sugars, and reduced physical activity.

Scientific American Magazine
By David H. Freedman January 18, 2011
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-to-fix-the-obesity-crisis
style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Modern epidemic: For millennia, not getting enough food was a widespread problem. Nowadays obesity is a global burden that affects one third of Americans. Another third are overweight.
Obesity is complex: Researchers have developed key insights into its metabolic, genetic and neurological causes. But this work has not amounted to a solution to the public health crisis.
Behaviour focus: Using techniques that have proved effective in treating autism, stuttering and alcoholism may be the most valuable for either losing weight or preventing weight gain.
Next steps: Behavior studies show that recording calories, exercise and weight; adopting modest goals; and joining a support group increase the chances of success.

It really does come down to the quite simple idea of less intake and more output. As we age we loose lean muscle mass and fat increases. The reason fat increases is that we need less calories to maintain our weight as our muscle mass decreases (and/or our activity decreases) yet we tend to keep taking in the same amount of calories. The unneeded calories convert to fat and stay with us. We look for a magic pill or “diet” to solve our problem. We try joining a gym or some such thing to “burn it off”. All to no avail. We end up hating it and avoiding it. We “fail”.

Wrong!!! We don’t fail. We are just doing the wrong things because that is what we have been told to do for so long. It really does just take about 7 minutes three times a week to get in great shape. That is what 7 Minute Workout is all about. But it is about much more. It has great sessions to help us learn about how our bodies really work and how the food we choose to eat makes a difference. No preaching – no threats – just information and answers to questions. It also includes a great support network which, as you see from one of the items listed above, greatly increases the likelihood of success. There are also tools to record your progress and share it as you feel you want to.

Join me in stopping the trend to overweight and the health problems that come with that. First us, then our family, then our friends, and then their friends – and so on. Let’s change the world, one step at a time.

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