weekly wellness challenge

December 29th

After today’s spin class, I’ve decided to make the most of my few days home between trips by trying to find moments of rejuvenation amidst the unpacking/repacking/wrangling of my toddler.  I’m going to breathe, enjoy a meal without thinking about what comes next, smile, play with my son when he requests my attention and wiggle my ears…

this week’s challenge: wiggle your ears every day and notice how this affects your body

July 24

What does a new mom need most?  In my opinion, the answer to that question is a little time for herself.  Luckily my husband does more than his share of the work around here (in addition to working full time).  And he always either suggests I take time away or readily agrees when I request it.  However, I find it difficult to relax while I’m away from Baby A or I find myself anxiously wondering if I’ll “get everything done” before he wakes up.  (the answer to that is no, but who cares?)

this week’s challenge: to be mindful in each activity and let the little things go.

January 3rd

I just began reading in preparation for our HypnoBirthing course that begins next week.  There is a CD attached to the back of the book that is in two parts: relaxation and birth rehearsal imagery.

The “relaxation” part of this is something I am working on.  I’ve thought about this quite a bit and realized (strangely) that I don’t have the slightest fear of giving birth or being a mom, but I become concerned about every new sensation in my body.  Is something wrong with my baby?  Is this normal?  I could go on and on.  I have chosen not to pull out a book or google every concern I have because I know it will only make me more paranoid.  As I began my HypnoBirthing book last night, one concept really struck me: Pain is only tension and fear.  Hmm…  I like the concept but I spent the past 24 hours complaining about how my back hurts and that’s very real!

Fast-forward to the second part of the CD.  As soon as I read the words “rehearsal imagery” I again likened the process of giving birth to a triathlon.  Obviously I’ve done several of one and none of the other, but I have been using this as my parallel: if I can complete an Ironman comfortably, my body is certainly capable of birthing my child as comfortably as possible. Just as I would train for a race, I am training for childbirth, both physically and mentally.  I suspect the birth rehearsal imagery is exactly what it sounds like- visualizing the experience before it begins.  I usually do this before a race.  It not only relaxes me because I feel more prepared, but allows me to experience the excitement and adrenaline rush I will feel in the actual event.  Why not visualize the details of the birth as I would like them to happen also?

this week’s challenge:  Relax and begin visualizing.  If you have any aches and pains or worries, please join me in relaxing the mind and visualizing how you would like to feel.  Let’s see if it helps!

June 9th

I have been having so many weird food reactions in the past week and have gone to bed with an uncomfortable stomach three nights in a row.  On Monday and Tuesday I kept walking through the kitchen snacking on whatever popped out at me and as I went to bed last night I vowed, yet again, that I would cut back on sweets and bread-y things.  I woke up this morning and couldn’t resist the last piece of coffee cake my friend baked.  I thoroughly enjoyed it with yogurt and berries, then came across this article on food cravings.  After the cleanse I’ve slowly added back in all of the foods I enjoy, keeping my alcohol intake very moderate.  I don’t generally have cravings but find myself grazing when I’m home just because I can.

this week’s challenge:

If I find myself craving or beginning to graze, I’m going to think about what I’m eating and how much I’m eating, then enjoy it and notice if I feel fulfilled or sick afterward!

May 14th

I finally discovered what is irritating my back when I sit and play violin.  I am clenching my left low back and glute muscles every time I lift my right arm to play.  Simply being aware and making every effort to not do this is giving me super results.

this week’s challenge:

I’m going to see how long I can keep this up and hope that it will become automatic!  Feel free to chose a body part in need of a little TLC to give your full awareness to and be ready to marvel at the results 😉

April 8th

I’ve been in a fairly negative and unpredictable mood all week and I’ve contemplated more than once how my newest back pain is connected to my attitude.  My belief is that every physical malady relates to a discomfort or imbalance of the psyche.  I just looked up the root of the work and here’s what I found: Greek ψυχή psykhe “soul, mind, breath, life”.  Right in the ancient Greek meaning, all is connected!  So, I already know that I need to change my attitude, but how to do it?!   This morning after my yoga sequence I sat down in the sunshine to breathe for a few minutes.  I sat with the intention of learning how to heal my back.  I had an uncomfortable thought (not back-related) cross my mind and I chose to let it go.  Instantly my entire body released and I remembered (for the zillionth time) that letting go of negative thoughts makes me feel instantly better!

this week’s challenge:

My goal is to release every single negative thought I have for an entire week.  Easier said that done!  In order to do this, I will need to be hyper conscious each time a new thought enters my thought pattern and consciously release any thought that diminishes my energy.  Wish me luck and please join me in this challenge!

February 18th

As I mentioned in my blog today, after too much traveling I’m feeling the need to hibernate and cleanse.  I looked into quite a few official cleanses but realistically for my race training schedule, this time of year is not the time to do something full-blown.  So I’ve settled on a plan that makes sense for my lifestyle (and my husband has agreed to do most of it with me).   I’m making good use of my juicer- check out the recipes page- and I’ve cut out most processed foods & refined sugars, most animal products (still eating eggs, goat milk yogurt & possibly fish), alcohol & coffee.  I’ve added raw sauerkraut, which is full of probiotics and just made my first batch of spicy, delicious chai tea with rooibos and coconut milk.  I’ll be experimenting with grains less familiar to me and learning new ways to make beans, chickpeas and lentils taste good.  Since I have the time, it is my goal to use all dried beans instead of canned.  I’ve picked out several new soup recipes I’m excited to try.  Coconut milk and coconut water have become staples in my fridge- coconut milk for soups, curries and drinking, coconut water as an electrolyte beverage post-workout.  Most importantly, I’ve done all of my shopping at the farmers market (only pesticide free stands) and Rainbow co-op.  Living in SF enables me to choose mostly local, seasonal produce and Rainbow even labels which other products in their store are produced within a 200 mile radius.  The coconut products are not local and I was just horrified to learn that the coco water I bought is actually a company owned by Coca-cola.  Apparently, Vita-Coco is the only company still independent from a soda company.

this week’s (or more!) challenge:

Join me as I cleanse and possibly change eating habits for good.  Pick a system that will work with your current lifestyle so it is sustainable throughout your chosen amount of time.  Enjoy feeling vibrant and healthy!

December 20th

My mom offered up this challenge in a conversation we had this week.  She doesn’t know I’m putting it on my website, but it’s too good to pass up.  This week, in particular can be a difficult one as we face family we haven’t seen in a while and miss other members who are no longer with us.  Emotions run high and something little like a misunderstanding with a shop clerk 0r (not so little) trouble with a flight sets us off easily.

This week’s challenge:

I will be surrounded by my family and my husband’s family for the rest of the month.  I know I will need a breather at times when I can’t take one, so when I get upset and feel as thought it’s directed at a particular person, I’m going to say my Vibrational ABC’s.  I like the quotes and parallels in this blog entry as an easy way to think about vibrational energy and the Law of Attraction.  Basically what I’ll be doing is coming up with a positive word beginning with each letter of the alphabet to describe the person I’m feeling grouchy toward.  As the positive energy flows through me, my energy will lift and instead of reinforcing how unhappy I am by talking to someone else about it (and dragging that person down with me) I’ll feel better myself and toward others.  Wish me luck… or join me in the challenge!

August 26th

It’s not exactly the beginning of the week, but since I’ve been thinking about this one for a while, it’s time to put it in words and do something about it.   I spent 11 days in Japan for my honeymoon and I drank tons of tea but hardly any water.  I realized that I was constantly full of liquid but still always thirsty and feeling dehydrated.  On the plane ride home, I didn’t even finish a small bottle of water because I’d stopped craving water.  For my first week home, I carried only my coffee mug around and had to force myself to drink water after workouts.  All day yesterday and throughout the night, I was aware that my calves were about to cramp up and sometime in the middle of the night, it occurred to me that hydrating myself might help.  I got up and drank some water, then made this morning’s drink, freshly juice apple/carrot/ginger juice and herbal tea.  I drank an entire pot and am moving on to water.  My calves feel better and I’m feeling more alert than I have the previous few days.  Hmmm…

This week’s challenge:

Cut back on caffeinated beverages and add more water.  This one should be simple!

May 23rd

Wow, It has been a long time since my last wellness challenge.  Still I am working on breathing through things when the going gets tough and I feel as though half the time I’m stressing out about everything that needs to get done instead of just doing it.   I was flipping through USA triathlon life magazine today- the freebie that comes with my USAT membership and has tons of great articles!  There was an article about the winners of The Biggest Looser doing triathlons.  I’ve never actually seen the show but one of the quotes struck me.  “Today is tomorrow”.

This week’s challenge: Instead of making a list in my head or on paper of what needs to be done, I’m going to actually do it as soon as possible.  No, there isn’t much free time between work, practice, workout and wedding planning these days, but in the time it takes me to make a list and stress, I could actually make a phone call or send an e-mail.  Please join me to see if it works!

May 4th

I was waiting for inspiration to hit before I posted another Wellness challenge and it did this afternoon… about the time I found out the accommodations I’d spent hours locating for a friend in NYC fell through, I forgot my 20% off coupon for Rainbow Grocery and saw that the lines were too long to wait through anyway, and heard that our Wedding invitation woman’s printer broke mid- printing.   I felt my stress levels rising and I was driving, which I generally dislike doing.  I decided to do a 5 breath countdown and see if it helped.  I always hear this suggested as a way to control temper, de-stress, whatever… but until today I’d never actually tried it.  Well, it worked and I’m sold.

This Week’s Challenge:  As challenges come up with people, wedding plans and life in general this week, I’m going to take five deep breaths and relax.  Please join me and use this technique in whatever way it is most helpful!

April 19th

April 22nd is Earth Day so I thought this week I’d focus on wellness of the earth.  I am a frequent flyer so I googled “impact of flying on the environment”.  I discovered that EU airlines must join the carbon emissions trading scheme in 2012, and the EU is requiring all other airlines that fly in and out of its member countries to subscribe, but the United States has refused to let U.S. airlines participate.  Roughly translated, U.S. airlines must start paying for carbon credits to offset their carbon dioxide emissions or face restrictions, or a possible ban, on flights to the European Union.  There are 170 other countries also opposed to the idea.  Interesting.

I’ve often thought about how my flying impacts the environment and I do little things to try and off-set my own travel, although I’ve never actually bought a carbon offset.  The easiest are to always travel with my own water bottle/coffee mug and on shorter flights, don’t use the toilet on the plane (I read somewhere this was especially bad but now can’t find anything to back it up).

Since I don’t plan to change my career, hence give up flying anytime soon, I’m spending my time at home as wisely as possible… which leads to this week’s challenge, in honor of Earth Day.

This week’s challenge: Use alternative transportation for an entire week.   For me, this means taking the bus or biking wherever I need to go.  I do have one car trip already planned that can’t be worked around, but I will be carpooling.  If you don’t know where to begin with this challenge, you might check to see if your city has a bike coalition.  They usually offer free maps and even classes about riding safely around the city.  The San Francisco bike coalition has a new website in the works which will enable you to write in a beginning and ending address then it creates a bike route for you to follow.  For local public transportation, try a website like our bay area guide,  511.org.  If you can’t give up your car, but have room for more passengers, find them on eRideShare.com.  Finally, if none of these ideas is compatible with your life style, try simply planning ahead with errands and shopping as much as possible to take one trip out a day instead of three.   Have fun meeting new people and exploring new routes to your destination!

April 12th

Before my engagement party, Passover and Easter hit, I was off refined sugars.  A friend and I had decided to try it from mid February until Easter to see how we felt.  I’d done this only once before  and while it was very difficult in the beginning, I came to feel better and better and actually got to the point of being slightly repulsed by standard desserts.  The problem with refined sugars (other than disturbing health consequences) is they’re in everything!  I’m sure most of the Thai food I eat has sugar.  There are only three cereal choices at Whole Foods that don’t list cane juice in the ingredients.  I am pretty careful when buying any pre-made products off market shelves but sugar also popped up in the dumplings in my freezer and my favorite whole wheat pitas!

Here is a pretty extensive list of refined sugars:

Beet Sugar, Brown Sugar, Cane Sugar, Confectioner’s Sugar, Corn Syrup, Demerera, Dextrose, Granulated Sugar, Grape Sugar, Molasses, Muscavado Sugar, Raw Sugar, Refined Sugar, Sucrose, Table Sugar, Turbinado Sugar, White Sugar

Honey is controversial for many reasons but I buy a local, organic variety and have decided that the benefits outweigh the consequences.  After reading this article about the declining health of honey bees due to pesticies, I will continue to make organic food choices whenever possible.

Molasses is on that list above, but here is a pretty convincing article about its health benefits.   I use it only occasionally when I’m baking.

Agave is low on the glycemic index, which means it is less likely to create a blood-sugar spike.  It is generally recognized as safe, although the source is important, it may not be sustainable, and it is recommended that pregnant women stay away from it.

I have begun experimenting with date sugar in baking.  One thing to note, it will not dissolve- so use accordingly.   Stevia is another staple in my kitchen.  I have only the unprocessed form that looks like oregano.  It adds an unusual flavor, which I like.

I will be posting a recipe later for my refined-sugar-free lemon bars but check out the BabyCakes bakery adapted gluten free chocolate chip cookies in the mean time!

This week’s challenge: Stay away from refined sugars in whatever form you believe to be sustainable for your lifestyle and health!

April 5th

I could use a little wellness right now.  Between general exhaustion from too much travel, my body still apparently being confused about when it should be sleeping and totally loosing my voice today, I know I need to take better care of myself.  I feel like I’ve been sick more lately than I usually am at this time of year, so I’m getting back on the bandwagon with my vitamins.  It’s one small thing that I can easily do to begin getting my system back in balance.  I used to take the whole cocktail religiously but I got sick of packing them up each time I travel.

This Week’s Challenge: If you have your favorites but are a fair-weather vitamin taker, please join me to explore if a week of commitment makes a difference!  If you are new to this, here are a few of my favorite vitamins and supplements you might consider.

Jade Greenzymes Barley Green (or fresh wheat grass, or your favorite green food supplement!)  Called “nature’s perfect food,” barley grass is said to have more nutrition than an equal serving of any other vegetable. The barley grass in organic Jade GreenZymes is beneficial in helping balance pH, supporting a strong immune system, and assisting in maintaining blood glucose levels that are already in the normal range.

Multi vitamin

Calcium (mine has magnesium, as magnesium aids in the absorption of calcium)

Folic (recommended for women of childbearing age)

Viamin C & Zinc (occasionally)

Mushroom Immunity complex – Several species of mushrooms, particularly maitake, reishi, and shiitake, have been utilized medicinally in Asia. They have been used historically as “adaptogens,” or general tonics, to promote overall wellness and vitality.  There are many botanicals that act as adaptogens (also known as biological response modifiers) to assist the body in adapting to environmental and psychological stress. Adaptogens, including medicinal mushrooms, benefit all of the important systems of the body, including the nervous, endocrine, adrenal, and immune systems, by increasing or decreasing their function, as needed, for maximum health.  Click here to read entire article.

Veggie Omega supplement – Omega fatty acids support healthy heart, brain, nerve and eye function. The drawback with typical omega supplements is that they are derived from fish oils. Toxic materials are increasingly being reported in various species that are used. In addition, harvesting fish for their omega-rich oils is not environmentally sound. The required processing also results in oxidation, which diminishes the amount of omega acids available and can hasten the spoilage of this material.  In contrast, the source material for Kenzen Omega Green + DHA, cranberry seed oil, flax seed oil and red algae, is easily sustainable. Obtaining omega fatty acids from these flora does not produce the oxidation that occurs with piscine oils. This enhances stability.

March 21st

I spent the past three days in a recording studio with my sisters working on the Albers Trio debut CD. These two wonderful, special women are my best friends and while we get along beautifully away from our instruments, that is not always the case in rehearsals. Over the past few months I put a ton of energy into dreading this recording project (because it’s plain hard work!) and worrying about the damage we might do to sister relations in the midst of it all. It wasn’t until a visit with my mom a few weeks back that I finally began turning my attitude around. I never got to the point of looking forward to recording, but my general attitude towards violin and my sisters changed drastically. Then the night before we began I had an “Ahaa” moment. I was reading A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins and he kept talking about enjoying the journey instead of trying to reach the destination. It finally occurred to me that I had classified our recording project as “something unpleasant” so early on that I really hadn’t enjoyed any of the build up. That thought actually made me sad and I vowed to try and stay in the moment over the next three days. It worked pretty well!

This Week’s Challenge: Basically the same as last week only I’m going about it from a different angle. Instead of trying to begin each day with five minutes of mindfulness, I’m going to try and catch myself throughout the day when I’m slipping out of the present!

March 14th

I recently began reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book The Miracle of Mindfulness. He suggests devoting one day a week entirely to practicing mindfulness.

This Week’s Challenge:

Begin every day this week in mindfulness and see where this practice leads me. A week is usually enough time for me to begin forming a habit and I might even stick with it if I notice its positive influence in my life!

An excerpt from the book:

“While still lying in bed, begin slowly to follow your breath- slow, long and conscious breaths. Then slowly rise from bed (instead of turning out all at once as usual), nourishing mindfulness by every motion… Follow your breath, take hold of it, and don’t let your thoughts scatter. Each movement should be done calmly. Measure your steps with quiet, long breaths.”

March 7th

This week’s wellness challenge was inspired by a podcast from Organic Athlete. It is a brief interview with Dr. Heather Shenkman, a practicing cardiologist who is vegan and currently training for an ironman. It got me thinking about the animal products in my diet and while I’m not about to give up cheese or shrimp (to name a few favorites!) I am always interested in experimenting. In the past when I’ve cut certain items out of my diet temporarily I have felt more energetic and my stomach has been happier.

This week’s challenge:
Eat one meal a day that contains no animal products. If this sounds too extreme, try cutting out meat for one meal a day.

We choose our diets for different reasons… health, animal rights, budget restrictions, religious beliefs, environmental consciousness, and sometimes plain convenience. I will be in Kansas, San Francisco, Boston and New York this week. My meals will be chosen from airports, whatever restaurants are walkable from hotels, family gatherings and parties. I anticipate this being a tough challenge but I will do my best!

Recipe suggestion:

Lentil Soup: Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen

1. Drain 1 1/4 cup lentils (any color) and put them in a soup pot with 7 cups water, 2 large cloves garlic pounded with 1 t salt, 2 bay leaves and 4 branches each of parsley & cilantro (tied together). Bring to boil then simmer covered up to 45 minutes. Remove bay leaves and herb bundle.

2. While lentils are cooking, heat 2-4 T olive or sunflower oil in a medium skillet. Add 1 large onion (finely chopped) and 1 t cumin and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it starts to brown (15-20 minutes). I also add chard stems to this mixture about halfway through. Add to lentils.

3. Just before serving simmer 6 chard leaves (finely chopped) in a bit of water until soft (8-10 minutes). Add it to lentils with more chopped cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste. Can be served with a spoonful of yogurt (try soy yogurt!) or splash of lemon.

3 thoughts on “weekly wellness challenge

  1. Laura, I just returned from a short run (I beat the rain!) and thought to take a closer look at your blog. During my run on a familiar trail, I was noticing how I would approach a hill with a slight feeling of “uh-oh” and then look ahead to the feeling of relief when I got to the downhill portion. I realized that by looking ahead I was not mindful of the moment I was actually experiencing. I had set up circumstances to overcome. Not exactly a bad thing, but it prevented me from completely enjoying the simple act of running at that moment. Maybe that was a little like your impending recording sessions. The journey can be as mindfully enjoyable as the result. The rest of the run today, I tried 2 things that were very opposite. First, literally not looking too far ahead on the trail so that I could concentrate on where I was at the very moment. Second, simply enjoying the view around me, trying to take in the whole picture and enjoying the journey. I have read Thich Nhat Hanh’s “The Art of Power” where he mentions that “we are driven by our habit energy…so we need to practice to transform it.” Just thought I would share this. Thanks so much for sharing your very motivating & right on thoughts and ideas!

    1. Hey Tony, Thanks for taking the time to share all of that with me. I really like the quote and am going to continue thinking about all of this as I go about my daily activities and workouts! See you soon…

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