Start with stabilizing your spine

First order of the day: protect your spine.

A stable spine will allow you to move well and reduce risk of injury.  Coach and physical therapist Dr. Kelly Starrett teaches how to organize and brace our spines to improve physical health and athletic performance.  And yes, we are all athletes. (You can learn more about Kelly at MobilityWOD.)

Kelly demonstrates this bracing sequence in a 7-minute video over at the CrossFit Journal.  You can view the video here.

Here is the check-list:

  1. stand with feet straight, below your lungs. squeeze your butt as hard as you can, which sets your pelvis.
  2. pull your ribcage down.
  3. get your belly tight (on an out-breath, engage your abs).
  4. set your head in a neutral position and draw your shoulders back into a stable position.

Practice this sequence throughout the day. Use it as the starting point for any move, including standing and sitting.

Whether you’re at work, running errands, talking with friends, the set up is always the same: feet straight, back flat, belly tight, head neutral and shoulders rotated back to a stable position.  Don’t stand with your arms crossed, shoulders rolled forward, back slouched or feet angled out like a duck.

Below, Kelly demonstrates the pelvic gimble.



Q: what’s the best time of day to exercise?

A:  any time of day that gets it done!

I thought when I stopped going to an office building every day, magically I’d turn into the fitness queen. I noticed I kept kicking my commitment to “later” in the day and then “later” would turn into “tomorrow.”   After  seeing this pattern start to develop, I  am trying to  schedule my exercise before noon.   This way, when the day gets busy,  I’ve already accomplished my highest priority,  taking care of myself.

I’m more successful at “finding time to exercise” if I answer the W’s in advance, and then calendar an appointment with myself.

  • What am I doing?
  • When am I doing it?
  • Who’s doing it with me?
  • And where are we doing it?

My best time of day? Morning, so it gets done! How about you? What works best for you?

Come join the conversation over on Facebook at 50 Fit.

Give yourself some credit!

So, here’s the thing. I’m going to do this group thing imperfectly. Promise!

Fit tip of the day: take a couple minutes to connect with something you love about your body right now. Create a circle of peace where you feel loved and satisfied. Express some gratitude towards your mortal coil. Instead of focusing on your limitations or aspects of your fitness you want to improve, notice and appreciate what’s working about your body. Right now. Our bodies deserve to experience wave after wave of greater love. We can give ourselves that gift with a moment of appreciation. If you’re inclined, share a body-positive thought!

What I love about my body today is its adaptability and responsiveness. When I take steps to increase my fitness, it responds with delight (and occasional soreness).

By the way, we’re having fun over on Facebook at 50 fit. Come join us!


the success habit

For twenty years I have struggled with my weight. I tried diet after diet. I lost weight and only to regain it. I started on a program of exercise, only to quit when I felt sore or tired or too busy. I felt powerless to change.

Until now.

What I have learned from years of trying to lose weight (and regaining it) is that it’s not how much you eat or whether or how much you exercise. It’s really about what you eat and how your choices affect your body. Body fat is regulated by hormones, in particular, insulin. Body fat accumulates when insulin levels are elevated.

And what drives insulin levels up? Eating carbohydrates, specifically easily digestible, carbohydrate-rich foods: flour and cereal grains, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, and sugars, like fruit, table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Eating these foods triggers the hormones that store fat and make us hungrier and tired.

The challenge is to change my eating habits and remain mindful.  I am learning to listen carefully to what my body tells me about what I eat.  So far, it’s saying, Go Green!

For the last several years, I have focused on improving my physical fitness. After hitting the wall in 2009, I learned to run. I ran my first 10k race, my first half-marathon, and then my first marathon. Then I returned to the sport of triathlon, completing my first Olympic distance and then a Half-Ironman.  Then I learned to climb mountains and climbed to the summit of the Grand Teton in 2012.  And last summer we trekked 110km in the Arctic circle.

Meanwhile, I became a certified CrossFit trainer for my 49th birthday and then celebrated my 50th by earning my Kettle-bell trainer certificate.

This year I am determined to get to my goal weight (68 k). I’m tired of renting space in my head to my waistline.  I have been frustrated by getting closer and then letting up on my effort and re-gaining weight when the stress-monkeys attacked.

This time it’s different. I am looking at my habits and designing new routines that will make reaching my goals automatic and seemingly effortless.  And I’ve also started a coaching group on Facebook. It’s called 50 fit.    Let’s help each other enjoy the skin we’re in. As spirits having a human experience, I believe our bodies can bring us joy.  It’s never too late to start over!

The Slow Carb Diet works for me

Since before my first child was born almost 18 years ago, I have gained weight easily and struggled to lose it.   About six weeks ago, I started following the Slow Carb Diet that is spelled out in Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Body. I chose this diet after coming back from vacation, suddenly up five lbs. I was upset since I have been trying to get to a normal body composition for the last couple years, and triathlon season is approaching. I felt like I had sabotaged the whole year accidentally.  Over the past couple years, I’ve lost some weight over the winter, only to regain it while training for triathlons.   For the last six months, I had been working with a nutritionist, following traditional weight-loss advice about calories and  macro nutrient ratios. I struggled to lose weight consistently and felt like a failure. Even with dedicated support and logging every bite, I felt stuck.

So when I came back from vacation, I was determined to find a solution.  I calculated my Basal Metabolic Rate, and realised that my “maintenance” calorie needs are only about 1700 calories a day. Not much.  What plan was I going to follow?  I need something simple. I have tried nearly everything and pulled out some different diet plans.  I had been trying an exchange plan before I went on vacation (1 serving dairy, 1.5 fats, 2 proteins, 1 veg, you get the idea).  Too complicated.  I have had a lot of success in the past with low carb diets, but I can’t stay on them. I feel flat, don’t want to train, and get muscle cramps.  I lose interest and compliance falls apart.

I looked at my weight graph and noticed that the most weight I lost recently was during the month of November, when I tried the Slow Carb Diet. So I jumped in again.   Here is the graph for the last 30 days.  Consistent success!

I am writing about this because I want to inspire middle-aged women like myself who were ready to give up out of frustration. There is so much conflicting dietary advice available that I felt paralysed. I think the biggest change I made in my diet was limiting fruit to once a week.  (however, as indicated in the book, when I weight-train at the gym for 90 minutes, I will sometimes have a fresh fruit smoothie immediately after the workout).  Maybe I am intolerant of fructose.  Anyway, I decided I could not fail so long as I don’t give up.  I want to share my journey to my goal weight. This is my year. And it can be yours too.

Here are the four rules set out in the book.  This week I am taking it up a notch into higher compliance, letting go of my morning latte.  I want to kick the last four or five  kilos to the curb NOW!

Rule #1: Avoid “white” carbohydrates

Avoid any carbohydrate that is — or can be — white. The following foods are thus prohibited, except for within 1.5 hours of finishing a resistance-training workout of at least 20 minutes in length: bread, rice, cereal, potatoes, pasta, and fried food with breading. If you avoid eating anything white, you’ll be safe

Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again

The most successful dieters, regardless of whether their goal is muscle gain or fat loss, eat the same few meals over and over again. Mix and match, constructing each meal with one from each of the three following groups:

Egg whites with one whole egg for flavor
Chicken breast or thigh
Grass-fed organic beef

Legumes: Lentils & beans (black, white, pinto)


Mixed vegetables (non-starchy)


Eat as much as you like of the above food items. Just remember: keep it simple. Pick three or four meals and repeat them. Almost all restaurants can give you a salad or vegetables in place of french fries or potatoes. Surprisingly, I have found Mexican food, swapping out rice for vegetables, to be one of the cuisines most conducive to the “slow carb” diet.

Most people who go on “low” carbohydrate diets complain of low energy and quit, not because such diets can’t work, but because they consume insufficient calories. A 1/2 cup of rice is 300 calories, whereas a 1/2 cup of spinach is 15 calories! Vegetables are not calorically dense, so it is critical that you add legumes for caloric load.

Some athletes eat 6-8x per day to break up caloric load and avoid fat gain. I think this is ridiculously inconvenient. I eat 4x per day (Tim’s timetable is x-ed out – I work a day job):

7:30 10am – breakfast
noon 1pm – lunch
3pm  5pm – smaller second lunch
6:30 – 8 7:30-9pm – sports training (again, Tim’s schedule, not mine)
8 10pm – dinner

Rule #3: Don’t drink calories

Drink massive quantities of water and as much unsweetened iced tea, tea, diet sodas, coffee (without white cream), or other no-calorie/low-calorie beverages as you like. Do not drink milk, normal soft drinks, or fruit juice. I’m a wine fanatic and have at least one glass of wine each evening, which I believe actually aids sports recovery and fat-loss. Recent research into resveratrol supports this.

Rule #4: Take one day off per week

I recommend Saturdays as your “Dieters Gone Wild” day. I am allowed to eat whatever I want on Saturdays, and I go out of my way to eat ice cream, Snickers, Take 5, and all of my other vices in excess. I make myself a little sick and don’t want to look at any of it for the rest of the week. Paradoxically, dramatically spiking caloric intake in this way once per week increases fat loss by ensuring that your metabolic rate (thyroid function, etc.) doesn’t down-regulate from extended caloric restriction. That’s right: eating pure crap can help you lose fat. Welcome to Utopia.