Fitness: best stretches for office workers

Following on from yesterday’s post about fitness, I offer herewith the following URL to assist you in compiling a simple, quick daily stretch routine for yourselves. The link provided will take you to a 2 and a half page doc you can print out and use.

http://exercise.about.com/od/flexibilityworkouts/tp/officestretches.htm?p=1

Everything you will ever need to know about exercise is to be found at:

http://exercise.about.com

C’mon! If an old lady can try to get something together you can too!  🙂

For those of you in RSA, hope you have a happy Freedom Day.

Fitness: an essential part of the wellness journey

Those of us who have gym memberships – great stuff!  BUT, in all honesty, are we making full use of the state-of-the-art facilities at our disposal? Sadly, the answer in my case has to be ‘no’.

Do we ask questions of the fitness staff that  wander around all over the place while we are stepping along smartly on that treadmill?  You will be surprised at the snippets of very relevant info they give  re maximising the fitness benefits of the machines, equipment and designated areas of the gym at our disposal. Do we attend the myriad FREE classes on offer?

In this post, I won’t go into all the reasons (read excuses) why we no longer look like we did the day we got married or when we were at our best. Like everyone else, I will stick my head in the sand and not ‘go there’ at this time of writing.

What I want to do is to steer you in the direction of a couple of websites that may inspire us to get up off our butts and start toning up!

In the days of Dallas on TV, Victoria Principal the actress playing Pamela Barnes Ewing (alright, I Googled that – I would never have remembered the full name of her character!) wrote a couple of quite good books on health and beauty. Cashing in on stardom of course and suddenly they’re ‘experts’ on all sorts of things! Her first publication was The Body Principal. I am sorry that I must have ‘hospice shopped’ the book as I no longer have it.

In the book she illustrated and propounded the gentle, stretching isometric exercises that maintained ‘the body’. What a body that was too! In her latest book Living Principal published in 2001, she still looks pretty darn good and she is/was still married to her plastic surgeon husband. (!)She did not subscribe to the ‘feel the burn’ aerobic physical jerks of Jane Fonda and others.

Using the lessons  learnt from Victoria’s book, I created a short, all-over stretch routine that I practised quite religiously early every morning right up to 2003 when we left our farm and moved to the Western Cape. 

The cold, dark and wet Cape winter is closing in on us. My body – I do not take time often enough to check the reality of it’s very poor condition – has more and more loose, floppy bits waving around as the weight goes down! UGH!

What am I going to do about that? Well, for a start, I am going to re-create my morning stretch routine (adding some appropriate weights) and inveigle W into joining me!

We sit slouching over our computers for hours on end daily (in our family most of us have computer based jobs). We are (or will be) paying for it dearly with loss of tone, flexibility, range of motion and all the others ills of little/no exercise in our lives.

I, for one, have paid for my workaholic lifestyle by developing severe osteoarthritis in my neck. A neuro surgeon said to me, ‘This neck is tired’. He prescribed a neck brace which I do use occasionally. He also suggested some supplements to take and asserted that he would deny it if I ever told anyone what he had recommended! Poor man, I understand he too is now a diabetic.

My GP at the time had just returned from 12 years practice in Canada and upon seeing my neck x-rays exclaimed, ‘ Oh my Gaad! Oh my Gaad! Your poor thing!‘ An Afrikaans accent overlaid with 12 years of Canadian accent makes an interesting combination!

We sit hunched over with our necks stretched forward reading our computer screens for hours on end and we wonder why we feel sore and stiff when we straighten up  and try to correct our posture. Young people I know who shall remain nameless are developing exactly the same symptoms. I manage my osteoarthritis with a daily anti-inflammatory – yet another drug added to my daily cocktail – plus a twice daily supplement.

As usual, I digress. Back to the URL’s.

If you go to the URLs hereunder, you will see the sort of thing we will be making an effort to implement. Most of the very basic exercises in the 9 step routine were part of Victoria Principal’s routine and they are as much in use today as they were back in the days of Dallas!

http://www.hearthealthyonline.com/fitness/workouts/anytime-workout_ss1.html

A website I have discovered in my (hopefully discerning) wanderings around the www is:

http://www.livestrong.com/

Connected to super cyclist Lance Armstrong who as we know has had his own health demons to conquer, I think we can safely consider the many tools and information offered on this huge site for implementation in our own lives.

The World Wide Web is truly an astounding place where any info on the planet can be accessed with the click of a mouse. With due caution and a good dollop of commonsense, we can only benefit from using it wisely. More about that in a future post.

Laziest cook on earth. 4

In our days of being Rotarians, W & I enjoyed an active social life with much interaction with  fellow Rotarians and we did a lot of community service work which is what Rotary International is all about.

At the time, it was a males only organisation and one became a member by invitation only. The wives were called Rotary Anns and we dutifully played our part in the organisation which I see is still very active in community work today.

During our year as Rotary President and Rotary Ann President, we entertained a lot. We had a large double storey home, a full time domestic worker, my folks lived with us in the ‘granny flat’ and they were a wonderful support system with our teenage boys. W & I forged ahead with our respective banking careers and did our share of community work while having fun with good friends. It was a good life and we had marvellous support systems in place.

Things are somewhat different today.  We still live the good life, though in a very different way. We chose to re-locate to Cape Town and we chose to take our ‘retirement jobs’ (a bookkeeping practice) along with us.

There is little time left for entertaining and it is not easy to cater for numbers in our flat, spacious as these old apartments are. Later this year, we are re-locating (again!) to a spacious home in a leafy suburb which belongs to our middle son M. But I am getting horribly sidetracked here – that is a story for a later time.

This is the meal I threw together last night for 6 members of the family:

BUTTER CHICKEN : served with brown basmati rice, cauliflower with cheese sauce and a good tossed salad.

MIXED BERRIES DESSERT : Dessert was slightly defrosted mixed berries with a choice of diet ice cream and/or lite custard. Of course, we all chose ‘and’ and not ‘or’! Mix it all up in a purple mess in your pudding dish – divine, almost fat free and low GI.

Pretty good I would say and the scale showed no overnight weight gain at my ‘Sunday Morning Showdown’ this morning. I should have had broccoli with the cauliflower as lettuce does not count as a dark green veg. (Tabitha Hume!) Red, yellow as well as green pepper strips and home grown mung bean sprouts in the salad made up for it in a small way.

Butter Chicken!!! I hear you say. Yes, so simple really. Browned chicken thighs (bone in, skin off) in a little extra virgin olive oil, dumped them in a large casserole dish with lid and poured Denny Butter Chicken Curry Sauce over them. 20 mins with casserole lid on, 20mins with casserole lid off and left them to sit there until the Sharks had won their game against I don’t know who!

The latest Weigh Less magazine is out and included is a Coat and Cook in Sauces Guide. Get it and check it out!. It will inspire you to serve something new for your family while keeping those kilos in check! You can have a quarter of the packet of wet sauce – only 424kJ and 5.0g fat.

I was given a rice cooker recently (my slow cooker/Crockpot actually does the job just as well) and the berries I had bought in bulk out at Hillcrest Berry Orchards at the height of the berry season. I use them as a treat and am only sorry I did not buy many more kilograms of these wonderful fruits at that time. I will really stock up next year.

www.hillcrestberries.co.za

High Tea at the Nelly (Mount Nelson Hotel) is on my Bucket List but the High Tea served at Hillcrest Berry Orchards is really good. Situated in the magnificent Banhoek Valley outside Stellenbosch, this working farm is well worth the trip. Check it out. They also do B & B.

Hopefully, you are starting to see from my scribblings on this blog that we CAN eat delicious food while keeping to a healthy eating plan. With careful portion control we can still ‘have our cake and eat it’!

BP – as in blood pressure, not petrol!

My valued readers may remember my post about ‘a bit of’.  A ‘bit of weight’; a ‘bit of cholesterol’; a ‘bit of diabetes; and so on. Looking back at older posts, I see that I wrote that post on 8th March.

What I said on that day is something I would like to repeat today and I will probably return to the subject time and again as I try to hammer home the crucial core message:-

There is no such thing as ‘a bit of’. You either have it or you don’t!  The ‘bits of’ have already started their destructive paths in your body and will continue to do so unless you take charge of your choices right now!

In my observations and personal experience, we typically see these (lifestyle induced) patterns manifesting around our 40th birthday. Very sadly, we are also seeing more of these conditions emerging in much younger people. I seem to recall reading that 19-year old Americans in the Vietnam war already showed signs of arteries clogging up; the trend has been growing for decades. Just look, really look around you in a shopping mall; particularly in the food courts. Obese parents loading all sorts of junk food onto their plates and ordering the same for their plump, chubby or already obese kids. I feel sick at heart as I observe it all.

I recently watched a 40-something man sitting at a small restaurant table with his knees spread wider than the table. He could not close his knees because his stomach was resting on the chair seat between his legs. He was simultaneously reading the morning paper, while shovelling bacon, sausage, eggs, toast etc down his throat as if there would be no tomorrow. His two obese kids of primary school age sat at the table with him also shovelling down… guess what?  Neither he nor his children were actually paying much attention to what they were so avidly consuming. It was a mindless, well practised exercise in gluttony.

Do not get me wrong, there is nothing more ‘lekker’ than an ‘English breakfast’ of bacon, eggs etc as an occasional treat to be savoured and enjoyed. My W-L  group leader says that she loves to prepare her own lunchtime version of the ultimate sandwich, cut it into 4 triangles and then really look at it with pleasure and anticipation before eating it!

One of the many lifestyle induced health dragons we usually face is hypertension -high blood pressure. My spouse W & I have to take our blood pressure readings on a very regular basis. W because of ischaemic heart disease – he now has two coronary stents – and me because of diabetes and the other other dragons of Metabolic Syndrome.

While on holiday this month, we took BG (blood glucose) as well as BP readings every day; our children were not even aware that this was part of our daily routine even on holiday. All readings are recorded and then transcribed into Benutriwise as data for our GP, Dr Anna.

I recently upgraded our BP cuff – we now have the type that takes the readings at the press of a button and gives digital readouts. It also averages the readings for the previous 30 days; all of which is crucial information for the GP as well as the cardiologist.

We have HARTMANN brand BP cuffs (a German make) which Dr Anna tells me are about the best on the market. Taking info from their user manual, I quote hereunder:

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Society of Hypertension (ISH) have developed the following classifications for blood pressure values:”

Assessment Systolic pressure Diastolic pressure
Optimal up to 120 mmHg up to 80mmHg
Normal up to 130 mmHg up to 85 mmHg
Normal limit values 130 – 139 mmHg 85 – 89 mmHg
Grade 1 hypertension 140 – 150 mmHg 90 – 99 mmHg
Grade 2 hypertension 160 – 179 mmHg 100 – 109 mmHg
Grade 3 hypertension over 180 mmHg over 110mmHg
     

“ Established hypertension is defined as repeated measurement of a systolic value greater than 140 mmHg and/or a diastolic value greater than 90 mmHg. Please note that this classification of blood pressure values is independent of age. Optimal blood pressure values have health benefits for all people. There is no generally recognised definition of too low blood pressure (hypotension). Readings of less than 100mmHg systolic and less than 70 mmHg diastolic are considered too low. Please note that, unlike too-high blood pressure values, too-low blood pressure values are not usually expected to be associated with health risks. However, if you are always feeling unwell, you should check with your doctor. “

“ Constantly elevated blood pressure multiplies the risk for other health problems.

Also according to HARTMANN, high blood pressure elevates the risk for thickening and/or weakness of the heart muscle 7 times and the risk of stroke 8 times.

Constant hypertension also leads to vascular damage. Additional increased risks are quoted as follows: Heart attack 3 times; shrunken kidney/kidney problems/kidney failure 6 times; impaired blood flow 2 times; and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) 8 times.

When W was admitted to a cath lab for the first stent, he commented to the theatre sister that she must see a lot of heart disease in her line of work. She looked at him, sighed and said, “ Yes and the sad part of it is that it is all self inflicted.”

My cardiologist showed me very carefully where my heart muscle has thickened due to poorly controlled hypertension. It’s sobering stuff I can tell you.

Is this post meant to scare you? No, it is not. It is meant to present the facts about the serious consequences of uncontrolled or poorly controlled hypertension. It is also intended to encourage those not yet medicated and monitored by a doctor to most urgently monitor their BP over a period of time and take corrective action – be that drastic lifestyle modification and/or medication.

Food labelling – we have often been misled

Over time, I have become a consumer addicted to reading nutrition information labels on foodstuffs in my favoured food markets. In the early years it was for fat content, then it became the (often vain) hope that the GI value was quoted on breakfast cereals and now, finally, I can assess the info with some degree of intelligence.

With the advent in my life of the despised Metabolic Syndrome, I will not put a grocery item into my trolley without having read the nutritional information. I was so pleasantly surprised to see recently that a very dear friend with health issues to manage will also not purchase any item that would be detrimental to his health.

I am not for one minute saying that I am a Joan of Arc martyr to my health challenges nor a Paragon of Virtue as headmistress Reverend Mother Maria used to call me. (Poor misguided woman – luckily for me she did not deem it necessary to open nor censor my schoolgirl correspondence with a certain young gentleman at Kearsney College! Some of my Holy Family Convent school friends were not so fortunate)!

What I am saying – with much rambling, sorry – is that we need to become informed in our health choices. I ate a slice of Black Forrest cake this week – yeah horrors! – with no consequences on the scale nor my glucose readings. (Back to the comment about not being a Joan of Arc on my odyssey to health). An occasional ‘sin’ is not going to kill me as long as the ‘sins’ do not become a regular habit. Been there, done that. Never again in my lifetime. The ‘sins’ are what got me into my MS predicament in the first place.

No food is ‘bad’. All food has its place. The trick is to know which foods we must strictly limit to occasional treats and what foods are needed for vibrant health and energy.

New regulations for food labelling become mandatory in RSA from March 2011. Some retailers already have pretty good labelling on their products – PnP and Woolworths to name two.

Misleading labels will not be permitted. For example to be labelled low in kJ, a food will have to have less than 170kJ per 100g (solids) or 80kJ per 100ml (liquids). “Low fat” must contain less than 3g per 100g (solids) or 1,5g of total fat per 100ml liquids).

Don’t wait until March 2011 to start really examining what you permit down your throat! I haven’t.

What’s the score?

In our family, that question almost always means that someone is asking the rugby score. Usually it also means the score in a game involving the Sharks!  As ex-KZNatalians, we are often berated for being disloyal to the local Stormers squad – but that’s how it is. Once a Sharks fan always a Sharks fan it seems!

I am not a huge rugby fan although I have done my fair share of screaming for our team from the sidelines; especially at schoolboy matches. Not unusual for the mother of 3 sons!  I usually only become interested if our team is still in contention near the end of a series. 

One score both W & I ARE interested in is our weight! Now back in CT, we both climbed on the scale first thing this morning to assess the ‘damage’ caused by our wonderful break at Mossel Bay. Also not forgetting the lovely roast leg of lamb dinner plus ‘ Jan Ellis Pudding’  we were treated to at the home of W’s sisters in Dana Bay. (You truly do not want to know the ingredients used for Jan Ellis Pudding! Needless to say, it tastes divine!)

The sisters plus W and I were a gang of 4 when we lived there in 2003-2005 and we had some great times together.  Not sure why but I was quite heartsore to visit there this time and realise that the gang of 4 was down to a twosome again.

Enough of that! On to the subject at hand – the ‘damage’. I should not really use that word as a slight weight gain on holiday is par for the course – (Pinnacle Point course ha ha!!).

W returned home 0.1kg lighter than he was and we can put that down to some pretty long walks on very hilly terrain. He also enjoyed a wonderful +-9km walk with M & J along the now disused railway line from Wilderness to Victoria Bay. Those of you that know that area will know what a beautiful stretch of Garden Route coast that is; Outeniqua Choo-Choo country.  A cloudy day also made for comfortable walking. All in all I would say that W walked about 15km while away and this paid dividends in increased fitness, no weight gain and a complete disappearance of stress.

My result was also pretty good – no loss but a slight gain of 0.4kg for the 7 days away. I am not in any way bothered by this and will simply re-direct my energies to continue the odyssey. W has just walked in with some yummy plums – those firm  ‘black’ skinned ones.  Not a huge plum fan but these are really lekker! Golden yellow  flesh and they do not drip all over you like some plums do! Holford would be pleased – he promotes dark coloured  fuit & veg choices almost ad nauseum!

The odyssey (‘ a series of wanderings’ remember!) continues – the green (actual) line on my Excel chart will be meandering above the solid red (target) line  at the moment but the downward momentum continues. 

I urge you to persevere with your own odyssey – whatever goal you have – it IS achievable

If you have stalled on the trip; if you have lost direction; if you are feeling de-motivated or overwhelmed by what you see as an unachievable task, I encourage you to :

Stop. take stock. re-define your goals. plan your strategy. move ahead. Baby steps are all that is required; as long as these steps are consistently applied, you WILL get there!

Another wonderful thing about an odyssey is that no matter how many times you stop and wander off the track along the way, you will reach your destination if you just keep on plodding along in the right direction!

Cape St Blaize ….

I promised some pics of our lighthouse visit ……  here they are! 

Cape St Blaize lighthouse at Mossel Bay

 

The first ladder

 

It's better not to look down!

 

J crawling out onto topmost level

 

I'm on top of the world ......

 

Somewhat flimsy looking!

 

Up near the clouds.......

 

Some indication of how high we climbed!