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Dancing Your Way to a Healthy Body

There are a lot of people who exercise to make themselves fit and healthy.  They go to gyms, do treadmills, jog, bike, swim, and many more.  The problem with these exercises is that they become very monotonous, especially when you do them several times a week.  The truth is there are other exercises where you can do cardio without actually being bored doing it – dancing.  Well, it may sound funny at first but dancing can actually be a strenuous activity which is perfect for those who are looking for a challenging and very exciting form of exercise.  The best part of it all is that you not only learn new moves, but that you do not keep on repeating the same steps over and over wherein the overall exercise is pure and simple repetition of itself.

Do not let dancing fool you because even if you think you are fit from all that jogging and running, try doing some fast and rigorous dance routine and you will be sweating bullets in under an hour.  Or you can try some simple graceful moves that can test the overall flexibility of your joints and ligaments.

If you try to look at people who do dancing for a living, you will notice just how lean their physiques are yet strong and capable enough to lift their dance partners.  In short, dancing can actually help you build a strong and healthy body.  Here are just some of the few benefits of dancing:

Cardio – dancing is all about constant movement and this can help you give your cardio some workout.  Once you become more skilled and develop better stamina for dancing, your endurance also increases which means you can practice doing certain dance moves for hours on end.  In essence, this not only gives you a cardio workout, but it also develops your stamina and endurance.

Strength – aside from cardio, dancing also has some elements which helps make you stronger.  For example, when you do dips and certain weight bearing towards your legs, hips and thighs, you inevitably build your base muscles that help strengthen your balance.  Additionally, the rhythmic movements with different sway patterns help in developing your center of gravity.

Weight Loss – dancing is not as easy as it looks and it can wear down your muscles easily and can make you sweat heavily, especially when you are not used to moving your whole body or nearly all your muscles together.  Through dance movements, you burn a lot of calories which can certainly make anyone lose weight.  This is the very reason why dancers are usually slim.

Flexibility – part of dancing is bending, twisting, and moving your body at angles you do not usually do.  Such movements actually help you in developing your flexibility.  Additionally, doing some stretching prior to dancing is also necessary in order to avoid any injuries caused by sprains or torn ligaments.  Dancing is very tough on muscles, tendons, and ligaments if you do it without practice and stretching.  Additionally, practicing dancing more and more can help you to become more flexible.

Bring It On

I’m about to fall asleep when my husband, Ron, reaches out and shakes my shoulder.

“Are you awake?” he asks.

“Yes,” I say.

“What do you want for your birthday?”

“Hmmm,” I say. “I don’t know. Let me think about it.”

But I do know. I’m debating between various brands of juicers (Green Star or Omega – any thoughts?). Ron is going to keel over when he hears this. In the six years we’ve been together, I’ve never asked for a single item relating to the kitchen.

Not a pot.

Not a pan.

Not a knife, a spatula, or a whisk.

Growing up, I never learned how to cook. My girlfriends and I — we were women of a new generation. We were going to be doctors, lawyers, and mathematicians (and we are). There would be no time for preparing meals. (I’m not sure what our eating plan was — hired help? fast food? — we didn’t think about that part). I do vaguely recall taking a Home Economics course in high school. Men were required to take it too. We baked a pie. I stared at the aluminum container holding the crust and debated between leaving it or removing it. I wasn’t sure aluminum should go in the oven so I took it off. My pie looked more like a pancake.

People change, though.

Now I see our kitchen in a whole new light. Cooking spinach lasagna the other night, I sipped a glass of wine and turned on some tunes. I had to call my mother — twice — and ask her whether I was supposed to cook the whole wheat lasagna noodles or layer them in the dish uncooked. (The first time she said, “Cook ‘em!” and the second time she said, “Yes, I’m positive. Cook ‘’em!”) I cooked the noodles. The food was delicious. I’m no longer intimidated by the kitchen. Bring on the juicer! Š

Remembering the Golden Rule

When we lived in California my husband and I had two bamboo plants – one on our coffee table and one in our kitchen. We had an indoor ivy plant above a corner piece in the living room. And we had a peace lily in a large flowerpot by our front door.

We enjoyed our plants. They livened up our space and added a splash of color.

We even named them: Lucky, Frogger, Stan and Lily.

But we weren’t very organized about feeding them. Half the time we presumed the other person had watered them when in reality neither of us had (we’d check and then panic because their soil was extra dry). Other times we assumed the other person had forgotten to take care of the plants, so we’d both wind up watering them and then over-saturating their soil.

We had a confusing schedule with our dog too. Some days we decided to give her one scoop of food in the morning and another scoop at night. Other days we decide to give her nothing in the morning and two scoops at night. And everyday we’d have a discussion about who fed her, when we fed her, and whether she needed to be fed again. When we moved from California we gave our plants away but kept the dog. Our daily discussions over the feeding routine of our adorable mutt have continued.

We’ve often said to each other: “We need to come up with one schedule for the plants/pets and stick to it.” But no plan we thought of worked very well. Right about the time I was making the switch to Clean Eating. I read an article that suggested feeding your pets and plants before you prepare your own meals.

In other words, serve others before serving yourself.

What a great idea. After all, when I was growing up the golden rule at the dinner table was Offer the food dishes to others before taking it yourself. One summer I worked at a camp where we actually served the person to our right – I would put a piece of chicken, a spoon of broccoli, and a roll on my neighbor’s plate. Then that person would serve the person to her right, and so on…

Feeding pets and plants before meals would not only keep all the living creatures in our household on a regular schedule, it would help us transition into the intention of mindful eating. By stepping back and taking care of the needs of others first, we are reminded of how much has been given to us: our health, our bodies, and the food we are about to put inside it.

Peace & Blessings. Š

Happy

The other day, I was in a “blah” mood due to my seasonal affective disorder (self-diagnosed). To snap out of it, I came up with a list of ten activities that are fun. Not just enjoyable, but playful and lively. The kind of activities that make me happy, happy, happy.

10 Fun Activities
1. Rollerblading (I can’t help but grin like a fool whem I blade – I absolutely love it more than just about anything)
2. Dinner out with my husband
3. Waterskiing
4. Downhill Skiing
5. Watching a good romantic comedy
6. Tennis
7. Jumping on a trampoline
8. Throwing a Frisbee with my dog (she can leap in the air and catch it)
9. Riding rapids in a river
10. Snorkeling around coral reefs

Reviewing my list, it dawned on my how many were linked to physical activity – things that get my blood flowing. (Yoga isn’t on there because while I do enjoy it – love it, actually – I think of it as more of a calming practice.) I don’t know where the trampoline came from – that one just popped into my head. Well, I’m so getting a mini tramp for my bedroom. When it’s cold and windy and rainy I’ll get some physical exercise and make myself laugh while I’m at it.

Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. Š

Dry Ground

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. And God saw that it was good. –Genesis 1:9

That verse has been stuck in my head since November.

Outside, I’ll point to our little community yard in front of our townhouse and say, “This hasn’t been dry since we moved in.”

It’s true.

When it’s not covered in snow or ice, it’s a wet, muddy patch of grass. I’m ready for sunshine. For warm air. For dry ground.

Last Saturday, I got my wish. The sun blazed in the sky without a cloud in sight. I was so happy and giddy and overwhelmed with possibilities I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I bike? Rollerblade? Find an outdoor court and play tennis? In the end, I opted for a long walk. I simply wanted to let the fresh air clear my mind.

Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk.

I could’ve stayed on the trail forever.

The day came to a close, and by Sunday morning it was raining again. Our patch of grass was wet and muddy. But there are more warm, dry days ahead. I can feel them. And I’m ready to welcome them with open arms.

Man in the Mud

Panic.

It’s a “sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior” according dictionary.com.

I’ve certainly been guilty of it. But it usually doesn’t serve me well. Like the time I convinced myself I had appendicitis and went into such hysterics that I passed out.

I came across this story last week – a construction worker in China was buried alive in the mud with nothing but a gap of air in front of his face (his helmet slid down). He didn’t panic. He practiced meditation and survived two hours on an amount of air that should have lasted five minutes.

I wonder sometimes how I would react in certain situations. What if I was eating in Windows restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11? What if I was in one of the hijacked planes? I don’t think a person truly knows how he or she will respond unless in the situation. God willing, that will never be the case, but if it is, I hope I am like the man in the mud.

Germaphobe

The waiter walks over and sets a glass of ice-water on the table.

“Ew,” my mom says when he walks away. “I don’t like it when restaurants put lemons in your drink.”

For years she’s claimed that lemon wedges have tons of bacteria – picked up because of how much they are handled by bare human hands – and this YouTube video seems to prove she’s right, reporting that over 77% of lemon wedges in drinks tested positive for disease causing bacteria.

My husband has an issue with restaurants that place the silverware directly on the table instead of on a napkin or tablecloth. When I tell him the tables are washed, he says, “Yeah, but have you seen those ratty rags they use?”

What a bunch of germaphobes!

Except I have my issues too. I don’t like touching menus. I especially can’t stand it when a waiter places a menu down on top of my plate. I mean really, when are menus cleaned?

I’m totally of the belief that exposure to bad bacteria can build my immune system. And, logically, I know that menus are only one of many places I’m coming across a boatload of germs. But still, menus freak me out.

Do you have any quirky things you’re a germ-freak about?

Healthier Options

My trip to LA is winding to a close. I’d love to post a couple of healthy new recipes I tried this week, but I haven’t been cooking (unless you consider slicing apple and dipping it in natural peanut butter cooking). Instead, I’ve been eating out more than I intended. But I guess I have re-learned one lesson on this road trip: it never hurts to ask. The other day I was ordering an Ahi tuna burger from one of my favorite spots – a roadside seafood shack. I was sure they didn’t have wheat buns – I looked everywhere for the small print in the menu indicating customers had that choice and couldn’t find it. But when I asked, turns out they could serve their burgers on wheat. And the breakfast place this morning – though the menu doesn’t specify, you can request fruit on the side instead of home fries. Of course options like that aren’t always available. The Chinese place I stopped by the other night didn’t have brown rice as an option – only white. But I’m going to keep asking, cuz you just never know.

On the Road

Had my first cup of coffee in a long time the other day (well, a month, which is long for me!). I was on an airplane heading to Los Angeles and there is nothing I like about planes. Can’t stand the smell, the sounds, the uncomfortable seats, the bathrooms. Can’t stand how my head feels when I read (dizzy) and how my body feels no matter how still I sit (woozy).

I wanted something pleasant. The coffee smelled good, and I figured a cup or two wouldn’t hurt (I mean, heck, those cups on the plane are so little). Well, the next day I had a massive headache. So much for my theory that it wouldn’t hurt – it hurt a lot. I think on the flight home I’ll opt for decaf.

Since arriving, I’ve been sipping non-caffeinated herbal teas like crazy – it’s cold and rainy. Anyway, one of the many things I love about California is the fresh produce. With year-round farmer’s markets and a city full of restaurants that serve up lots of organic fare, it’s great to be here again.

I visited my old book club group the other night where there was a delicious raw veggie salad from Wolfgang Puck’s. Been eating fruit medleys (yum – it’s been awhile since I’ve had fresh, flavorful fruit – wish I could share it with all of you braving the winter snow back east). Today I enjoyed an organic greens salad at my favorite lunch spot, Coral Tree Café (I also had a big, ol’ brownie there – not so healthy, but very tasty).

I do miss cooking though. I’ve really come to enjoy making homemade meals. My husband was shocked when he looked at our budget the other night and realized how much we’ve cut back on eating out at restaurants. Ends up I have a mini-fridge in the hotel out here. In the morning I’ll be off to the local grocer to cobble together some wholesome goodies I can make right in my room. Š

Secret Ingredient

Does anyone know the secret ingredient that goes into making the perfect Smoothie? I can’t figure it out. My blender and I have been bonding lately as I try out different recipes. In addition to ice and some frozen strawberries and blueberries, I try:

Smoothies with frozen banana.

Smoothies with frozen banana and whey protein powder.

Smoothies without either.

Smoothies with honey. Smoothies with Stevia. Smoothies with an egg. Smoothies with soy milk.

No matter what I do, they simply don’t taste as good as the kind I buy. It’s not that they taste bad, but after a few sips I kinda forget about them. When I find the abandoned half-empty glass later on, I feel like I’ve wasted food. One does not forget about a really good Smoothie.

At first I thought maybe it was because when I buy Smoothies they’re probably full of sugar and ice cream or something. But no, I thoroughly enjoyed the Smoothies I drank every afternoon at a yoga retreat in Mexico last February – everything that kitchen prepared was of the healthy, no-sugar variety. I fondly recall sitting under a shade tree at the beach in the afternoons (after a morning of working out) and looking forward to seeing the resort’s chef saunter over with his latest concoction. Wait a sec…the secret ingredient I’m missing? I think it might be the beach. That is, after all, the only place I really ever drink Smoothies. There’s something about the white sand and the turquoise waters and reading a good book that makes a Smoothie taste so perfectly good.

I live far, far away from the beach.

Well, shoot.Š