NEAT Ideas to Burn More Calories

If you’re like a lot of people, keeping up with fitness goals is hard this time of year.  With colder temperatures and wet stuff falling from the skies, being outside is not so much fun.  I have to admit, though, that some of my funnest and most invigorating runs have been in the snow!

And should we even mention all the holiday gatherings and parties?  It’s just a tough time of year to stay on track.

And then, tack on an injury that prevents your normal activities.  That’s me currently with this wonky hip flexor.  (More on that progress in another post.)

So with a few months of limited activity, I’ve really been focusing on non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) to burn as many calories as possible to help me stay in shape.

Okay, quick biology lesson before I loose you with some big ‘ol term like non-exercise activity thermogenesis.  There are basically 3 ways that our body burns calories:

  1.  Basal metabolic rate (BMR).  Metabolism is basically all the behind the scenes things that happen without us being aware to keep our bodies ticking– reactions that keep our hearts beating and cause respiration, for example.  This is actually our biggest source of calorie expenditure, and everyone’s BMR differs.  A rough estimate of my BMR is between 1200-1300 calories.  That means that I will expend 1200-1300 calories a day just to keep my body functioning.
  2. Thermic effect of food.  Our bodies burn calories through digesting the food we eat.  It’s a small source of calorie expenditure, but it is a way our body uses fuel.
  3. Exercise.  And the last way our body burns calories is through exercise–movement.  We all know that, right?  We think about exercise as that hour in the gym or 30 minutes on the treadmill or that Zumba class.  Whatever your thing is “exercise” tends to have this defined start and stop time of doing a specific activity with the focus of conditioning our bodies–which is important to overall health and fitness.

But another part of exercise is non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT.  Don’t be alarmed.  It’s just a long term that refers to the calories you burn by all the movement you do outside of your regularly scheduled exercise session that can add up to hundreds of extra calories burned a day.

Here are 10 NEAT ideas to keep you moving and burning calories:

  1.  Stand up every 30 minutes.  If you have a desk job, just stand up every 30 minutes.  Remember that any movement makes your body burn fuel, AKA calories.
  2. Park further from the store.  Do you ever get tired of driving around looking for a convenient parking space?  Why not just pick that spot in the back 40 where no one parks?  You’ll get in extra steps walking to and from the store, and you’ll have the added bonus of avoiding those awful door dings.
  3. Wash the dishes by hand.  Hey, it’s just an idea.  You’ll have those extra minutes of scrubbing and drying dishes to burn away extra calories.
  4. Fidget.  If you’re like me, you hear your mom scold you for fidgeting if you start to jiggle your leg or tap your fingers, but fidgeting can actually add to the number of calories you burn in a day.  Stuck in a meeting?  Jiggle your leg or tap your fingers. Stuck in a line at the grocery store?  Why not just shift your weight from one leg to the other?  It’s movement!
  5. Do glute extensions while you’re brushing  your teeth.  Seriously, I do this sometimes.  While I’m standing there brushing my choppers, I just extend one leg behind me and use the glute (butt) muscles to kick out my leg.
  6. Take the stairs.  So if  you work on the 99th floor, this may not be feasible, but I bet you could walk a few flights of stairs.  Avoiding elevators and climbing stairs is a great way to get in some extra movement during the day.
  7. March in place.  If you’re at home watching a movie or a TV program, commercial breaks are a great time to get up and move.  March in place if it’s a commercial you really want to see, or just take a quick walk up and down the hall.
  8. Rake the leaves.  I’ll admit, it’s a chore I don’t like, but yard work of any kind is great exercise! 
  9. Take the long way.  Just like parking further from the store entrance can increase your steps for the day, so can taking the long way.  Don’t just opt for the shortest path to the bathroom, coffee pot, or water fountain; make an excursion out of your break and add in a few more steps.
  10. Sit on a stability ball.  You’ll have to use more muscles to stabilize yourself on the ball and you’ll probably find yourself bouncing around on it and moving more than if you were sitting in a regular chair.  Plus, they’re just super fun!

Bottom line, NEAT is all about moving as much as you can throughout your day.  Sit as little as possible; move as much as you can.  One big source of NEAT for me recently has been washing kitchen and bathroom cabinets.  Sunny checked things out to make sure I hadn’t missed a spot.  How would I survive without him? 🙂Promise yourself today to increase your NEAT.  You can do it!

Talk to me:

How do you keep yourself moving throughout the day?

What’s your biggest challenge to fitness during winter?

Another Home Workout

So recovery continues as I wait for my body to heal.  It’s a slow, rather torturous process, this business of just waiting.  And it’s getting even harder as I feel better.  I feel like I could run and do the things I love to do, but feeling better doesn’t necessarily mean healing is complete.  So…I wait.  Next week is my follow-up appointment.  Fingers crossed, I’ll get to add in at least some activity!

Today I thought I’d take you through another workout I did at home.  I did a circuit of 4 different exercises, 2 chest exercises and 2 back exercises, going through the circuit 3 times, and finishing with some calf raises.

I started with 15 push-ups.  Believe me, I was doing 2-3 push-ups at a time towards the end of my second set of 15 and into the third set!With no rest, I flipped onto my back and did 20 dumbbell hex presses.  This picture is not a good angle, but I’m pressing 2 dumbbells together over my chest and then pushing them up so that my arms are fully extended.Then I went into 20 rows with a resistance band.As you can see, working out at home sometimes requires a bit of creativity!  I used the couch leg to anchor my bands and 2 bands to add more resistance.  I’m learning to love resistance bands.  There’s so much you can do with them.  Plus, they give a great workout!The last back exercise was back extension.  I anchor my feet against a wall, and I like to hold a weight to make the exercise just a bit harder.At the completion of the circuit, I rested for about a minute before starting the next round.

When I completed the circuit 3 times, I did 3-way calf raises, 25 reps each way.  I started with my toes pointed forward.On the next set of 25 reps, my toes were pointed out.For the last 25 reps, my toes were pointed toward the middle.  Whoa!  Changing the position of your toes takes the burn all the way up to the booty!

So another short and simple workout but it got me sweating!

Talk to me:

What’s your workout for today?

What’s your favorite workout gadget or piece of equipment?

Workout of the Day

So, as you know, I’ve been restricted to only the stationary bike and seated upper body exercises to allow this angry hip flexor to heal.

But after a couple of sessions on the stationary bike, I’ve banned myself from that activity as well.  After 10-15 minutes on the bike, my hip flexor was protesting, so obviously even that is not something I should be doing at the moment.  Great.

After a couple of days of just lying on the couch, trying to decide how best to keep myself in shape for the next few weeks, I landed on a plan.  The upper body still has a lot of muscles.  I’d just work a different part of the upper body each day.

I decided to start with arms today and did a workout at home using the dumbbells I have.  It was a short workout, but here’s what I did:

Every minute on the minute (EMOM) 10 bicep curls followed immediately by 10 tricep overhead extensions

3 sets of 20 reps of lateral raises and front raises

Bicep curls:  Keep your shoulders down and back, bellybutton pulled in for a nice tight core.  No swinging the weight!  Start with your arms fully extended by your side. Bend your elbows to bring the weights up.  Finish by completely extending your arms.

 

Triceps extension:  Start with your arms directly overhead, elbows stay tight by your ears.  Bend your elbows so the weights extend toward your back.  Finish by straightening your arms.  These are a bit tricky, but the only part of your body that should be moving is your elbow bending and straightening.  You should feel the tension in the tricep, the back of the arm.

Lateral raise:  Start with your arms by your side, shoulders down and back, bellybutton pulled in for a nice tight core.  Raise the weights to shoulder height.  Control the descent back down to your side.  Don’t just let the weights drop!  You should feel the outside part of your shoulder working.

Front raise:  Start with the weights resting on your thighs.  Keep your shoulders down and back, bellybutton pulled in for a nice tight core.  Raise your arms in front of you to shoulder height.  Control the descent instead of just letting the weights fall.  You should feel the front part of your shoulder working.

I made this workout harder for me by increasing the volume (more reps) with a lighter weight and taking very short rest periods between sets.

Check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.  Consider working with a personal trainer if you are new to weights to make sure your form and technique are correct to prevent injury.

Talk to me:

What is your workout for the day?

Recovery…I Hope

So if you’ve been around for any length of time, you know I’ve been dealing with a nagging, recurring pain in my right hip flexor.  It really flared up when I began training for my first marathon last year, but about 2 months ago, things got worse.  The pain became constant, and even sitting and walking were uncomfortable.  Yep, I haven’t run in 2 months.  It’s been a long 2 months.

This last week I finally bit the bullet and went to see an orthopedist.  You can see how excited I was to be at the doctor’s office.  He looked at my MRI and x-rays, moved my hip in all different directions, pushed on me here and there, and finally concluded that it is most likely NOT a labral tear (whew!) and most likely just an inflamed hip flexor.

Then the doctor did something really painful.  He banned me from all exercise except the stationary bike and seated upper body exercises.  I remember when I started the clean eating challenge,  I looked at the list of food restrictions and wondered what in the world I was going to eat.  I’m looking at these activity restrictions with that same wonder.  How am I ever going to keep in shape with such limited activity?

And this is race season.  In 2 weeks, the 40th Tulsa Run will take place.  It’s a huge race, a 15K, and I love running it.  I was really, really hoping to run it this year, but no.  Not gonna happen.  And the half marathon I’d been training for, Route 66 in November, is not gonna happen either.  I am so disappointed.

But on the other hand, I’ve been dealing with this issue for a long time.  For about 2 years now, I’ve limped along seeing a chiropractor every couple of months to deal with the pain.  If another month of very limited activity, and a round of steroids and anti-inflammatories get me back on my feet pain-free, I guess I can stand missing a few races.  And I’m hoping, like with the clean eating challenge, I’ll find a whole new way of exercising and keeping in shape with limited lower body involvement.

But to be honest, the thing that’s really hard for me about not being able to exercise at my normal capacity is the fear of gaining weight.  I am petrified of that happening.  I have this vision of myself ballooning, and I nearly panic.  I do NOT want to ever be overweight again.

I think back to the first time this hip flexor issue put me on the side lines for a few weeks during marathon training.  I used the opportunity to focus on other aspects of training.  I’m trying really hard to keep that perspective again, focusing especially on nutrition this time around.  With my activity being limited, nutrition will be key for me in maintaining my weight, especially looking at carbohydrate intake.  I’ll need fewer carbs since I’m exercising less, but unfortunately, I love carbs.  (Yes, I’m pouting.)

So I’ll behave, take my medicine and follow the doctor’s orders.  Hopefully, when I go back to the doctor in 4 weeks, I’ll be good as new.  Stay tuned for updates on recovery, my workouts, and what I’m eating.

Talk to me:

What fall plans do you have coming up?

 

 

My Secret to Fitness After Forty

I remember when my mom turned 40.  I was embarrassed to tell anyone how old she was because in my 9 or 10-year-old mind 40 was next to ancient.  And then came that year a few years ago when I had to list my own age as…40.  Good golly, Miss Molly.  I was old!

Forty may be the new 20 nowadays, but somehow, it still felt like the gateway to old to me.  I felt like I really was over the hill and on the downward slide, with my obese and aching body.  I thought about all the things I’d hoped to accomplish by 40, like losing weight, but here I was fatter than I’d ever been in my life.  I honestly felt like I had reached the end of the line and was destined to live the rest of my life overweight.

I thought I was too old to find fitness.

This week I’ve scanned different internet articles and opinions on fitness after 40.  Some people say there’s a secret to exercising after 40.  Others say “Hogwash” to that belief.  I only know that these are a few things I’ve found to be true for me about finding fitness after 40:

  1.  Redefine what being fit meant.  I had this idea that fit meant wearing a size 2 and having a perfectly round, perky rear view.  Whatever.  Genetics endowed me with –let’s just say it–wide hips, and no amount of exercise is going to change my bone structure.  While I can tone the muscle and tighten the booty, I’ll never have that perfect hiney.  But if I think about being fit in terms of not how I look but what I can do, fitness lies within my grasp.  At 45, I’m running, jumping rope, and lifting weights at levels that were beyond me at 30.  So what if those saddlebags refuse to leave?  I’d rather be able to run a marathon than fit into skinny jeans.
  2. Stop playing the comparison game.  I had to realize I’m 40.  I can’t compete with those 20-something year olds.  They haven’t reached their peak of muscle development yet.  So just forget about what other people are doing and focus on what you can do.  And then do it!  And keep doing it, pushing  yourself just a bit more each time–like this amazing man who took up running at 95!
  3. Accept that you’re 40.  I had to accept that I was 40, not dead.  What I mean is that I had to understand and accept that there are biological changes that happen in our body as we age.  Estrogen and testosterone begin to decrease.  Metabolism slows.  We begin to lose bone and muscle mass.  Does that mean I shouldn’t exercise or lift weights?  First, see #2.  Second, absolutely not!  The amount of weight we can lift may decrease or our mile time may increase as we age, but exercise and weight lifting are a deterrent to age related health issues, such as osteoporosis.  Weight bearing exercises like walking, running, and lifting weights cause our bones to absorb more calcium.  More calcium in your bones = stronger bones.
  4. Work within your limits.  If you’re like me and put off getting fit until you’re 40, you’ve had a lifetime of developing bad habits that may be affecting your posture, flexibility and mobility.  And things like arthritis or other health conditions can rear their ugly heads even in our not so old bodies.  So do what you can within your limitations.  This is one reason I really like working with a personal trainer.  I have someone there who can point out movement deficiencies that I can’t see in myself and help me correct my technique or suggest exercises that can help improve flexibility.
  5. Don’t let someone tell you you’re too old.  The biggest thing I’ve had to learn about finding fitness after 40 is to tune out those naysayers who want to tell me I’m too old.  I’ve had people tell me how dangerous lifting weights and running are, especially at my age.  Okay, maybe.  But any exercise at any age can be dangerous if you do it incorrectly and if you do too much too quickly.  Progressive overload is the key.  Find your starting point and gradually increase from there.  I went from running 1 minute to running 30 minutes over the course of 8 weeks–at the age of 41.  And over the course of 2 years, I went from deadlifting 80 pounds to deadlifting 210 pounds–at the age of 45.  You are NEVER too old to improve your fitness level!   Still skeptical?  Check out this 104 year old Pearl Harbor survivor!
  6. Weight loss is possible after 40!  I should know.  I lost 63 pounds after turning 40.  Changing my diet was key, but then, at any age, diet is the key to weight loss.  And maybe my metabolism had slowed.  But exercise, especially weight training, building muscle, is one of the best ways to speed up that metabolism–at any age.

So my secret to fitness after forty is…that there is no secret!  (Sorry if I misled you!)  But I don’t think fitness after 40 has to be some mysterious, dangerous process.  The same principles that work to lose weight and get fit for the under 40 crowd seem to be serving me well now that I’m well into my 40’s.  Listen to your body.  Use common sense.  But move!  I dare you to join me in this adventure of finding life and health at the not so old age of 40–and beyond!

Remember to always check with your physician before beginning an exercise program.

Talk to me:

What arguments have you heard about losing weight or getting fit after 40?

What does being fit mean you would/could do?

photo credit:  https://www.pinterest.com/explore/birthday-memes/

What’s Next?

It’s a question I’ve been getting a lot lately as I’ve finished up the fitness and health trainer course I enrolled in last fall.  The answer to the question scares me a bit.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, though, which is part of the reason I’ve been neglecting the blog a bit.

If you follow me on Facebook at all, you know that this happened last week:IMG_1583I passed the National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer exam!  That allows me to call myself a certified personal trainer.  Yikes!  Somehow the title implies some level of expertise, but I feel like I still have so much to learn.

But back to the question.  What’s next?

I’ve shied away from talking a lot about what I hope to do as a certified personal trainer, but the course is done.  I’ve passed my certification exam.  Now is the time.  Am I going to do something with it?  Am I going to allow the vision that propelled me in this direction to begin with come to fruition?  Or am I going to shrink in fear that I might fall flat on my face?

So I’m just going to bite the bullet, put all my dreams out there, and see what happens.  If I fall flat on my face, well…I fall flat on my face.  At least I will have tried.

Losing 63 pounds and finding so much life in being fit and healthy ignited a passion in me.  There aren’t many things I can say I’m truly passionate about, but health and fitness are true passions.  I could read and talk about it day and night and never get bored with it.  But in my job as a nurse, I encounter people every. single. day. who are my age or younger losing body parts because of diabetes, taking medication for high blood pressure, having trouble breathing, and all largely related to obesity.  It gnaws at me.  And it frustrates me to feel like the most I can do at this point is help them manage their diseases.

I don’t want to just treat diabetes and high blood pressure.  I want to prevent it.  My own journey to health and losing aches and pains I thought I’d be saddled with for the rest of my life was an eye opener, and I began to think, “What if I could help people lose weight before disease sets in?”

And this vision of becoming a personal trainer was born.

I remember how uncomfortable I used to be going to the gym, stuffed into my workout clothes, feeling like everyone, especially that super toned guy with the bulging biceps, was noticing my every fat roll.  And I’ve talked to enough women to know that many experience similar feelings.

So what I hope to do with my CPT certification is mobile training, going to those who are at risk for developing chronic disease because of their weight, working with them in an environment where they feel comfortable, and walking them down the road to health.

But making that a reality involves thinking through a lot of details and logistics.  I have no idea how to set up a business, and I’m sure issues will come up that I’ve never even thought of.  But what a grand adventure!

I’m excited for the next step.  Scared spitless, but excited!  So follow along with me as I figure out this whole certified personal trainer gig and how to start and run a mobile training business (Geez Louise, I guess saying it means I really have to do it, uh?!).

Talk to me:

Have/would you ever work(ed) with a personal trainer?

If you could be anything you wanted to be, what would that be?

 

 

Freedom in Fitness

So this Easter weekend, I’ve been thinking about the concept of freedom.  It’s a big concept, right?  Ask anybody what freedom means to them, and you’ll probably get a different answer.  I mean, think about freedom in the context of war and our soldiers.  Wow.  Think about religious freedom, and people around the world dying for what they believe.  Think about political freedom.  Think about freedom of speech, and all the other freedoms the Constitution of the United States bestows on its citizens.

But the freedom I’ve been thinking specifically about this weekend, you know, with it being Easter and all, is spiritual freedom.  Read my story here of how the truth of God’s word freed me from a lifetime of trying to be someone other than who I was.  If you don’t feel like reading that story, let me just say, folks, that there is incredible freedom in just being who you are.  No, I don’t mean just let it all hang out wherever you are!  Manners and discretion are important, but just drop the mask.  It’s okay that all your ducks aren’t in a row!IMG_0183

And as I’ve mulled over this incredible gift of spiritual freedom and just enjoying being the ME that God made me to be, I began to think about how much physical fitness mirrors this concept of spiritual freedom.

Here’s the thing.  I felt almost as trapped by an obese body as I did by a deceived mind.  Just as my erroneous beliefs of who I was affected how I acted, my obese body affected where I went and what I did.IMG_0747

Listen, I could find any excuse in the book to not attend a social function when I was fat.  And then I would lie on the couch and have a cry because I felt lonely.  Anyone know what I’m talking about?

Seriously, I was letting my desire for food rob me of life.  When I put food in its proper place, lost the weight and put my body in a place to function more effectively and efficiently–Wow!  The world became this never-ending amusement park, full of places to go, things to try, adventures to tackle.

No, of course, everything’s not rosy.  Please.  I still have tough days.  I still struggle with erroneous thoughts.  I still make bad food choices.  7386(Yep.  I ate Cheetos last week.  Can we say bad food choice?)

But the point I’m trying to make is that being fit makes it so much easier for my body to just do what it’s supposed to do.  Because the work of just moving and caring for my body has eased, I have the strength, energy, confidence, and desire to try new things.

Fitness has given me a different kind of freedom.  How can I help you get there?

 

Talk to me:

What did you do on Easter?

Is there something weight is holding you back from doing, or at least, trying?