My 7-year-old son, Magnus, started second grade last week. The first day was an especially momentous occasion, as this was his school's official grand opening--the smell of fresh paint, new carpet and children's futures wafting through the recently erected halls. It was also a memorable day because Magnus and hundreds of his fellow classmates biked to campus. Most students live just under two miles from the school, so we are required to provide our own transportation. And what better way to get there than by bike?
Except that on the first day of school, I didn't own a bike. And didn't plan to own a bike (other than my stationary indoor cycle). But I wanted to chaperone Magnus to school to help him navigate this new adventure. I figured I would just jog with the pack of kids who ride together, at least for the first few weeks while they learned the routine. And that's what I did...the first morning. It was truly a meaningful experience watching this parade of elementary and middle school kids, clad in colorful backpacks and helmets, processing into a new year of learning at a gleaming, modern facility. Norman Rockwell would have been proud of this Small Town, USA, moment.
I jogged back home after releasing my little bird to the academic world, feeling thankful for such a positive start. Once I caught my breath, I also recalibrated my plans to run alongside the kiddos before and after school. For one thing, I don't love jogging. It's boring. It's a slow way to get somewhere. And it's killer on the joints. For another, I can't keep up with the bikes. Nope. Not even while wearing a pair of my super-duper-light-as-a-feather-ready-for-anything-neon-colored Nike running shoes.
With that, I knew what I had to do--get myself a set of wheels, and fast. But what kind? There are so many choices...so many expensive choices, and all I needed was something easy, functional, and affordable. Oh, and cute. REALLY cute. With a matching helmet. And a bell. I gotta have a bell. And while I'm at it, I'd love a cupholder and storage space (Oops, I'm talking about a bike, not a car!).
I realize this is a lot to ask for, especially by a gal who hasn't owned a bike since I rode to school on a bright yellow cruiser in the second grade. Wait! That's it! I decided to hearken back to my elementary years and get an easy-to-ride cruiser. By the second day of school, I found a sweet deal on the perfect bike: a gloss blue retro Huffy cruiser, complete with basket on the front, cupholder and rear rack for storage! Of course, I completed it with a polka-dotted bell and color-coordinated helmet.
As I rode (and wobbled...they say you never forget how to ride a bike, but that was doubtful for the first few spins around the block!) to school to pick up my son, then followed he and fellow riders home, I was reminded of riding my bike as a child. The wind in my hair. The freedom of movement. The spirit of adventure. I was rediscovering a little piece of my youth, and calling upon my body--now three decades older--to have muscle memory, to use my core for an exercise other than planks, squats, lunges, and pushups, and to engage in a new shared physical activity with my child.
This moment is why I work so hard to stay fit and healthy. To keep up with my ever growing boys. To be the parent who can ride alongside them, show them that you're never too old to be active, and to participate in their journey. Then to embarrass them by ringing that bell every chance I get!!
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Is there an activity that you loved doing as a child, but gave it up for one reason or another? Perhaps dance, tennis, rollerblading or basketball? Would you like to try it again? What's keeping you from it and how can you overcome the obstacle(s)?
At the risk of belaboring coverage of the death of comedian Robin Williams, I want to take this timely and relevant opportunity to remind readers that exercise is proven by research to be one of the best treatments for depression.
Now, before I proceed, by no means am I implying that a jog around the block could have saved Mr. Williams, or someone like him in such a hopeless state, particularly with the added knowledge that he was in the early stages of Parkinson's disease. I've read that Mr. Williams was an endurance athlete, and participated in numerous cycling and triathlon events. In fact, CNN reported that he used exercise and cycling to manage his stress and depression, but "the prospect that [Parkinson's] would prevent him from doing that was extremely upsetting, adding to the depression." So clearly, for those battling the depths of depression, exercise alone won't provide salvation.
That said, studies show that exercise, as part of a treatment program, can significantly improve symptoms of depression.
According to the article, "Understanding Depression," from the Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, "
How does exercise relieve depression? For many years, experts have known that exercise enhances the action of endorphins, chemicals that circulate throughout the body. Endorphins improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain. They may also serve to improve mood. Another theory is that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may directly improve mood.
Hear ye, hear ye, all milk lovers (and haters!)! I've come across some information that will contribute to the conversation about milk. (WHAT?! You're not engaged in a dialogue about milk?! Ok, leave it to us food geeks to hash out this topic.)
Over the last year or so, I've engaged in conversations about milk with some of my nutritionally saavy friends, most of whom shun cow's milk (or certainly non-organic versions). Their reasons vary, including that it sets off immune disorders, exacerbates chronic respiratory diseases, creates digestive issues, is filled with antibiotics and chemicals, is zapped of its nutrient content through pasteurization and homogenization, and simply, that it's just not natural to drink the milk of another creature.
In full disclosure, cow's milk has been one of my favorite beverages since I was old enough to pour my own satisfying, thirst quenching, creamy cup. As a girl, I truly believed that the reason I never broke a bone growing up was because the calcium in this miracle drink made them stronger than steel (truth is, ounce for ounce, bone IS stronger than steel!). But as a wellness advocate, I felt compelled to research my options in the milk category, particularly because it's a staple of my kids' diet (one of whom has asthma), and I want my family to consume what's healthiest.
If you peered into my refrigerator over the last few months, you would have found a combination of organic skim cow's milk, organic plain soy milk, organic rice milk, organic almond milk and organic coconut milk, and last year, I experimented with raw cow's milk (geez, I've spent a ton of money on milk!).
After all of this sampling, what remains in my fridge today? Organic skim cow's milk and a carton of Silk's almond/coconut blend (Score! Two in one!). As info, I use the almond/coconut blend in smoothies that will also include either yogurt or powdered whey protein.
So, for now, I'm comfortable continuing with organic cow's milk, particularly when I come across articles like the one I included below from The Running Blog by The Guardian. The article (with only minor edits for brevity) aims to prove that milk is the best recovery drink out there. Additionally, several other sources support milk's benefits for post-workout recovery:
For those of us who train hard, want quick recovery and nutrient replenishment, and desire faster results, what we consume, and when, really matters. Based on these articles, milk--with yummy chocolate!--should be on the menu.
THE SECRET POWERS OF CHOCOLATE MILK
Source: The Running Blog by The Guardian
Mo Farah drinks it, scientific studies recommend it, and a round-the-world athlete swears by it – could chocolate milk drink be a runner's best friend?
Studies indicate that chocolate milk contains the ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio for post-run recovery.
Mo Farah has a penchant for chocolate milk after races and intense training sessions, but far from being a rare moment when the double Olympic champion strays from his almost monastic nutritional regime, this is actually a vital part of his post-run recovery program.
The explosion of research in sports science over the past decade has allowed elite athletes to approach every aspect of racing in minute detail in a bid to gain even the smallest of edges. And as unlikely as it sounds, there is a growing belief that a humble bottle of chocolate milk may be the best recovery drink out there: "We now know that chocolate milk has the ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio, which your muscles require to replenish glycogen levels," says Kelly Pritchett of the department of foods and nutrition at the University of Georgia.
The surprisingly revitalising qualities of chocolate milk were only discovered by accident. A scientific study looking at the best beverages for post-exercise rehydration was supposed to pit the finest electrolyte sports drinks on the market against each other. Nine elite cyclists were taken through a series of glycogen-depleting exercises, consuming various recovery drinks in between, while a handful were given just milk as a control to gauge the relative benefits of each drink. But in an unexpected twist, the cyclists on milk outperformed their rivals by a considerable margin.
Initially this was thought to be a fluke, but sports scientists from a variety of different institutions have since repeated the experiment with similar results. Chocolate milk contains a three-to-one ratio of carbohydrate grams to protein grams which appears to enhance glycogen replenishment, as well as far more potassium, calcium and vitamin D than most sports drinks. Crucially, chocolate milk also appears to be naturally tuned to human digestive systems – the dairy-intolerant or allergic clearly notwithstanding – containing exactly the right balance of fast-absorbing proteins such as whey protein (which pumps essential amino acids into the bloodstream promoting muscle growth and repair), and slow-absorbing proteins such as casein (which keeps amino acids in the blood stream many hours later, reducing the amount of muscle breakdown).
In response, the manufacturers of Gatorade and other similar post-exercise thirst quenchers have attempted to copy the optimal carbohydrate-protein ratio found in milk, but even with their upgraded products, they cannot outperform the real thing.
"The key thing is there are still no studies which have found chocolate milk to be inferior, so it's always either equal or superior to your over-the-counter recovery drinks," Pritchett says. "And from a cost standpoint, on a weekly basis you're looking at maybe £7 a week versus up to £24. So it's more economical."
While it may appear that the chocolate is only there to make it taste nice, the extra sugar actually plays a key part in ensuring you're getting the post-exercise recommendations for carbohydrate: an 8oz glass of chocolate milk contains about 30-35g of carbohydrate compared to just 12g in normal milk.
With athletes including Farah constantly seeking ways to push the boundaries, several studies have also investigated whether alternative milks such as almond or soy may prove even more effective recovery beverages. But while it was found neither contains the optimum balance that makes low-fat chocolate milk ideal – with soy lacking the carbohydrate content and almond lacking the requisite amount of protein – this research did reveal that timing is crucial.
"In order to enhance recovery, the key is to get the carbohydrate and protein you need in the first two hours after exercise," says Pritchett. "We say this is the window of opportunity, as the ability to replace muscle glycogen is boosted during that period when you have increased blood flow going to the muscles. If you wait longer, it could take more time to restore your natural levels."
Chocolate milk has also been found to be an excellent drink for runners taking part in intense multi-day endurance events. Last September, 52-year-old Tom Denniss, a mathematics researcher from Sydney, broke the world record for a round-the-world run, completing more than 600 consecutive marathons to cover 26,000km in just 622 days. Denniss firmly believes that chocolate milk made a huge difference to his ability to clock up the miles without sustaining injury: "To recover I just sat down at the end of each day, and before the day started, and I'd mix up a litre of chocolate milk," he said. "I found that was really important for hydration. I had always been a reasonably big milk drinker anyway, but I thought that was just me, just what I liked. It turns out it contains exactly the right sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium electrochemical balance which the body requires for the muscle synapses to fire."
"Chocolate milk is a very effective recovery beverage especially when doing something like multiple marathons back to back," Pritchett confirms. "You're not going to be able to recover if you can't get in the carbs and the protein, and the nice thing about it is that it's convenient and it's an easy way to get something in if you find you don't want to eat after exercise."
This entry is a bit of a departure for my blog, which primarily centers on health and wellness subjects. But I feel justified to stray from my usual path today. Because it’s my birthday. My 40th birthday. The Big 4-0. Four decades. Twenty plus twenty. You get the idea. It’s a milestone birthday, so please indulge me as I wax philosophical about my life thus far.
Most of my birthdays over the last decade have come and gone with adequate, yet unmemorable fanfare, and even less reflection. By the time I hit 30, then started having babies, the world became so much less about me, and most of my subsequent birthday celebrations demonstrated that. I say that not to complain, but to make the point that I don’t want this birthday—my, gulp, 40th—to pass by as just another day. Because it’s not. Should I be blessed to live to 80, I’m officially middle age, even though the sweet cashier at Wal-Mart who carded me said middle age is really 55. Bless her.
I teeter between moments of mourning for my youth, and thankfulness that I’ve had this much life. It’s not that I wish I could return to my 20s, because I don’t. I lacked wisdom, humility and perspective that I’ve earned since then through mistakes, loss and perseverance.
It’s just that 40 is, well, FOOOOOORTY. This is when people start saying, “You’re how old? Oh, I hope I look like you when I’m that old.” And, “Oh girl, you look great for your age.”
What else happens at 40? Brown spots. I’m now noticing brown spots. And random gray hairs in conspicuous places. And the insistence on wearing large brimmed hats when I’m in the sun. And less tolerance for teenage shenanigans. And growing pessimism and weariness of government, politics, food quality, the environment and what the future looks like for my boys. Oh, and phobias—of flying, murky ocean water, cruise ships and germs.
Despite all of that, there’s a lot of good stuff about turning 40: four decades’ worth of memorable loving, laughing and living it up—and great health! So, to kick off my mid-life celebration, I’m going to pause long enough to reflect on 20 highlights and reasons for gratitude in my 40 years (in no particular order) :
1. I have functional relationships with my immediate family members. It’s actually better than that, but being a child of divorce and having familial ups and downs since, I’m just thankful that I can call any of my closest relatives and end the conversation with “I love you.”
2. I married a remarkable man. After a bitter breakup with a prior boyfriend in college, I’ll never forget my sister saying to me, “If he’s not the one God intended, think how much better that one will be.” She was right.
3. I was able to get pregnant three times, and deliver two precious boys. Despite losing my second pregnancy, I embrace that experience because it made me more compassionate, humble and relatable.
4. I was able to breastfeed my children—an act that, for me, made me feel wholly woman, perfectly nourished my children and gave greater utility to my body as it was designed.
5. I was raised by parents who were focused on instilling character in me, not on indulging every whim and wish my adolescent heart desired. Character-building moments were often painful, but made me resilient and appreciative.
6. I’ve traveled abroad and throughout North America, which has blessed me with perspective. It taught me that I am such a minute part of this world, yet have an ability to make positive contributions that benefit us all.
7. I was raised in the church and came to accept Christ as my savior at an early age. My faith has served as my compass and foundation throughout my life.
8. I was born in North Carolina. I love that state, and despite growing up mostly in Florida, returning to that state as an adult instantly reconnected me to my roots.
9. I have a small handful of loyal friends. They have sustained me through relocations, remind me of the value of community and raise my spirits when I’m down.
10. I have never been poor, hungry, unsheltered, unwanted or unloved. Considering the immeasurable poverty, homelessness, abuse and anquish experienced by millions in this world, I consider that a significant highlight in my life.
11. I get to pursue my passion for fitness professionally. While the financial compensation is lacking in this field, the reward I receive from clients whose lives are enhanced through my facilitation is highly fulfilling.
12. I had a strong female figure in my life—my grandmother, Priscilla—who was ahead of her time with fashion, nutrition and fitness. By example, she taught me to be independent, confident and brave.
13. I have never had a serious illness or injury. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, being able to move your body as it was designed is, well, everything. I have friends with varying degrees of physical limitations, and their perseverance inspires me and makes me thankful for my full physical capacity.
14. I worked in corporate America for a decade, and while I was reluctant to conform to the confines of cubicle life and corporate speak early on, that experience has paid dividends ever since.
15. I have eaten my favorite food—pizza—all over the world, and am thankful that my top pick comes from a U.S. chain.
16. My last three homes have backed up to woods. Not a big deal to some, but being able to step out on the back porch and see nature in action, hear rustling leaves and watch the seasons change provides an oft needed slice of serenity.
17. I grew up without a dishwasher, clothes dryer, computer and cable tv, and my first car had no AC and a hole in the floor board. Why is this a highlight? Because I sure as heck appreciate having those things now!!
18. I’ve been able to easily secure employment throughout my life. I had great jobs in college, a career in communications with a Fortune 500 company immediately upon graduating, have had my own communications consulting business for years, and have held positions of authority at leading health and wellness businesses. For some folks, good jobs are elusive. I’ve been blessed with several.
19. My palate has evolved such that I truly desire healthy foods over fast foods. I fully embrace and believe the “you-are-what-you-eat” concept, and am thankful to have access to nutritionally dense food options. I grew up eating organic vegetables from my family’s garden. I had no idea then how beneficial and unusual that was to be able to pick fresh lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, green onions, pole beans, gourds and herbs from my own back yard. How I wish I had that now!
20. I stepped on the scale this morning, and my weight is essentially the same as it was when I was 20. Woohoo! Even better, my body composition has improved since my 20s as I have applied what I’ve learned over the years about exercise techniques and clean eating. I’m much leaner and more defined at 40. And I love that my job allows me to help other people achieve similar results.
As I celebrate this birthday and reflect on my life’s journey so far, my heart is full with gratitude. I have been blessed immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagined. Bring on the next 40 (although I’m in no hurry!)!!
Want to help me celebrate? Join me in :
SUBSCRIBE HERE to FitnessIsFreedom.net!
Molly is a wife, mom,
CLICK HERE AND ENTER YOUR NAME AND EMAIL ADDRESS TO RECEIVE THE LATEST NEWS FROM FITNESSISFREEDOM.NET!
I am not a registered dietitian, nor a medical professional. My blog is a representation of my views and experiences, which are not intended as medical advice. While I am a certified personal trainer, descriptions of things I eat and exercises I perform may not be suitable for everyone. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your current routine.