15301843831_faa5506137_zI just completed a 30-day squat challenge. Let me tell you, it was quite the experience. I’m not one for exercise and tend to stick to a work-out routine for a short amount of time (or until I get distracted). One of my biggest challenges is falling back into a healthy routine once it has been interrupted. However, this squat challenge forced me to keep going. I didn’t allow a busy day to get in my way or cause me to call it quits (even though there were plenty of times that I wanted to). I was inspired after seeing one of my favorite bands perform at the end of March. The whole concert had an uplifting vibe and many motivational words were spoken. It triggered something in me. I told myself that I had to do something to better my life in some way (no matter how big or small). I simply needed a change. I decided to start small with a work out challenge. I chose the squat challenge and mentally prepared myself for the days to come. I didn’t go into it with an “I got this!” attitude. I knew there would be days that would make me curse myself for being motivated to make a change like this, and that there’d be days where I would want to give up and binge watch shows on Netflix instead. I knew I had to prove something to myself. I needed to make it through the next 30 days no matter how many times I’d try to creatively convince myself to quit.

I researched the proper form, typical number of squats in a set, and general tips. This information helped me to feel more prepared and confident. As the number of squats increased each day from the starting number of 50, I felt many emotions. I would have good days where I was motivated and looking forward to my small bit of exercise. I also had days where I would avoid it until the last minute and power through because I had to. The last day of the challenge concluded with 250 squats. The thought alone made me tired. As the number per day got above 100, I would break my exercise into segments to be completed throughout the day instead of over-exerting myself in one sitting. This certainly helped and made those numbers a lot less daunting. I soon figured out that it was all about finding what worked best for me.

I chose to start with one goal instead of compiling a huge list that would otherwise be disappointing if not accomplished. I knew that if I were to go from little to no exercise to a three hour workout every day that I would fail. I knew that I needed to set realistic goals in order to be successful. Guess what? It worked! I completed the challenge and survived to tell you about it.

When it comes to healthier living, it’s important to make manageable changes at a realistic pace.

Now that the squat challenge is over, I’ve made squats a part of my daily routine. I rest every fourth day in order to give my muscles a break. Now that I have added something new to my lifestyle, I am ready to add another form of exercise. This time I think I might go with something a bit more fun… maybe hula hooping!

Editor’s Note: Please consult your physician before making any kind of exercise or diet change to your daily routine.

Laci Radford is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch and STEM Education Center. She is a music lover, writer, and an avid reader. She enjoys attending concerts, plays, and other forms of live entertainment. Her favorite activities include scoping out unique items at thrift stores, bonfires with friends, and having tie-dye parties. She is studying Psychology and plans to become a music and art therapist sooner rather than later.

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Did you know that exercise videos are just a click away? We want to get in shape and have fun doing it. Variety keeps us motivated as well as taking on all aspects of fitness, including aerobic capacity, endurance, strength, toning, balance, and flexibility. If you have a computer and a Howard County Library System card (special 75th anniversary edition available right now), you can stream health and fitness videos. While you’re at it, download energizing music to keep you moving on your walk or select an inspirational audiobook about nutrition.

Go to hclibrary.org, look at the bottom right corner of the home page, and click on streaming. You will then find links to Freegal and Hoopla. Explore the choices, pick your movie, music or book and you’re on your way. Freegal has an entire category of movies devoted to health and fitness. Hoopla has the option to explore movies by genre and also has health and fitness selections. The websites walk you through how to register and download materials.

Freegal’s fitness videos include a collection of pilates instructional movies. In addition to general pilates, choices include pilates for men as well as pilates for pregnant women. You can also stream videos of exercise routines addressing joint pain, core strength and emotional stress. HCLS customers may stream up to 3 videos per week and each may be borrowed for 2 days. Freegal allows you to build your music library because you can download and keep 3 songs per week. HCLS customers can also stream up to 3 hours of music per week.

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Hoopla offers an even more extensive selection of fitness videos. Hoopla is a great site to explore for yoga instruction. The selection includes several yoga for kids videos. There are videos with yoga techniques targeted to patients with hypertension, diabetes, joint pain, digestive problems, and sleep disorders. There are movies to assist with weight loss, learning Tai Chi, and improving flexibility. There are even videos for fans of Forks over Knives and The 5 Love Languages. Hoopla movies can be streamed or temporarily downloaded through the app for a viewing period of 3 days.

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Hoopla has a large selection of audiobooks as well. By genre, take a look at personal development and health and nutrition. Topics include running, pilates and reversing the aging process. You can learn about meditation, how to lose belly fat, strength training, and breaking unhealthy habits. Explore the music collection too. Albums can be borrowed for 7 days and audiobooks for 21 days.

Computers don’t have to cause us to be more sedentary; they can connect us to activity and healthy lifestyles. The Freegal and Hoopla collections are always expanding. These applications do not have wait lists as the content is available to stream to multiple users at once. You can explore new ways to improve your body and mind today.

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m just not an exerciser. I’ve always disliked going to the gym, or finding time to exercise outside of one. I have plenty of excuses for not doing even those exercises I enjoy, like walking, running, or biking: “It’s too hot/cold/raining,” “There’s nobody to go with me,” or “I don’t have anywhere specific to go.” But, there is one type of exercise that I can always fit into my schedule, and that’s simple bodyweight exercises. Stuff like push-ups, crunches, and dips. Plus, I can do them in the comfort of my own home in just a few minutes.

you are your own gymAs the title of this book describes, You Are Your Own Gym, Mark Lauren and Joshua Clark’s self-named Bible of Bodyweight Exercises, contains 141 bodyweight exercises that can be performed pretty much anywhere. Some of them are the obvious favorites that everyone knows like push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and lunges, plus numerous variations on each. Others are more unusual like the whimsically named “the roof is on fire,” “shrugs and kisses,” “good mornings,” and “little piggies.”

The authors also provide some program ideas for various levels of experience and fitness, from beginner to “elite.” These programs call for different types of workouts each day, with recommended exercises meant to improve varying aspects of fitness (endurance, strength, and power). They call for performing 3-4 exercises a day for a total of 20-30 minutes of exercise – an easy amount of time to fit into any busy person’s schedule. One thing I particularly appreciate about this book is that it isn’t meant for one gender or age, and half the pictures depicting the exercises are of a female. It’s written in a very friendly manner that makes it easy to understand and makes exercise a simple and easily personalized task. It’s objective is to teach readers how to build their own basic exercise routines around the exercises that will work best for them – and why that’s what they should be doing.

7 weeks to 50 pull upsIf you want to get more specific, there’s also 7 Weeks to 50 Pull-Ups by Brett Stewart. This program promises to “help you build a stronger body and sculpt your physique in just 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week.” I speak from experience when I say, “You don’t even have to be able to do a single pull-up to begin a program like this.” I started out having to hop up to perform one chin-up on the pull-up bar I have at home (bad form, I know), and now, I can consecutively knock out 5 chin ups (or 3 pull ups). It may not sound like much, but it’s better than none! In fact, there’s a prep level program included for those of us who aren’t at the “7 pull-up minimum” recommended for starting the real program.

Why bother? Well, one day when I fall off a mountain and can pull myself back up without assistance, I’ll know my simple exercise routine was a success!

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, since 2003. When not at work, she spends her time reading science fiction and comics, visiting local breweries, watching horror movies, and playing video games.

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Incorporating physical activity into our daily lives is one of the biggest challenges in today’s world. We all know the importance, but still seem to find getting into a routine difficult. Instead of listening to the media and government recommendations, figure out what works in your schedule! Here are some tips to help you build a lifetime of healthy living:

Editor’s Note: If you want to live healthfully and you want to be active, there is no better way than to start! Get moving! However, always consult your physician before starting a new exercise or diet regimen. We at Well & Wise, want you to get well, stay well, and be wise about how you do it. 

Lisa Martin founded the Girls on the Run program in Howard County in 2009. Lisa is AFAA & NSCA certified, has more than 15 years of personal training experience, and practices a multidimensional wellness approach at her studio, Salvere Health & Fitness. Lisa says that one of the best things about being in the health and fitness industry is watching people accomplish things they never thought possible.

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exercise and sleep“There is a reciprocal relationship between sleep and exercise,” said Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., medical director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital. “Most of us recognize the fact that when we sleep well we feel better and have more energy during the day, which includes feeling more motivated and having more energy to exercise. Those who sleep well tend to lead a more active lifestyle.”

On the flip side, studies show that the average person who exercises regularly has a tendency to fall asleep more quickly and go into deeper sleep stages. “These individuals also appear to prime their body and brain to be better and more efficient sleepers, which results in waking up feeling more rested and restored,” noted Dr. Gamaldo.

Exercise and insomnia
People suffering from insomnia are unable to fall asleep or struggle with staying asleep. For those who don’t respond to treatment, recent data suggests that exercise may help.

In one study, participants suffering with long-standing insomnia exercised moderately (with an increase in heart rate) for 50 minutes, three times a week, for six months,” said Dr. Gamaldo. “The results showed a significant improvement in their insomnia. This was not just a subjective measurement on how they felt, but also based on their sleep quality as measured in a sleep lab. This is exciting news, and there is no downside of exercise, no bad side effects. Patients also reap the health benefits that come with increased physical activity along with better sleep.”

Exercise when you can!
Although this study showed that the time of day that people exercised didn’t negatively impact the participant’s sleep, Dr. Gamaldo warns that everyone is different.  “I encourage my patients to exercise and, if they can fit it in more practically in the evening without hampering their sleep, then they should do so. For a long time we felt you shouldn’t exercise in the evening before sleep, and for some people that may still be the case. Listen to your body and try to incorporate physical activity at some point in your day that works for you.”

Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., is the medical director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital and associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine. For an appointments, call 800-937-5337.

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fitness mythsIn a very health-conscious society where the media is overrun by fitness and nutrition studies and reports, people still struggle with losing weight and living an overall consistently healthy lifestyle. The media gives so much information on the “right” foods to eat, the “right” way to exercise, and the “right” way to live that many people are confused and frustrated. Is there a “right” when it comes to eating and exercising?

As the fitness industry continues to research and discover more information, the public is constantly exposed to new and updated recommendations. After facts have been passed from source to source, challenged and changed, health and fitness news can become distorted and misinterpreted not to mention overwhelming. Let’s take a look at some of these confusing misconceptions regarding fitness.

How about we start with spot reduction? For example, in order to lose “weight” around your belly, focus on sit-ups or some other abdominal exercise regularly. This will give you a smaller waist, right? Well, this theory of “spot reduction” is impossible. You can specify where you build muscle, unfortunately, a person has no control over where his or her body chooses to burn fat. Muscle helps improve metabolism, resulting in an increase in the amount of calories the body burns but your body has a mind of its own and will lose from wherever.

Speaking of building muscle, another misinterpreted fact concerns weight-lifting. Women commonly believe that weights will make them big and bulky like a man and they should lift only light dumbbells. In fact, only a very small percentage of women have the necessary hormones to naturally do so. Men tend to build bulk and carry more muscle, whereas women tend to create tone and definition. Often, the feeling of bulk comes from adding muscle and not burning the overlying body fat. Womens bodies naturally carry more fat than men, in a healthy way. Increasing muscle improves metabolism, decreases risk of injury, makes daily activities easier and builds strong bones.

how to think about exercsieSo we know exercising is important, but how long? “Research says” 60-90 minutes of physical activity most days. Raise your hand if you have that much time in a day to dedicate to exercise. Very few of us do. Do what you can make time for – but do something! If you only have 20 minutes, move and challenge yourself to work hard during that time. Break it down into shorter segments and use the weekends for a little longer workouts.

Looking at when to schedule your workout, exercising in the morning is best, right? As a trainer, I first ask clients who think this if they will actually wake up at 5 am to exercise (or anything else for that matter!). Most of the time, the answer is “no!” So this brings us to science vs. real life. If you know it’s not something you will do, then the science does not matter. Set yourself up for success and consistency, plan to do it at a time when you feel your best. The benefits may be slightly greater but not greater then doing nothing.

Many fitness recommendations out there promise to be the best. Be sure to find out the best way for you to maximize your results based on your goals, body, time frame and resources. Simplify fitness and eating; if it came from the earth, eat it in moderate portions; work out regularly on a consistent basis. No matter what the media claims, choosing your own health path is essential to getting the best results for you.

Lisa Martin founded the Girls on the Run program in Howard County in 2009. Lisa is AFAA & NSCA certified, has more than 15 years of personal training experience, and practices a multidimensional wellness approach at her studio, Salvere Health & Fitness. Lisa says that one of the best things about being in the health and fitness industry is watching people accomplish things they never thought possible.

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