What Will Your New Year Look Like?

The holidays are in full-swing and the new year is fast approaching. If you’ve spent too much of the recent weeks counting bites of treats the way you used to count reps during your workout, now just may be a good time to inject a little sanity.

I’ve found a common human trait is an all or nothing approach to healthy lifestyle habits. The typical “Resolutioners” trend I see every January in the gym is a great example. After the over-indulgence that often accompanies the holiday season, people are looking to get a fresh start and turn over a new leaf.   They dive head first into that new gym membership, new way of eating and are determined to work so hard that all holiday damage will be undone and physique goals reached in a few short weeks.

You know how this story ends…the realities of your busy daily life settles in, you’re tired, hungry, and frustrated that the scale hasn’t budged. You throw in the towel and declare that nothing works.

What if we paint an entirely different picture this New Year? What is we honor that our lives really are full and busy, but place value in knowing that caring for ourselves will allow us to bring our best selves to the varying roles we play in life? What if we set ourselves up for success with a little planning and realistic goal setting?

Imagine that one year from now you have successfully adapted 12 new habits. Visualize how much better your quality of life could be if you narrowed your focus to one specific goal until it became a part of who you are. Instead of trying to tackle 12 new habits at once and giving up when the inevitable days of feeling overwhelmed arrive, how successful and motivating would it be to tackle your goals in stages?

Visualize January as the month you honor the value of being well-rested. You make a plan for what time you’ll be in bed each night.  As the days go by and your rest becomes more consistent, you notice you’re waking up with a good attitude and a sense of vibrant energy. Every part of the rest of your day improves because your body as energy. The real, pure energy that comes from allowing your body the time it needs to recover from the rigors of day-to-day life.

February arrives and you’re eager for the next step, now that you are no longer feeling the need for a caffeine fix to get through the afternoon because you wake up feeling rested on more days than not. You know exercise is important and you set action goals to incorporate more activity in your life. You set a goal for 12 workouts this month. You pack your gym bag before bed each night. As the days go by you find yourself look forward to your new routine. You’re noticing your sleep quality and energy continue to improve with regular physical activity.

As March approaches, you know nutrition is the missing catalyst to boost your results and support your new-found energy.  Rather than embark on a diet you pick one habit to embrace, such as eating 1/2 C of vegetables with breakfast. You discover it only takes you two weeks to adhere to this new habit. Excited to accelerate your success you set your next specific nutritional goal of adding 1/2 C of veggies to lunch as well.  The positive cycle is in motion and it’ll be hard to slow you down now!

Life is a series of choices. Ideally, we learn and adjust as we go, in an effort to better ourselves and lead the life we truly desire. It’s not a matter of perfection, but of dedication to the process of learning and loving ourselves along the way. When we set measurable, specific goals and focus on the action steps necessary to reach those goals we drastically increase our odds of success. However, most of us default to the frenzy of diving in head first with no real direction and a vague sense of what we are trying to achieve.

Ask yourself what your new year will look like. Set aside a little time to create a realistic plan and don’t be afraid to adjust as you go. The days and weeks will pass either way, so why not be good to yourself and let this be the year you embrace the journey of change?

To Your Best Health,

Autum

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Creating Peace Within

As we find ourselves in the midst of another holiday season, I want to share a few thoughts about not only surviving the season, but actually enjoying it. The usual American mantra of “so much to do in so little time” is ratcheted up a few notches at this time of year. Most people I know, myself included, truly want to enjoy the simple beauties in life; good food and shared moments with loved ones. However, the whirlwind of everyday life topped with expectations of holiday decorating, decadent get-togethers, and the commercial mayhem called gift giving, wraps us up into one big bundle of stress.

The truth is, the frenzy can only envelop us if we allow it. Each year I strive to enjoy the holiday season a little more and shoulder less stress along the way. Knowing what is most important to me and making decisions based on these values makes the process a little easier. I know I’m on the right track if I’m not a heap of tears and exhaustion before Dec. 25th even arrives. (Really, I think this was my turning point a few years back; it wasn’t a pretty picture!)

My husband and I just returned from our 5th annual trip to Cabo San Lucas. We made the decision in 2007, to prioritize an annual vacation centered around rejuvenation and quality time together.

Do you ever fantasize about what your days would be like if you weren’t concerned with schedules, to-do lists and the necessity of earning income? That is what I wanted this week to be.

Each day I honored what felt right in the moment. I enjoyed fresh air and beautiful scenery as I engaged in yoga, walking hills, swimming in the pool, and reading for pleasure. I allowed myself time to sit in the sand, facing the beautiful Pacific Ocean, and process emotions of life. I recently lost my first loved one, with the passing of my paternal Grandpa at the end of October. It was a gift to have time and space to grieve, and be grateful for having 34 wonderful years with him.

I’m not suggesting we can all escape to paradise to get our priorities set before the holiday madness descends. In some ways, the timing of our annual trip adds to the challenge, as we return home and immediately dive into Thanksgiving.

What I am suggesting, is allowing yourself permission to enjoy the best of the holiday season. Know what is most important to you, and honor that with your choices. As the holiday season winds down, you’ll know you’ve created peace within yourself when you still recognize your smiling reflection in the mirror.

I’d love to hear about your holiday experience! What strategies have you incorporated to minimize the chaos and enjoy the beauty?

To Your Best Health,

Autum

P.S. The header photo of this blog is one of my favorite views at the resort we stay at in Cabo. The entrance drive is long and this photo shows the view when you finally crest the hill and the ocean spreads out before you. This generates a huge smile, inside and out, each time I see it.

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Keep Your Knees Healthy

Maintaining the health of our joints can be a bit of a catch-22. A sedentary lifestyle leads to gradual weakening of the muscles and thus the joints as well. A very active lifestyle may lead to wear and tear type injuries. Ideally, we hope to fall somewhere in the middle; keeping our bodies strong and stable, while avoiding over-use.

Knees are one of the most commonly injured joints, be it from instability, wear and tear, random mishaps or athletic endeavors. The great news is there are some basic exercises you can add into your life – today – to help improve the health of this very important joint.

Whether you are looking for preventative tips, rebuilding after an injury or surgery, or wanting to eliminate some current aches/pains before an injury occurs, check out the video below for some user-friendly tips to keep your knees happy.

Please leave your feedback and questions as you give these exercises a try. You’ll want to master these before progressing to part 2, which I’ll share in an upcoming blog. If you want some insider tips before then, subscribe to the PaleoExperience YouTube channel, where part 2 is already posted. ;)

To Your Best Health,

Autum

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Do Your Workouts Own You?

Humans are funny creatures.  We’re the only ones who pursue exercise intentionally. The rest of nature is active to the end of satisfying a need…shelter, hunger, survival, or simply for play.  It is through modern conveniences, such as fully stocked grocery stores and housing pre-built for us, that we’ve evolved to look at exercise as something we aspire to do in order to alter our body composition or state of health.

As a Fitness Professional, I certainly take a pro-exercise stance. However, I encourage you to be fully engaged in the process. We are most successful in maintaining life-long habits when we are clear with our intentions and incorporate joy into our daily activities. Why do you choose to exercise? To narrow this further, why are you engaging in specific activities and how did you decide on the schedule or frequency?

Visualize this exercise spectrum. At one end we have the person who is not engaged in purposeful physical activity. At the other end, is someone so committed to their exercise regimen the very idea of missing a workout stresses them out. Do you recognize either of these people? Maybe you’ve filled these shoes yourself.

Think about hobbies you’ve enjoyed in the past or have considered pursuing. Maybe you used to enjoy hiking, but your knees started bothering you. Soon, your boots were spending more time at home than on the trail.  On a recent sunny day, have you admired families biking together, wishing you could do the same?

Exercise can serve a much a deeper purpose in our lives than simply helping us fit into our skinny jeans or making a doctor happy. What if we pursued physical activity with the intent of hiking, biking or playing basketball again without pain or feeling out of breath? What if the side effects of all our time in the gym were more fun in our leisure time with family and friends and no longer needing blood pressure lowering medication or being a Type II Diabetic?

I believe in making life choices that reflect our individuality. Live purposefully, with passion and intent, making the most of your time in this life. As we honor and cultivate our uniqueness, we create a positive cycle that cannot help but infect every aspect of our lives. A happier you carries through to your family, workplace, and all who cross your path.

I know first-hand that feeling owned by the workout is no fun.  It was almost comical when I recognized how counter-productive it was to get stressed-out because life got in the way of a planned exercise session. Aligning my personal goals of being happy, healthy, and fit with my desire to experience and enjoy life have been like connecting the dots to create a picture of me.

I’d love to hear if you’ve found yourself moving along this exercise spectrum and how you’ve connected your own dots to take ownership of the role of exercise in your life. Use the Share Your Thoughts box at the bottom of the page to let me know your experience. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, please help me grow my audience by sharing this post, or simply clicking the “like” button to show your support!

To Your Best Health,

Autum

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Turn Back the Clock

Visualize your co-worker seated at his/her desk, working at the computer for hours on end, brow furrowed, leaning in closer to the monitor, concentrating on the task at hand. Now realize this visualization applies just as accurately to your co-worker visualizing You.

If you’re one of a shrinking number of Americans who doesn’t have a desk based job, think of how much of your daily life is spent either seated, or engaged in activity that does not promote strong, upright posture; cleaning, gardening, landscaping, driving, repetitive bending and lifting (without perfect form every time), working in a salon, construction . . . the list goes on.

Each of these activities promote a forward flexed posture. Take a look around and you’ll see plenty of examples; chin jutting out, shoulders rounded forward, belly protruding. Chances are, you may avoid looking in the mirror because you don’t want to see this evidence reflected back at you.

Stiffness or pain in the knees, hips, or back need not be viewed as a normal part of aging that is out of your control.  More commonly, these ailments are symptoms of modern man (and woman!) and result from habits and activities of daily living.

The great news is you can start turning back the clock and restoring the pain-free movement you once enjoyed! Check out the video below, created by my partner in the Paleo Experience Bootcamp, Rueben, and I, for the juicy details.

Foam rollers and tennis balls are inexpensive tools to have at home. With consistent use you will begin to notice greater freedom of movement and dissipation of chronic aches and pains.

I’d love to hear your experience with using the foam roller and related tools. Jump to the end of the page and use the “Share Your Thoughts” box. If you enjoyed this post, you can show your support by clicking the “Like” button that follows.

To Your Best Health,

Autum

P.S. Stay up to date on our weekly health-related tips by subscribing to our YouTube channel.

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Come Along for the Ride

This ride begins with a young girl on a horse (see photos below), but takes unexpected twists and turns. I hope you’ll saddle up with me as I explore the range of structural issues that have left me feeling sub-par for years, so that my experiences can help you in your own ventures toward optimal wellness.

I’m quite sure that having structural issues from a young age (functional scoliosis  and limited range of motion in the ankle/lower leg likely linked to genetic issues passed on from Mom having been born with club feet) were further compounded by competitively riding horses during my prime formative years. I wouldn’t change the wonderful experiences in my youth that resulted from working with horses from age 7 – 15, but the nature of the activity is anything but gentle on ones’ body.

Much of my life, however, has been full of pain, fatigue, weakness, and muscle spasms.  I’ve seen a number of doctors and massage therapists over the years and have been fortunate to have had chiropractic care for the majority of my life, as my mom became a Doctor of Chiropractic when I was 10 years old. (I am aware of the varied personal opinions that exist regarding the field of chiropractic, and respect that we all have had different experiences in our lives. I do not intend to use this blog as a way to address these opinions, but rather to share my experience with you.)

I’ve continually worked to improve my knowledge of the body and apply what I’ve learned toward bettering my personal situation. I have had reasonable success over the years, but I’ve felt enough limitations and back-sliding in what I’m capable of doing versus what I desire to do in life, that I remain open-minded and in search of healing.

Presently, this search has landed me in the care of The Yardley Institute, a chiropractic practice that specializes in treating the upper cervical spine. I greatly appreciate that we share a primary belief in the ability of the body to heal itself. Using this shared philosophy as a guide, they are able to help remove internal stress on the brain stem, which in turns allows the nervous, muscular and organ systems to heal and function correctly.

I am far from an expert at explaining this process, but I will do my best. The upper cervical vertebrae include the bones of your neck, which connect your head to your shoulders. Dr. Yardley has completed additional education in order to specialize in treating this delicate and vitally important area of the body. He is board certified by the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA), whose focus is not only on the upper cervical area, but in particular, the first cervical vertebra, C-1, also known as the atlas.

The atlas is the small bone that your skull rests on and the area which is responsible for housing the brain stem, which is literally the physical manifestation of the brain-body connection. Your brain communicates with your body via the brain stem, which turns into the spinal cord and runs through the length of your spine, with nerves branching off at each vertebra. If C-1 is out of alignment, the brain stem is under continual torsion and strain, and the brain cannot effectively communicate with the body. Thus, every aspect of your well-being is affected to varying degrees by the health of this brain-body connection.

The brain stem runs from the base of the brain through the open space in the center of each vertebra

At Yardley, they use X-rays, along with 5 specific assessments at each visit, to determine if C-1 is out of alignment, or not, and the exact nature of your individual situation. It is fascinating to see X-rays of your own skull and spine and see how and where you may have a rotated pelvis, contracted leg, tilted skull, etc.

The actual adjustment of the atlas is difficult to describe, and is unlike any other physical manipulation I’ve experienced. The bone is very delicate and the adjustment technique reflects this. After a precise alignment of the body while lying on a table made for adjusting the cervical vertebrae, the doctor uses what I would describe as a gentle vibration created with the hands positioned just under the ear. (See photos on the Yardley site; the 5th one shows this adjustment.)

Being assessed in the Anatometer (pretending I'm Rose from the movie, "Titanic")

I’m less than a month into my treatment at The Yardley Institute and am so far enjoying the process. The doctors and staff are incredibly informative, clear communicators and positive people. Based on the 17,000+ cases they’ve worked with, they estimate my treatment time to be approx. 5 1/2 months, during which time they continually monitor my progress through the 5 tests and periodic X-rays. The atlas is only adjusted if I do not pass the standards set for 3 or more of the tests in a given visit.

My goal is for this treatment to play a valuable role in relieving internal, physical stress, thus allowing healing and optimization of my overall health. When the body is under strain, each of us will exhibit varying symptoms, which is why the focus isn’t on alleviating symptoms, but on getting to the root cause and allowing healing to take place. I can say, however, that one complaint I’ve had for many years is what I describe as a congested and sluggish feeling at the base of my skull.  Frankly, it drives me crazy! I was pleasantly surprised to notice relief from this feeling after my first adjustment.

In the waiting room of The Yardley Institute is a map with thumb tacks showing where various patients have traveled from to work with these skilled practitioners.  I have been impressed to hear a variety of accents and talk with people from other cities, states and even countries!  In fact, one of the doctors moved here from Australia to have the honor of working with Dr. Yardley.  I am grateful they are a short drive from my home and work.

I’d love to hear if you’ve received, or considered, similar treatment. In addition, all constructive comments, thoughts and questions are welcome. Simply scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll find a user-friendly “Share Your Thoughts” section.

To Your Best Health,

Autum

P.S. To stay up to date with these weekly blogs, enter your e-mail address in the “Subscribe” box in the upper right hand column of this page. You won’t receive any spam, just a weekly notice as soon as my blog is posted.

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Dancing Makes My Soul Smile

What is one thing you are so passionate about that you absolutely cannot suppress a huge grin spreading across your face, letting a piece of your soul shine through, just at the simple thought of it? For me, it’s dancing. To expand on that, it’s dancing to music that moves my soul. I’ve always believed dancing is the most beautiful form of self expression. I love how it exists across all cultures, in all times of history to present day. I cannot always say what specific music will move me, but more often that not it is some genre of electronic music.

This type of music is generally one that people either Hate or L-O-V-E. It either moves your soul from a depth you didn’t know existed until you hear it, or to you it sounds like a bunch of weird noise and repetitive beats. In recent years, the umbrella of electronic music has grown to encompass an incredible amount of genres/subcategories. The differences between them range from subtle to gross. What they share is nearly indescribable, as it resides more on an emotional level.  I often cannot predict what sounds will resonate with me at what moment, but that is part of the fun and spontaneity of it all.

Electronic music became wildly popular in Europe, and many other countries, long before the United States started to “get it”.  You could say I was one of the originals to jump on this train. I first heard this type of music in the early 90’s, which, for me, was middle school and early high school. I’ve always loved to dance, and it was one of the few things I was not too shy to do in front of others from a young age.

Despite being from a small, rural town (graduating class of 35!), I took advantage of every opportunity to dance that I possibly could. I attended school and community dances in middle school. As a high school freshman, I made friends with some seniors and began attending dances at the county’s community college, about 20 min. away from home. When I turned 18 I ventured to Seattle (a 2-hour drive) to dance at 18 and over venues. I was never one who needed alcohol to “loosen up” and feel comfortable dancing!

In March of 1997, I spent a weekend in Seattle with some friends. On Saturday night, we decided to go dancing at one of the 18 and over clubs. (The former DV8, for any of you who remember!) When I first walked into the club that night I happened to lock eyes with a particularly cute guy on the dance floor. We both immediately had these huge, goofy grins spread across our faces. Although it took nearly 2 hours for us to actually talk and start dancing together, you could say the rest is history. His name is Mike Puhrmann, and we’ve been together ever since that fateful night.

As it turned out, Mike and I shared an equal passion for dancing and electronic music. As unlikely as it may be to meet one’s future spouse in the oh so classy confines of a night club, it couldn’t have been a more fitting beginning for us. 14 years later, Mike and I are avidly sharing our love for this pastime. Not only is dancing my favorite form of exercise, and a wonderful way to share and connect with my husband, but it truly is a way to honor that which makes my soul smile.

2011 has been the year of dancing for Mike and I. Since we first met, we’ve had plenty of good times dancing. However, this year, we’ve really made a come back! Electronic music has recently blown up in this country and shows are more accessible than ever. DJ’s are becoming the new Rock Stars and the shows are becoming larger than life with building size LED screens adding a significant entertainment factor to the energy of the music we already love.

It’s been a bit amusing attending shows and looking around at all the kids who were barely born when we were first falling in love with the music. You can easily spot those who are there because it moves their soul and those who are just hanging out with their friends and being part of the latest fad. We chuckle at being the ones with graying hair, but it keeps us young at heart and we have no intention of stopping anytime soon. All the more reason to keep taking great care of our health!

Dancing to electronic music has also catered to another one of my favorite pastimes. You could call it honoring my alter ego(s), playing dress up, or simply being comfortable enough with myself to embrace who I am, what makes me smile and living life without regrets. If you attend an electronic music show these days, you’ll see all sorts of unusual outfits. I began wearing wigs and creative outfits years ago and love having an outlet that is all about self expression.

There’s much to be said for engaging in activities we are passionate about. Incorporating that which brings joy and peace into our being goes a long way toward keeping our bodies and minds youthful and healthy. It’s so easy to get caught up in the huge list of daily, weekly, and monthly “to-do’s” that we don’t schedule in time for the things that allow us to be who we are (I’m as guilty of this as anyone). Does your family regularly see you grin out of pure pleasure and enjoyment?

Honor what makes your soul smile and see how contagious it can be to those around you!

To Your Best Health!

Autum

PS. For a glimpse into what moves my soul, check out this 4 min. video clip put together by Seattle-based DJ Hyperfunk of his experience at the recent Identity Festival at The Gorge Amphitheater in George, WA. This actually moves me to (happy) tears. This festival was truly one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.

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