Quick and Easy Lunch

I was busy and didn’t think I had time to make myself lunch then I came up with this. Whole wheat pita, avacado, black beans and salsa–fast, healthy and GOOD!

{BIG ANNOUNCEMENT} “Finish This …” a brand new link-up!!!!!

This looks like a fun idea! Join us if you dare!

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FinishThis--SMALLI am VERY EXCITED to invite you to FINISH THIS… a weekly link-up hosted by me, Lisa (The Coastal Chicster), Jen (The Arizona Russums), and Becky (The Java Mama). This link-up will be posted EVERY WEDNESDAY with the first post next Wednesday, January 8. Your hosts span the entire country — Virginia, Arizona, and Texas — and have amazing readers like YOU supporting our crazy ideas. If you don’t know one of us, please visit our blog and introduce yourself!


1. Sentence prompts will be provided every week (prompts for Week One are located at the bottom of this post). Bloggers: simply answer the prompts, publish on your blog, and add the URL to the link-up.
2. Finish This… occurs EVERY WEDNESDAY beginning January 8, 2014.
3. Please include the green button in your post.
4. Tweet about your post and…

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Don’t Give up on Summer!

Happy Post Labor Day!  According to the calendar, it’s not quite fall yet, but it isn’t really summer anymore either, especially here in northern New England.  Fall is in the air —  people are back from vacations and digging in at work,, the school buses are rolling down the roads, the white pants and shoes are washed and put away, and I can find parking in my town again!

But really, not much has changed from last week, before Labor Day.

The last few days have been hot and humid.  On Saturday, I went for a run and it was the hottest run of the summer!  I was quite surprised.  As a matter of fact, in an effort not to break out in a cold sweat (something that I am prone to do when it is very hot), I walked the last mile home.  Even though I stayed outside for a while afterwards, and delayed my shower, after I did shower I continued to sweat for another hour — ick!  And then today I went to yoga class and it was as hot and sticky as any class in July.

I’m thinking that summer might be planning on lingering for a while longer, and I am glad, because according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, it is going to be a cold, cold winter!

The Protein Myth

I’ve written a little on protein, how we only need 0.8 gm of protein per kilogram of body weight (weight in lbs. divided by 2.2 x 0.8), and that there are excellent non meat sources of protein.

But still, the most common response I get when I say I don’t eat meat is, “How do you get your protein”.  I have finally found a terrific response:

Did you know that the strongest animal in the world is vegetarian?



Enough said!

photo from http://sharathpandukal.blogspot.com/

The Dangerous Success of the Dairy Industry

I have spent 30 years in the field of advertising and marketing, and so I milk know the power of advertising.  One of the most successful marketing campaigns over the past 50 years has been that of the dairy industry.  They have convinced us that drinking milk is essential to our health.  However, the more research I do, the more I realize that this is totally untrue!  Casein, the protein found in milk and other dairy products is in fact detrimental to our health.  Did you know that:

I strongly recommend that you read The China Study and read or watchForks Over Knives for more information.

For more information and references please refer to my earlier post on this subject.

You Have the Time to Exercise

I saw a quote from Nike on a friend’s daughter’s website:

“A one hour workout is 4% of your day”

Do you really not have time to exercise?

Muscle Endurance, One Component of Fitness

A little while ago, in a post about the phenomenon of “Skinny Fat”, I started writing about the Five Components of Fitness which are (in no particular order):

  1. Muscle Endurance (how long a muscle can work without fatigue)
  2. Muscle Strength (i.e.: how much force a muscle can exert a single time)
  3. Cardio Vascular Endurance (the ability of the heart and lungs to work together to provide the body with oxygen)
  4. Body Composition (percent of body fat vs. lean muscle tissue)
  5. Flexibility (ability for the joints to achieve full range of motion)

For our bodies to be physically fit, we must be fit in all of these areas which is why it is so important to cross train.  I know that when I concentrate too much on running, while my cardiovascular system improves, my muscle strength and my flexibility suffer.  Therefore I try to add in some weight training and yoga to the mix.

But I want to go a little deeper into exactly how we can train to improve these different areas of fitness. In this post I am going to talk about training for Muscle Endurance.

While training for strength and training for endurance can both be accomplished at the gym with the same equipment, they are actually quite different.  When just starting out, it is advisable to start with a program for Muscle Endurance, and to work each of the 8 major muscle groups.

Before starting any exercise program check with your doctor to ensure that are healthy and that you don’t have any health issues or concerns that should make you avoid certain types of exercise.

Training for muscle endurance involves low intensity and high volume workouts.  In other words, you should lift weights at about 50%-75% of your max, doing 15-20 repetitions per set, for 3-6 sets.  So for an average person v grip pushdownstarting out try these weights for your major muscle groups.  Adjust as needed.  All machines are not equal.  There are other factors besides the weights such as the weight of the machine itself and the ease of its movement that effect the weight you are lifting.  If you can easily do 20 reps, increase the weight 5 pounds, if you can’t make 15, decrease the weight:

Muscle Group Exercise Men Women
Chest (Pecs) Chest Press Machine 30-60 lbs 10-30
Upper Back (Lats) Lat Pulldown 60-80 40-50
Shoulders (Delts) Overhead Press Machine 40-50 10-30
Biceps Bicep Curl (w/dumbbells) 10-15 8-10
Triceps V Grip Pushdown 25-40 15-25
Quads and Hamstrings Leg Press Machine 50-90 20-50
Lower Back Back Extension Machine 45-95 25-45

legpressIt is a good idea to keep a notebook and record your weights, reps and sets.  The goal is to slowly increase the weight and the number of sets — start with 3 and work up to a maximum of 6.  If you can do 5 or 6, it is time to increase the weight!

Prior to starting a Muscle Endurance training program, it is a good idea to do a test to see where you are starting, and then do a test at the end of 6 weeks to see your progress.

The generally accepted test for muscle endurance is the push up test  To to this push-up-exercise test, do as many good form push-ups as you can.

Either full push-ups on your hands and toes, or modified push-ups on your knees, either way, watch your form!modified push up

The above post is intended to give an explanation of muscle endurance and a sample of a muscle endurance program.  It is not a personal recommendation.  It is advisable to consult a physician prior to starting any exercise program and to work with a trainer for a program designed specifically for your needs.  If you have any general questions, feel free to ask in the comments section and I will try to give you some general information.

Running Surfaces and Running Shoes

The following guest post was written by a fellow blogger, Gary Hamilton. Gary discusses the different running surfaces we face and the pros and cons of each.   (Believe me, there is a big difference!  As I run with a bit of Achilles tendonitis, I can feel the difference between packed dirt, asphalt, cement and pavers.  You can read all about it by clicking here.)

Gary also writes about the different types of running shoes that are out there, and which are the best for each type of running surface, so with out further ado, let’s look at:

Pros and Cons of Running Surfaces and Running Shoes

As more people seek to improve their health and fitness levels, many decide to make their path to wellness one on which they run to achieve their goals. Running may not be suitable for everyone, but for those whose health permits, there are important aspects to keep in mind for a safe and optimal run.

Different Types of Running Surfaces

Just as there are many different types of runners, along with styles of and reasons for running, so there are different types of surfaces to run on: grass, roads, sand, snow, track, trails, and treadmill. Journalist and former triathlete Kelly O’Mara reported advice from various professionals working in the fields of fitness, exercise physiology, and muscle and exercise research, who emphasized that runners should vary their running surfaces, but also be aware of the following conditions when considering those surfaces:

Compliance vs. Stiffness. Surfaces with compliance, such as tracks composed of synthetic materials, “give” a bit with each step and provide less trauma on the joints than stiffer surfaces, such as asphalt or concrete.

Damping properties. Surfaces, such as sand, thick grass, or dirt, have damping properties, which means they dissipate energy, and place more strain on the knee and calf.

Traction. Important for any surface, but runners can quickly lose traction on wet grass, loose gravel, packed snow, and ice.

Unevenness. Trails typically provide uneven surfaces, which can often cause runners to trip and twist or sprain ankles, and sustain other injuries upon falling.

As Marc Bloom and Steve Smythe reported for Runner’s World, each running surface has its benefits or drawbacks, pros and cons, to consider; these are listed alphabetically for convenience, not in order of importance or preference.

Grass: The close-cropped grass of golf courses, football fields, parks, and even sheep pastures offers a natural running surface.

  • Pros: Less strain and less impact, but more of a work-out on the muscles.
  • Cons: Potential for uneven and/or wet surfaces, tripping, and injuries.

Roads: Most roads are composed of either asphalt or concrete, while some are packed dirt. Each type has its own pros and cons.

Asphalt: Typically a blend of crushed rock, gravel, and tar, asphalt is slightly softer than concrete.

    • Pros: Predictable even surface, ease of measuring distances, and facilitation of maintaining an even pace.
    • Cons: Causes more strain on the body, potential for tripping or falling due to rises or arches, and potholes, and must avoid traffic and pedestrians.

Concrete: Typically composed of cement and crushed rock, concrete is the hardest surface.

    • Pros: Flatness and accessibility.
    • Cons: Hard surface is more apt to cause injuries and impact strain, and must avoid vehicles and pedestrians.

Dirt: Packed dirt of roads, tracks, or trails is easily accessible.

  • Pros: Accessibility and soft- to medium-packed dirt reduces strain or impact injuries.
  • Cons: Can become uneven and muddy, increasing the chances for injuries.

Sand: Most often associated with running on beaches, sand as running shoes 2a running surface provides quite a workout.

  • Pros: One of the few times it’s OK to run barefoot; provides resistance and strength training in varying degrees, depending on the type of sand the runner chooses to run on: the soft, squishy sand further up on the beach or in the dunes, or the harder, packed sand near the water’s edge.
  • Cons: Potential for blisters if running barefoot; soft sand may cause Achilles tendon or ankle injuries, while packed sand at the water’s edge is uneven and causes stress on the body at different points.

Snow: Those who live in cold regions that receive snow over the winter often still enjoy running outside on moderate temperature days when frostbite or other cold weather risks are not as severe.

  • Pros: Forces a slower, recovery pace of running.
  • Cons: The ever-present danger of ice that may be hiding under the snow, or the packed snow itself can be very slippery.

Track: Some older tracks are composed of cinders, while newer ones have synthetic materials.

Cinder tracks:

    • Pros: Even, measured surface.
    • Cons: Not weather-proof, as cinders react to the elements in different ways, and loose cinders can cause slipping and falling.

Synthetic tracks:

    • Pros: Compliance or “give” on impact, and easily timed, measured surface.
    • Con: Long runs become tedious and long curves on tracks provoke more strain on joints.

Trails: Even trails are different; some are packed dirt, while others wind through woodlands.

running shoes post1

Packed dirt: 

    • Pros: Soft to medium-packed dirt reduces strain or impact injuries.
    • Cons: Packed dirt can become uneven and muddy, increasing the chances for injuries.


    • Pros: Soft peat is easy on joints, usually level, and scenic.
    • Cons: Tree roots can cause tripping and injuries; peat and moss can become slippery.

Treadmill: A treadmill is the best option when weather doesn’t permit outdoor runs, or for those who live in areas without suitable outdoor running surface options.

  • Additional pros: Even surface, no obstacles, easy on the legs, and run at desired pace.
  • Cons: Tedious, causes profuse sweating, getting off pace may cause slipping or falling off the treadmill, and added expense of gym membership or purchasing one for home use.

Different Types of Running Shoes

It’s not advisable to do a lot of prolonged running on bare feet. To avoid injury, it’s best to wear good, high quality running shoes. There are different types of shoes, suitable for different running surfaces and for different types of runners.

MacKenzie Lobby reported for The Active Times on the 25 best running shoes for 2013 in the categories of “barefoot/minimalist, lightweight, neutral, stability and motion control shoes for road and the trail.” Shoe categories, types of runners and surfaces, and features depending on brand are included as follows:

Barefoot/minimalist: For those who enjoy natural surfaces. Features: injection-blown rubber platform; low-to-ground with zero drop from heel to toe; lightweight and flexible; reflective for nighttime running; enough cushion to prevent abrasions.

Lightweight: For those who enjoy roads and technical trails, and prefer something between barefoot and traditional shoe. Features: zero-drop platform; rocker-shape outsole for easy toe-off; lightweight and durable; cushioning; asymmetrical uppers; breathable; fast-drying.

Neutral: For those who enjoy aggressive trails in any weather. Features: foam midsole; aggressive outer sole; zero-drop with wider toe box; multi-directional treads; expansion pods for contraction and expansion.

Stability: For those who enjoy long-distance trail or road running. Features: 8mm drop; well-cushioned; dual density outer sole; triple density insole for arch support; water-proof upper membrane; gel-cushioning system.

Motion control: For those who enjoy road, track, or trail running, but have foot or leg issues and need more support. Features: dual-density foam; 12mm drop; supportive but flexible; crash pad underfoot.

Running Enthusiasts Unite

Some runners enjoy the solitary run, but others enjoy running with one or more individuals. Some running is intended purely for the health and fitness of the individual runner, while other organized running events–such as marathons–are intended to challenge groups of runners to compete with others for prizes, to raise money for charities or causes, or for the prestige of being able to say, “I completed the ______ Marathon.” One thing is certain, running enthusiasts are passionate about their choice of fitness activity and often run in spite of odds or weather conditions with a commitment that rivals the purported U.S. Postal Service creed!

Gary Hamilton is president and founder of InteliChart, a health IT company that aims to connect healthcare organizations, providers, patients, and their communities through integrated solutions like Intelichart’s healthcare integration engine.

Preventing the Leading Causes of Death in the US

I wanted to share this powerful video on how we can prevent the leading causes of death.  Important stuff, right?  I highly recommend watching all (or at least part) of this video.  To summarize and hopefully encourage you to watch it, Dr. Michael Greger presents scientific facts on how we can prevent 14 of the 15 leading causes of death. In the US, the 15 leading causes of death (in order) are:

  1. Heart Disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Respiratory Disease, (COPD, Emphysema)
  4. Stroke
  5. Accidents
  6. Alzheimer’s Disease
  7. Diabetes
  8. Kidney Failure
  9. Influenza
  10. Suicide
  11. Blood Infection
  12. Liver Disease
  13. High Blood Pressure
  14. Parkinson’s Disease
  15. Pneumonia

And interestingly enough, the medical system, when you look at side pill-bottles-684648effects from prescription drugs, medical mistakes and hospital acquired infections, results in 187,000 deaths per year making it the 3rd leading cause of death in the US!  (Good reason to avoid unnecessary doctor visits).

CSA 2 ALL of these leading causes of death, with the exception of accidents, can be prevented or combated with a strict vegetarian (i.e.: vegan) diet.

Don’t worry if you are a devoted meat eater.  Small changes in your diet like adding in greens at every meal and cutting out meat a few days a week will still have a positive influence on your health.

But, for me, I have found the vegan route to be the best option.  For example, in one year, my cholesterol has dropped 38 points, and my triglycerides (the measure of fat in the blood) dropped 104 points!  That’s proof enough for me.

Here is the link to the video   http://nutritionfacts.org/video/uprooting-the-leading-causes-of-death/

Time in the Garden has Mental and Physical Health Benefits

I spent a few hours yesterday working in my garden and with my flower boxes.  

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I enjoy gardening, it is fun, the results are rewarding,  it get me out in the fresh air, it provides exercise and much needed vitamin D in the form of sunshine!    As it turns out these heath benefits of gardening are well documented by research:

Gardening improves our mental attitude.  Did you know that according to a Texas A&M study, gardeners have more “zest for life” and greater optimism.   A recent study in the Netherlands found gardening for even just 30 minutes fights stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities.  Not only did these people report being in a better mood, but they had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

 Yard work and gardening is a form of  weight-bearing exercise (pulling weeds, digging holes, lugging around soil, mulch, etc).  A University of Arkansas study found that women gardeners have lower rates of osteoporosis than women who just do aerobic exercise.

Studies also show that gardening help people with depression and anxiety disorders.  As a matter of fact, there is a whole field of medicine called horticultural therapy that helps people deal with depression, anxiety and sleep issues. 

Some research suggests that the physical activity associated with gardening can help lower the risk of developing dementia.  Studies have shown that older adults who garden regularly had a 36% and 47% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners.  While these studies are preliminary, they point to the idea that the physical and mental activity involved in gardening may have a positive influence on the mind.

Gardening helps calm agitation, leading to better sleep patterns and improved quality of sleep.

And of course if you grow vegetables, there is the nutritional benefit of eating fresh veggies!