Favorite Podcasts For The New Year

I love a good podcast. I’m going through a phase right now where I just want to learn as much as possible about how to improve my daily life, whether through exercise, mindfulness, life hacks, or any number of “self improvement” type actions. I specifically am attracted to podcasts that are short and sweet. I’ve given up or severely restricted most social media and it has freed up my brain for so much more useful information. Which means I’ve been listening to podcasts like crazy lately! Below are my current five favorites, plus one that I’m excited to start listening to when it premiers later this month.

Last summer I binged on what to this day is one of my most favorite of all podcasts, Happier In Hollywood. It’s hosted by two female television writers who have been writing partners since high school. While some of what they cover is lighthearted and fluffy (like how to find the perfect black purse), they are also full of excellent job, life, fitness, nutrition, and other advice that I find so useful. They have great guests. And it’s just really fun to boot.

Happier in Hollywood is an offshoot of the Happier podcast by Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen is a writer who researches happiness and her books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, to name a few, might sound familiar. Her podcast is also chock full of advice, all of which is designed to help you maximize your happiness quotient.

I recently discovered The Magic Pill, a podcast hosted by a Harvard Medical School physician and a health journalist. Each snippet (they are all around 8 minutes or so) is full of great information geared to inspire us to make exercise a regular part of our life. We learn the science behind exercise and all the other benefits. This is a 21 day podcast in which each day you receive an email with that day’s episode. It’s fast, it’s fun and it’s full of great info.

NPR’s Life Kit has a similar podcast called Exercise: Learn to Love It (Or At Least Like It) and it’s similarly endearing. The first episode features Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal trainer. It’s about 20-ish minutes long, which is the perfect amount of time to go for a brisk walk while listening.

NPR’s Life Kit also has a new podcast called Eat Your Way To A Healthier Life which premiers in mid January. I’m including it here because the promo sounds great and I’m really excited for it. I also really respond to measured, scientifically-backed nutrition advice that isn’t sensationalistic.

And lastly, I will be listening intently to Side Hustle School. For anyone who has a “side hustle” (aka: a second venture beyond your full time job or something else you do on the side even if you don’t have a full time job that provides extra income and can help satisfy your entrepreneur cravings) or anyone who aspires to have a side hustle, this is a great podcast. Most episodes are 10 minutes or less and all are full of great insight and advice.

One more fun tidbit: if you have a podcast you love and want to introduce someone to it, you can use the Gift of Podcast free printable. It’s great for people in your life who don’t know how to use podcasts, as the printable gives step by step instructions. There’s also a spot for you to write the name of the podcast as well as why you recommend it. I put one in my husband and daughter’s stockings this year.

What are your favorite podcasts? Comment in the section below!

Why Would I Spend Money To Do A One Mile Race In The Cold?

Every May for the last three years I’ve paid $20 to enter a 1 mile sprint race in Minneapolis called the Medtronic 1 Mile put on by Twin Cities in Motion. Three out of the three years it’s been windy and cold. And yet I keep coming back each year. “But why” people ask me, “would you spend money to run one ridiculous mile?” I can understand their skepticism. There’s rush hour traffic to battle, anxiety about finding a parking spot, and standing out in the cold waiting for the race to begin. It’s at night, so I’m tired and  my legs aren’t exactly fresh.

But here’s the thing: each year I set a new goal for myself (sometimes it’s a PR and sometimes it’s to finish strong), and it’s a really fun way of pushing a different kind of exercise. Normally I don’t train for sprints. If I’m training for a run it’s usually a 5k or 10k, which is about pacing and tempo. With a 5k or longer race, you take the first mile to get into a rhythm and adjust your thoughts from “why did I do this” to “I’ve got this”. With a mile, it all has to gel very quickly and you can’t spend any time in that negative mental space. This year I failed to train much for the sprint and I spent the entire time cursing my jagged breath and my bad form. I also slowed down just before the finish. Why would I do that?! Next time I will make sure to go strong till the very end.

So will I be back next year? You betcha. It pushes me to use a completely different set of skills that I rarely put into action. Plus, it’s super fun to watch the professional runners crush a mile in 4:03. My phone died as I was recording the women, but here’s what it looks like when you’ve just run a mile in 4:03 (p.s. I look the same way after I run my mile. Professional athletes, they’re just like us!)

My friend Deb and I have been doing the race together the last two years, and while the first year she was super skeptical about it, as soon as she completed her mile she was hooked. She crushed her PR last night and got to ring the bell! Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer during her very first mammogram at age 40 and has been through so much over the past couple of years. She has used running as a tool to deal with all the challenges a cancer diagnoses comes with, and I really couldn’t be prouder of her grit and determination. Deb tells me “The one mile is a ton of fun. And while I’ll never be fast, it’s inspired me to be faster and has made me push myself a little harder in longer runs as well.”  Well, Deb, YOU inspire ME!

Deb ringing the PR bell
Deb ringing the PR Bell

This month, I am calling for you to come up with a challenge that gets you out of your comfort zone. Is it speaking in public? Or trying a new sport? Maybe it’s something as simple as trying to cook a new meal (here’s an easy one if you are new to cooking but want to nail it on the first try). Just pick one thing and give it a go. I want to hear from you: What did you choose? And how did it turn out for you?

Maybe Deb and I will see you next year in the Twin Cities for the 1 Mile!

MEL AND DEB MEDRONIC 1 MILE VERSION 2

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My Summer Fitness Plan

Run, jog, slog

Summer Intentions

Every time the seasons change, I use it as an opportunity to reevaluate my routines, habits and goals. I’m what I guess you could call a “serial improver”. For example, setting an intention to eat at least six servings a day of fruit and vegetables several years ago has stuck, and I’ve built on that goal to the point where now I’m regularly eating 9+ servings a day.

Some people are part of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” camp. I am squarely in the other camp. To me, it’s fun and exciting to think about new ways to do things, which is why I obsessively read health and wellness articles and studies. The idea that I can “hack” my health (whether it’s physical or mental) or find new ways to do things like make cooking for my family easier, gets me very excited.

So, I thought I would share what my goals and intentions are for this spring and summer. I would love to hear what yours are, so please make sure to leave a comment at the bottom!

  1. Meditate daily.  This is *always* on my list and I have yet to accomplish a consistent daily practice. And yet, meditating really does benefit me in many ways, such as reduced anxiety, more focus, and better sleep. I love the Headspace app and have been using it for years. With some meditations as short as two or three minutes, there’s really no excuse for not doing it daily.
  2. Blog more consistently. Someone just said to me recently “I really miss your weekly cocktail recipes!” And even though I see the metrics of how many people read my blog each day and I know that I have people logging on from all over the world to read Cultivate Wellness, sometimes I still find it hard to believe. That comment sparked my commitment to be more intentional about my posting schedule.
  3. Add strength training to my weekly routine. I hate it. Like, I really hate it. I have yet to find a way to include it in my workout schedule so that I will actually follow through on a long term basis. Have advice for me? Please share! It’s going on my list, as it always does, because I’m sure that one day I will find a way to do it. It’s very important for people over 40, especially women, to include strength training. Read here for more information on why. One possibility is this 9 Minute Strength Workout.
  4. Stop being the cruise director. This one goes against everything I am. I have been told by lots of friends that one of my strengths is bringing people together and planning new and fun things to do. If a reservation needs making, concert tickets need buying, or trip needs planning, I’m usually the one to step up. I truly do enjoy doing this, but sometimes it feels more like a job than a pleasure. So, I am intentionally going to take a step back from that for the next few months and see what happens. Maybe I’ll free up some energy to strength train 😉

I’m sure I will add more intentions to my list but this seems like a good start. Please comment below with your spring/summer intentions!

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Midweek Mashup: Taco seasoning recipe, a cell phone contract for teens, and 13 easy yoga poses for stress.

MIDWEEK MASHUP

School is back in session and that means we could all use some tips on how to make things easier and more streamlined. Even if you don’t have kids in school, these tips are sure to be useful!

Why buy taco seasoning at the store which contains fillers and other weird ingredients when it’s cheaper and almost just as easy to make your own? Yesterday was Taco Tuesday at our house and I whipped together this easy recipe, with some left over for next time. Make a huge batch and seal it up and use it for several months! TACO SEASONING.

Does your twee/teen have a cell phone? Are you struggling with setting limits and enforcing them? If so, here’s one option: a cell phone contract. I like this particular one, and plan on having my almost 13 year old read and sign it today. Many parents (myself included) might even benefit from some of the points in the contract, such as etiquette and mandated times to turn off the phone.

If back to school or the changing season is causing some stress, here are 13 simple yoga poses everyone in the family can try. I’m going to break these out when my tween gets overwhelmed by homework and responsibilities.

Have a great week!

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Midweek Mashup! A Book Rec, A Favorite Product, and An Insightful Article on Resilience.

Peanut Butter and Banana Wraps For Back To School

 

 

My Summer Fitness Plan

Last Thursday was the last day of school for Reese, and on Friday we booked it up north for a couple of days of R&R in a 100+ year old lodge where we binge watched Anne With An E and puttered around looking at pretty stuff and eating banana splits and blueberry pie. So today starts the first full week of summer break. It was also the first day of my Summer Fitness Plan®. You see, a few weeks ago I approached my next door neighbor and good friend Catherine and asked if she’d like to work out with me three times a week in the wee hours of the morning before our kids were awake. She immediately said yes, and we both agreed that it was going to be amazing and awesome.

Fast forward to this morning when I woke up at 4:00, 4:50, and 5:00 (excitement) and then for real at 6:00 to begin our Summer Fitness Plan®. This is the gist: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we will meet in our shared driveway at 6:15 and run/walk a couple of miles. Then we will use the Aaptiv app I’ve told you about before to do a strength workout. This morning we did our workout at the park in the wet grass while being feasted on by our state bird, the mosquito. There was also a for real boot camp happening and I felt like we were acting out that scene in Bridesmaids. We decided next time we will throw down yoga mats in the driveway instead.

Catherine proclaimed that by the end of the summer we will be bosses in every sense of the word (she didn’t really say it this way but it’s what I inferred so…). The first day was a success, in my book.

A couple of notes: I was worried that I would bonk if I didn’t eat anything beforehand, so I choked down a half of a banana. It’s almost two hours later and I’m still not hungry, so maybe working out on an empty stomach will work for me. Read about the research here. Also, next time I will spritz myself with bug spray. Thirdly, I have to say that if I’m awake everyday at 6:00 anyway, I might as well be exercising instead of laying in bed reading Twitter and stressing about the state of affairs. Who needs all that cortisol? I’m still 100% going to read the news, but an hour away from it isn’t a bad thing. Lastly, I will also be playing golf quite a bit, walking the dog, and doing some yoga and/or barre, but I think the bulk of my actual structured exercise will be from this plan.

What are your fitness plans for the summer?  Please comment and tell me!

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Let’s Talk About Stress

Midweek Mashup

 

Let’s Talk About Stress

stress-emoji

Several of my friends and acquaintances have recently talked to me about how stressful and busy their January has been so far. And I agree with them. I’ve taken on a lot of new responsibilities, but also still have all the usual ones. It’s been a flurry of activity. The coziness and fun of the holidays is long gone, and here in the frozen north, we are now left with a lot of winter still to enjoy endure.

So, how do we not just cope, but thrive? That’s the key, isn’t it? We don’t want to just slog our way through our days.

If we are constantly stressed out, we will have too much cortisol, the “stress hormone”, pumping through our systems. This can lead to disruptions in sleep, metabolism, energy levels, blood sugar regulation and serotonin levels (which help keep our mood stable), amongst other maladies. However, cortisol isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s a necessary hormone for a lot of reasons. It will give us a quick burst of energy in the event of an emergency (like running away from an attacker). It helps up our immunity and resistance to pain in acute situations. But it’s when we have constantly high levels of cortisol that our bodies do not function properly.

So how do we keep our stress levels in check? Here are some things I recommend:

  • Turn off the news. Now more than ever, it’s important to periodically turn off the 24 hour/day news channels full of constantly “Breaking News”. This goes for Twitter and other social media. Turn off your phone. Turn off talk radio. Turn off the t.v. It’s called a news fast, and I think it’s vital to our mental well being.
  • Exercise. This doesn’t necessarily mean running full steam on the treadmill or doing extreme cardio classes. If your stress levels are really high, high-intensity exercise probably isn’t your best bet. Activities like yoga, barre, hiking outside and swimming might be better for the time being.
  • Rest. Give yourself some time off. Read a book, have a cup of tea, take a nap. Get 8 hours of sleep a night. Seriously.
  • Get plenty of sunshine. Even in the dead of winter, getting outside and seeing the sun is important. Even on my most anxious of days, if I walk the dog in the fresh air and sunshine, I always feel better. Check out my post about the importance of getting outside here.
  • Magnesium. You can read the post on magnesium I wrote last year. (Never take a supplement or over the counter medication without approval from your practitioner). I take 200 mg of magnesium citrate each night before bed. It helps relax my muscles and my nervous system. Start small on dosing, as it can cause, ahem, loose stools.
  • Cut back on alcohol. I know. But it works.
  • Eat regularly. Skipped meals can cause blood sugar irregularities and contribute to excess cortisol. Make sure you keep your blood sugar in check by eating regularly.
  • Meditate. Check out my post on meditation here. I swear by it.
  • Give yourself a break. It sounds so superficial, but you *must* take time for yourself if you hope to have the energy to take care of everyone else in your life.  Whatever helps you feel calm and centered, do it on a regular basis.

We live in a culture where being constantly busy and stressed is valued. Why is that? It’s silly. We’ll all wake up in our 80’s or 90’s (God willing) and wonder what the heck happened.

I’m constantly struggling with maintaining some sort of homeostasis, just like everyone else. Just because I have all these tools doesn’t mean I’ve mastered any of it. But it has helped me to identify where I can make some tweaks and changes. Maybe this post will help you too!

Is there something that works for you that I haven’t listed? Please leave a comment! And as always, please share this post if you liked it. You can also sign up to receive all my posts in your email inbox. How great is that?! Just click where it says “Follow Blog Via Email”.

 

 

Midweek Mashup

How are the first few days of fall treating you? I’m always so surprised by how quickly summer turns to fall here in the north. Thoughts turn to soups and roasts and brisk walks with the dog while bundled up.

Fall can bring about new stressors. Back-to-school, changing weather patterns, and a suddenly full calendar all seem to conspire to make us frazzled and frenzied. The impending holiday season will only make things more hectic, so now is a great time to check in with yourself and make any adjustments. I loved this article about how even the best nutrition can’t always counteract the inflammation that chronic stress creates. But don’t fret, there are so many ways to deal with stress. Mindful meditation is one of my favorite ways to quickly feel better. In fact, I have the Headspace app on my phone and use it regularly. Regular exercise is always a great bet. It releases endorphins that boost your mood.

And when all else fails, sometimes a hot bowl of comforting soup is just what you need.  Here’s one of our favorites, tried and true. This hearty lentil soup is full of flavor, has great nutrition, and is vegan. Sure, you can add some chicken if you’d like. Whatever makes you happy.

Stay tuned for this week’s Friday Cocktails!

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Let’s Get  Out Of Here!