Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year

Happy Leap Year everyone! Here's some food for thought, where were you 4 years ago on today? Where will you be four years from now?


If you were to ask me to predict my life, as it stands now, it would have been unfathomable!  The past four years have been a bit of a blurred whirl wind of change...luckily for me, for the better.  I have had no way of predicting that I would be the happiest I have been in my entire life. I never thought I would be living in NY again, or lucky and blessed enough to meet the love ...of my life Jay McBain (aka the other half of my cutest couple hehe). That I would have lost over 35 pounds, or had a new career at Cisco.  Or that I would have almost met half my goal of exploring 100 countries and stepping foot on 7 continents. So much can change, so much, so quickly. Sometimes it all feels like a surreal dream.

For those interested, here is the "Story of Us", I made for our one year Anniversary :)
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 The past four years have brought me so many wonderful new friends, family, and opportunities.   I can NOT forget the two amazing young ladies I am so blessed to have in my life... Danica and Mila! Jay's beautiful, intelligent, funny, sweet and wonderful daughters.All of our memories over the past year and a half, mean the world to me.  Going shopping with Danica for her 8th grade grad dress, she looked so beautiful!  Watching Mila play soccer and make Ref - you are a rockstar!  Visits with lovely Momma G, and Pampa & Audrey.All of the laughter, inside jokes, wonderful memories. I adore you all , and am so lucky to all the wonderful McBains in my life. I cannot imagine my life without you!

My mom and I
 I have moved many times in my life, and it is never easy leaving those you love.  They say home is where the heart is, so I know no matter where I am, as long as Jay and I are together,  I know I will be very happy. Thanks to the power of social-media , the world has become much smaller.  We can FB, Google+, Tweet, Blog, FourSquare etc and those I love, near or afar can keep up with each other.  Those who want to can see my life, our travels, our stories, our pictures and feel like they are right along side for the ride, are welcomed to do so every step of the way.  I am so happy that I get to visit my mom Mary Anne tomorrow for her birthday, and see all my wonderful NC friends and family!  As always, it will be bitter sweet to leave them but it is nice to know that we are all only a "click" away!

For those who don't know my story- I will give you the short version.  I say with pride, my mom is a phenomenal and courageous woman, who left a domestically abusive marriage when I was 8 months old and raised me by herself.  Just her and I, so we are very close.  I did not know my father, nor did I have a desire too.  However through default, I also became estranged from his family.  About three years ago, I received an e-mail from a girl named Caitlin.  The first sentence went a bit like this "Dear Michelle, I think I might be your long lost sister....just kidding, I AM!  I have been looking for you for the past ten years"...

After I cleaned the coffee I spit out of my mouth, and picked my  jaw up off of the floor-- I called my mom,  could it be true?  Could I really have a sister?  My mom confirmed, and said if I wanted to talk to them, they were my siblings and she would support me, as she does in all aspects of my life.  I know this sound like made for TV movie, and is an extremely strange situation, but it is very different when you are the one IN the situation .  This was not an easy decision for me.  I am almost 30 years old, and have lived my life without even the knowledge of them.  I knew this could be like opening Pandora's Box- even the slightest
My sister and I loving up our brother :)
opening, and who knows what could pour out of it?

After much contemplation, curiosity out-weighted my fear or hesitation.  After all, it was not their fault our father was a bad man, or made bad decisions.   It was an amazing experience reconnecting with a long lost sibling- squared.  Well not only did I have a sister, but a brother too!    I already have such an AMAZING family, but to boot I have since been reunited and introduced to a WHOLE new family ( two new amazing aunts who are a big part of my life and an array of incredible cousins- (as if I didn't have enough in the first place)! You know what they say, the more the merrier!  And now, my baby sister is about to be a mommy!  She is due on my birthday, ironically enough!  Maybe that is a sign?  Deep down I believe everything in life happens for a reason.

My grandma and me
And lastly, if all that wasn't enough?  My beloved "Babci" (which means Grandma in Polish) is now an Angel in heaven. I adore my Babci. I miss my grandma everyday! I know you are in heaven, smiling over me. I know you would approve of Jay too :D You always did like Tom Cruise :) haha More importantly you would know what a good guy he is, and how happy he makes me. You were always a hopeless romantic ( I get that from you) I know you are watching over me, because I am not so "hopeless" anymore. :D Love you always... God Bless you and keep you, until we meet again....

I could have written this on a piece of loose-leaf paper, put it in a metal chest, dug a whole and buried it within the earth and resurrected it four years from now...but, I am not so good with a shovel.  So I have decided to cathartically share my tale with you all.  A digital scrap book if you will.  Four years from now, thanks to the power of the cloud, I will pull this back up and see how my life has changed.  This is my last few months in this decade, before I enter my thirties.  So far, it has been an exciting ride.  I have been surrounded by love, laughter, bitter sweet times, but above all wonderful memories.  I will look back on all of these experiences strange, exciting, or hum drum (not as many by comparison for some strange reason)- with fondness and a smile, because all of these experience, all of you, have helped shaped who I am today.  I don't know what the future holds, but I can only pray the trajectory keeps rising to endless positive possibilities (both for us, and all of you!).  See you in four years 2-29! I can't wait to see what you have in store for me.

Monday, February 27, 2012

27 Million in the World are enslaved today- help STOP Human Trafficking

I never worry about action, but only inaction.
-Winston Churchill

Not very often, am I left seeing a movie, enraged and horrified. I am very glad I watched "The WhistleBlower" *which was an eye opening film, which quite literally left me feeling sick to my stomach after watching. A "based on truth" drama, based on the experiences of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska cop who served as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia and outed the U.N. for covering up the most vial and disgusting sex scandal. As a peace studies minor, and someone who once wanted to work for the UN I am   saddened, and left feeling utter shame for those involved in, and what was allegedly done to the poor women of war who were brutally tortured. I do not want to paint every member of this organization with the same brush, but for those involved, and those who covered it up (which in my heart I believe to be sadly true), you make me sick to my stomach, and I don't know how you sleep at night? Please see this movie if only to spread awareness to a horrendous issue. The estimated average is anywhere up to 4 million -20 million women and children around the world (approximately 14,500 a year) are being "human/sex trafficked"- and that might be an understatement.. Unicef reports that around the world, over one million children are being trafficked every year.  I have no words...

Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) was an ardent nationalist and prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last 7 years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. He is perhaps best remembered for the following poem:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -- 
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -- 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.

If you think this doesn't affect you, you are wrong.  This affects all of humanity, regardless of race, nationality, or religion.  We are all citizens of the same world, and we can not sit idly by while injustice occurs.  If you can bear it, please read the sex traffic facts:  It is speculated $32 billion dollars of profits are made annually, but what is the price of ones soul who allows such atrocities to occur?  Who does nothing?

If you think you have come in contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.3737.888. This hotline will help you determine if you have encountered victims of human trafficking, will identify local resources available in your community to help victims, and will help you coordinate with local social service organizations to help protect and serve victims so they can begin the process of restoring their lives. For more information on human trafficking visit

To learn some more information on Human Trafficking:

I literally was left feeling with a pit in my stomach, and the age old question, "I am only one person, what can I do to help stop this international horror?".  I could not sleep thinking about the harsh truths of reality.  I feel called to action, and I wanted to learn more, to do more... somehow, someway.  There are so many things which occur in our world, and we may or may not know about them, in the deep recess of our minds.  When someone shines a light on the harsh reality, and clears away blindness of ignorance, how can we do nothing?  Sometimes, the issue is we are unaware; sometimes it's just about educating ourselves, and those around us.  Sometimes it's about creating awareness and taking a call to action.  If after watching this movie you are not left wondering how can I help?

If you are thinking, I am just one person, what can I do? Read here:

Organizations which help to combat this are: Not for Sale-

The project to end human trafficking:

Coalition Against Traficking in Women:

“Peace is not something you wish for; It's something you make, Something you do, Something you are, And something you give away.”- Robert Fulghum 

Don't just dream big ...Dream Elephant BIG!

"Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment, until it becomes a Memory"

Yesterday I had the rare weekend gift of going on a five mile hike with my loves (furry and non).  As I am shorter, and only have two legs, I usually trail behind (even though it takes two of my little steps to catch up for every one of Jay's 6 foot tall steps).  As I walked, my mind drifted in and out of consciousness of the present moment, it was then I was struck by the light.  Rays of  sun light that is, illuminating over downtown Albany perfectly centered over the small mountain we had hiked atop of.  It was there where I saw the most majestic of suns setting over the city below.

It is not hard to see why the ancients thought that God(s) lived within the sun.  Throughout history, literature, religion, art, philosophy, the sun has shown bright. Sparkling, bright, and vivid was the giant tangerine orange ball of fire descending from the heavens .  They say you should not look directly into the sun, but I could not look away, it was stunning.  Something so simple, you see it every day, and yet perhaps the commonality of observance takes for granted the sheer beauty of it.  Each morning sunrise, and sun set is so spectacularly different from the next.  I lingered in the moment, as Jay realized I had fell behind and returned to see what gave me pause.  There together hand in hand we watched in breathtaking awe as the fire in the sky slowly disappeared in the horizon with a flash leaving behind only a fleeting rainbow of colors before dusk.

Costa Rica
I treasured that moment, and reflected on the walk back, now hurriedly through the woods before dark. I reflected on all of the brilliant sun rises and sun sets I have seen in my life, and those magical ones I have yet seen only in my dreams. Some of the more exotic memories I have from my travels feel like more of a dream.  A brief moment of reality that I will treasure forever more. Emerging from the jungle, galloping on horseback, to the beach of Samara, Costa Rica and stopping to see the sun set over the beautiful ocean. Seeing the sun set in a vision which I can only describe as surreal over the plains of the Safari in South Africa as we stopped to see Elephants, Zebras, and Giraffes in the blissful silence of their natural environment. Jay and I were lucky to see a glorious sunset almost every night that we were in Scandinavia (except for Iceland where the sun never sat =)).  On a ferry ride in Finland (we could see Russia from our hou...I mean Ferry ;)). Spontaneously renting bikes and meandering through Stockholm over the beautiful islands as the sunlight glistens off the water below. Strolling down the longest street in the world, Strogat in Denmark.

Cape Town, South Africa
 All of my blogs have been dedicated to the things in life that instill the most passion in me:  travel, technology, fitness and health .  No matter what I do, or where I go, I have fun doing it.  To me every moment is an experience, a memory which one day I will cherish forever- from exotic hikes down Table Mountain to the coast in South Africa, to strolls exploring the local gems around our home this past weekend.  Sometimes you have a mission and purpose, and sometimes you are just exploring-  local neighborhoods, hidden treasures, or foreign wanders.  For example,  ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of being in the circus so I can be one of the beautiful costumed women who rides the elephants.  This dream had a chance of becoming a reality when we were in Thailand.  Not speaking a lick of the language and using charades, planes, trains and automobiles, we set out to try and and find the local elephant park and ride one before the park closes!  We drove two hours and finally found it, unfortunately it had closed.  Things don't always go the way you want it to... but life is about goals, and striving to be your best, do your best and sometimes, not taking no for an answer!  If you believe it, you can achieve it.  Part of that is just believing in the unbelievable.  Anything is possible- you just need to dream BIG!

That's ME on top of  Marco the Elephant!

For some reason the whole time I was on the elephant in pure ecstasy (and disbelief) I had not one thought go through my mind.  I just paused and relished in the moment which was my child-hood dream coming to reality.  My heart beating a mile a minute, and a smile ear to ear as Mario (the Thai elephant) and I became forever friends.  On the drive home a million thoughts and feelings went through my mind, and the one poem which came to my thoughts, was "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, a classic, and one of my personal favorites.  I will share it with you as a reminder, or as a life changing moment for those of you who have not yet had the opportunity to read it.  Please take a moment to read it,  pause, and let it sink in.We all have choices in life, paths to take, roads to follow.  Which path will you choose? 

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;        

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,        

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.        

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

So these are my key take-a-ways from today's blog:  Remember to keep it moving- walking, hiking, biking, kayaking, elephant riding  (that is some major core work, believe it or not) :).  Dream BIG (Elephant BIG!), anything is possible.  Wander off the path less traveled by, as Robert Frost would advise, that will make all the difference.  Don't be afraid to take a chance, and try new things, and re-do familiar favorites and fall in love with them all over again. Always have fun, life is to short not too.  But remember, while you are out there moving and shaking,  to pause, take a deep breath, and enjoy the simple moments in life;  The sunsets with the one you love, the moments that matter most, the experiences that will last a lifetime!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's all in your head...

Attitude, ah yes, the hardest of them all.  Some things money can’t buy.  Although he gets a bad rap as being a bit on the "round side" in statutes and paintings, the actual Buddha cared quite a bit about health and the mind body connection.  Buddha once,  said  “To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him”.   One of the greatest  struggles or differentiators between those who successfully make a change, does not go to the person more physically equipped to think so, but the one who *thinks they can*.  You have to believe in yourself!

One of my favorite motivational poems is by CW Longenecker.  When I began my career at Cisco Sales I hung it on my desk, and recited it (consciously or subconsciously) every morning before I started my day. I hit 130% of goal my first year, so I guess it worked!   I carry it in my mind and heart in every endeavor I undertake, and I hope you will do the same.  It goes like this:

If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you like to win, but you think you can't,
It is almost certain you won't.

If you think you'll lose, you're lost,
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow's will.
It's all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You've got to think high to rise,
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man.
But soon or late the man who wins,
Is the man who thinks he can.

When people come to my Zumba classes, before we start, and when we end, I say- you DID it- the hardest part is believing in yourself, the second hardest part is taking action and showing up.  We are busy, some with work; some with children, pets, friends, chores, and the list goes on.  This brings me to my favorite analogy…"The Airplane Emergency". They say “In the event of an emergency, oxygen masks will fall down, put it on yourself before you help anyone else”.  Did you hear what I said?  The first thing you can do, before you help anyone else is to help you.  This is not *just* for emergencies and this is not (and I repeat NOT) selfish! To be a better mother/father, husband/wife, employee, citizen (etc) you need to help yourself, to take care of yourself, to love yourself.  You are good enough, you are valuable enough, and you deserve it.  You will set a good example for those around you, and you will be all the better for it, personally and for those you love- this is a mutually beneficial advantage!

Before you think of another excuse, or something else comes up (as life so often happens) you need to dedicate a specific period of time (schedule it in your planner/calender if you have to), prioritize a half an hour minimum a day dedicated to take care of yourself.  Do not wait until it is too late.  If you are alive, it is not too late.  “Every day is another chance to turn it all around”.

So if you still need convincing, I am happy to oblige.
Exercises has numerous benefits, but let’s go with lucky number 7 for starters:

  1. The most obvious benefit is exercise controls weight- it can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss, or burn extra calories to lose weight. Any way you slice or dice it, it is necessary and rewarding.
  2. Helps combats health conditions and diseases-Worried about heart disease? Hoping to prevent high blood pressure? No matter what your current weight, being active boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. This one-two punch keeps your blood flowing smoothly, which decreases your risk of cardiovascular diseases. In fact, regular physical activity can help you prevent or manage a wide range of health problems and concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, certain types of cancer, arthritis and falls.  Are you taking unwanted medication?  Do you want to run and play with your kids or grand kids?  Do you want to be around to see them grow?  We cannot unfortunately control all diseases ( I know this because I can’t control the heart condition I was born with).  But, by goodness there are some things we can control- and why shouldn't we?  It is our body, it is our lives.  Empower yourself today, and take control of your health- Get fit, Get Healthy, Get Happy!
  3. Improves mood- Need an emotional lift? Or need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A workout at the gym or even something as short as a brisk 30-minute walk can help! Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals (ex. endorphins) that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. You may also feel better about your appearance and yourself when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem, ala chicken and the egg! In other words, it doesn't matter which comes first, they  feed off each other and either way,  you win in the end!
  4. Boosts energy-Winded by grocery shopping or household chores? Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. Exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily chores.
  5. Promotes better sleep- Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep.  Trust me, I am an insomniac by nature.  But, after a good work out even I feel tired at night and am able to get a good night’s sleep.
  6. Exercise puts the spark back into your sex life- Do you feel too tired or too out of shape to enjoy physical intimacy? Regular physical activity can leave you feeling energized and looking better, which may have a positive effect on your sex life. But there's more to it than that. Regular physical activity can lead to enhanced arousal for women- true story (c/o research by Mayo Research Clinic)!  And men who exercise regularly are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than are men who don't exercise.  Gives a whole new meaning to SCORE for the sexes, now doesn't it?
  7. Can be fun! Exercise and physical activity can be a fun way to spend some time. It gives you a chance to unwind, enjoy the outdoors or simply engage in activities that make you happy. Physical activity can also help you connect with family or friends in a fun social setting. So, take a dance class, hit the hiking trails or join a soccer team. Find a physical activity you enjoy, and just do it. If you get bored, try something new. (Refer to my blog  "Dear work out, let’s break up… it’s not me, it’s you…" for some new and exciting ideas).

The bottom line is- exercise, physical activity and good nutrition are a great way to feel better, gain health benefits and have fun. My results- I have lost over 35 lbs, I am a certified Zumba Instructor, working on other certifications and have aspirations of becoming a nutrition coach.  Am I an expert? No, not at all.  I was just like you, trying to get results, trying to figure it all out one day at a time.  Rome was not built in a day, the weight does not come on in a week, and it is absurd to think it can come off in a week.  I personally will still need open heart surgery one day, diet and exercise unfortunately cannot cure this particular ailment.   It can however make me healthier, happier, and stronger.  It can prolong the immediate need for surgery, and it reminds me each and every day to not wait till tomorrow.  Randy Pausch said in his book the Last Lecture, “time is all you have...and you may find one day that you have less than you think”.  Start today, live for today, love yourself today... your life will be better for it, you will be better for it, I promise you.

Monday, February 6, 2012

I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more...

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-seven now, and we don't know where the heck she is.” ― EllenDeGeneres
 The Proclaimers, I'm gonna be (500 Miles)

Firstly, that is a great song (I attached the YouTube link above so you can get it stuck in your head as well), and secondly perhaps Ellen’s grandma took it too literally, check a milk carton near you:).   All joking aside, why would you want to walk 1,000 miles (figuratively or literally) or even a single step, if you were not able to track and see the fruits of your labor?  My last blog hoped to inspire you to get up and get moving (I would love to hear your creative ideas on how you got that done, or helpful hints which you took to get started).  This blog is to focus on keeping track of all that moving and shaking you are about to embark on.
Maybe you have heard the recent guidelines about walking 10,000 steps per day. How far is 10,000 steps anyway? At 5’1” and a size 6.5 foot I am on the small size, but the average person's stride length is approximately 2.5 feet long. That means it takes just over 2,000 steps to walk one mile, and 10,000 steps is close to 5 miles.
A sedentary person may only average 1,000 to 3,000 steps a day. For these people adding steps has many health benefits. A reasonable goal for most people is to increase average daily steps each week by 500 per day until you can easily average 10,000 per day. Example: If you currently average 3000 steps each day, your goal for week one is 3500 each day. Your week 2 goal is 4000 each day. You can continue to increase each week and you should be averaging 10,000 steps by the end of 14 weeks.
Wearing a basic pedometer is an easy way to track your steps each day. You can start by wearing the pedometer every day for one week. Put it on when you get up in the morning and wear it until bed time. Record your daily steps in a log or notebook. By the end of the week you will know your average daily steps. You might be surprised how many (or how few) steps you get in each day.
I did however warn you that I am a lover of new age gadgets and gizmos so thinking outside the box, let’s  (pardon the pun) walk away from the pedometers of yester year, and say hello to the future! 
Drum roll please, as I present you with tracking of today and tomorrow...
FitBit Ultra- 

At $99.95 + free shipping, you get a device that tracks your every move (waking and sleeping). Fitbit makes every step you take a step toward better fitness, even on your busiest days. There are many pros- Fitbit Ultra's super sensitive 3-D motion sensor tracks your day down to details a pedometer can't catch, showing your exact steps taken, calories burned, and distance traveled. The new altimeter tracks floors climbed (upgrade from the original FitBit) so you can monitor this heart-healthy activity, encouraging you to take the stairs at home or work, or climb a little further on your next hike.  We all know solid sleep is hugely important to well-being and weight loss. But until now the question has been: just how do you track sleep? The answer — the Fitbit Tracker. Slip your Tracker into the Fitbit sleep wristband before bed, and it will keep a watchful eye as you slumber. When your info wirelessly uploads to, you'll see not only how long you sleep, but how well you sleep.  The Tracker monitors how many times and how long you wake up during the night. Over time, you can apply what you learn to better understanding what helps you sleep better.  Also, for those interested in style, the FitBit plus now comes in blue and pink!  There is however a con for those of you like me who can be a tad forgetful.   Although it has the plus of being tiny, comfortable and discreet, I have made the ill fated mistake of leaving it affixed on my clothing and…gulp… washing it in the washing machine and dryer .  Be warned, do not make this mistake…it is not water proof- Fit Bit= Rest in Peace.
Jawbone Up-
Which brings me to a new and improved version of tracking.   At a similar price point of $99.95, Jawbone Up is also wi-fi enabled and you can Use the UP wristband and iPhone® app to track your steps, distance, calories burned, pace, intensity level, active vs inactive time, GPS routes and more.   Another similiarity?  You can put your wristband in sleep mode to automatically track your hours slept, deep vs. light sleep, awake time and overall sleep quality. How does it differ? Replace your noisy alarm clock with UP's silent Smart Alarm; it vibrates on your wrist and intelligently wakes you up at the ideal moment in your natural sleep cycle just before your desired wake time. Also, another super neat feature, you can Program your UP wristband to vibrate on your wrist to remind you to move when you've been inactive for too long. You control the interval and timeframe.  One hindrance- it does not have the Fit Bit Stair Climber Option.  Additional benefits- Sweat and water proof so you can swim with it.  Also wear as a bracelet so less chance to lose, and a great conversation starter.  Current ETA- Jawbone Up is going through beta testing to enhance battery life, so production was postponed, and there is no current go live date, but I am ready to pre-order as soon as it’s available! For those interested the first color will only be black, but more will be created for those who are patient (not a strong suit for most early adopters- myself included =o)).
Nike Fuel Band –
Clearly popular (despite its most expensive $149  price tag), as it is temporarily out of stock.  Tracks each step and calorie burned through a Nike Accelometer, and if that doesn't impress you, it also makes a great watch.  How it works?  You set a target for how active you want to be, it starts each day in red and then works up to green when you meet your goal.  As it so eloquently says “The key to doing more, is knowing more”

For an added bonus- These tools give you the ability to turn every day into your game- to challenge yourself to capture records, reach new milestones & unlock special achievements.  My boyfriend and “partner in crime” are pretty competitive and we used our FitBits to compete on who would walk more steps each day, and who could hit milestones first.   When Jay and I went on our 7 country in 8 day vacation to South East Asia, we wore our Fit Bits every day to compare how many steps we could take, marking a new personal best and victory every day.  The highlight was in Jakarta, Indonesia when we walked over 40,000 steps, or over 20 miles (blisters to prove it)!  It was the most incredible accomplishment, and seeing my little trophy on my FitBit homepage made it that much sweeter. 
My FitBit Progress Report 

There are many ways to increase your daily steps. Use your imagination and come up with your own list:
  Take a walk with your spouse, child, or friend
  Walk the dog
  Use the stairs instead of the elevator
  Park farther from the store
  Better yet, walk to the store
  Get up to change the channel
  Window shop
  Plan a walking meeting
  Walk over to visit a neighbor
  Get outside to walk around the garden or do a little weeding

Once again, the goal here is to *start*.  Start moving, start tracking, and you will be amazed at yourself and the progress you will make once you are aware. In the infamous words of Lao Tzu, “A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Take your first step today!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dear work out, let’s break up… it’s not me, it’s you…

Does the thought of working out make you groan and roll your eyes?  Does it feel forced, almost like something you have to drag yourself to do?  Perhaps, the problem is not you at all, but the workout you are begrudgingly straining yourself to do. Here is a shocker for you, working out should not feel like work.  It is like a bad blind date, or an ugly Christmas sweater- some things are just not your type, and that my friend is a okay… You tried, you hated, you move on… now all you have to do is find the right fit for you.

Let’s start with obvious choice- a gym.  Some people are motivated by paying for a gym membership; the act of paying sparks the sudden urge to “get your money’s worth”.  For those who feel they are “not the gym type” or fear being judged; I think you would be surprised to know how welcoming “gym rats” are.  Everyone has to start somewhere, and the people who frequent a gym are focused on themselves, and living healthier lifestyle.  You showing up is a step in that direction, no matter what stage you start at, you share the same goals.  If looking at the cardio equipments and weights makes you start to panic and look for the nearest exit, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Gym members and staff are generally very nice and happy to help you show you how machines work, or provide advice. For that added boost of a one-on-one mentorship, you can always consider getting a personal trainer. An expert at what they do, they will work with you to understand your needs, lifestyle and eating habits and be focused and dedicated to help you meet your goals.   Another gym benefit, my personal favorite is group classes; from body pump to cycling, there are various options for you to experiment with.  I became a certified Zumba fitness Instructor over a year ago, and thrive off of the energy classes and other people’s enthusiasm provide.  Teaching helps mandate that I show up (the most important step), try extra hard to be a good example as others are watching every move I make- literally, and lastly I get to earn extra money for working out!

Some prefer to be solo, running on a treadmill, elliptical, or around a lake or trail with only head phones or their thoughts gets their juices flowing.   Others prefer to be at home, at least until they are comfortable, and that is perfectly fine.  There are actually tons of options for the people who prefer their nest.  For those I recommend investing in a home elliptical, treadmill, or bike.  For half an hour or hour a day, you can turn on your favorite TV show or movie on, and sweat it out, rather than vegging out.  For those who invested in the equipment, and now use it as a clothes dryer (we have all done it once, at least I admit it =o)), don’t give up perhaps that is just not your mojo.    Another great idea for those of you who are gamers, you can try Wii Fit, The Biggest Loser, Gold’s Gym Cardio Work Out, or Just Dance to get moving and shaking.  Moreover, can always try home DVD’s there is a vast array of options from P90X (I am currently up to week 8 of intense  muscle confusion, and eXtreme exercise), Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred (this is a great option of only 20 minutes a day of intense exercise; perfect for those who do not have the time), or anything and everything from Yoga and Pilates, to Zumba, Belly Dancing to Carmen Electra’s Strip Tease- somewhere out there,  there is a home DVD that can work for you!

        You can use the seasons to your benefit.  Summer is not only great for BBQ’s it is a perfect time to stroll along the sandy beaches or swim in the ocean or pool.  Don’t have a pool? Join a local YMCA! Swimming is a great form of exercise, which uses all muscles in your body without putting strain on your joints.  This is a great exercise for all people from experts through starters (even if you need swimmies). In the fall you can go apple picking, pumpkin picking, or just take a stroll to watch the beautiful fall leaves change color.  In the spring, you can go to a local botanical gardens, or park and look at all the beautiful flowers.  Winter? Want to stay in, walk around the mall and do some window shopping.  Explore your local museums or art galleries.  Want to feel like a kid again, build a snowman with the family, or have a snowball fight.  Feeling adventurous, try skiing , snowboarding or ice skating ; not only are these superior cardiovascular workouts, which can help you lose weight, increase your endurance, and tone your muscles, but more importantly it is a great way to have family fun.

This can be you! 
·       You never know which exercises you might surprisingly love, unless you try.  Most places offer beginners a free class. I took a free class, and got hooked on boxing/kick boxing/ MMA (yes I have pink boxing gloves) great release of frustration, stressful work day, or method burning 800-1000 calories in a single class!  Husbands/boyfriends, want to impress your wives/girlfriends and earn extra brownie points?  Enroll in a couples dance class!  We don’t care if you are clumsy and have two left feet, we will be ecstatic that you want to try together.  Don’t have a partner?  No problem!  There are plenty of dance studios that allow you to come and switch partners so everyone has a turn.  There are plenty of singles, and you never know who you will meet? ;) From Salsa to Swing, Ballet to Hip Hop, Bollywood to Hula, the world is your oyster, *Tap* into it ;).   Ladies, next time you have a girls night- instead of calorie rich dinner and drinks, have some Crystal Light Margaritas (awesome new low calorie mocktails, you add the tequila) and try Pole Fitness dancing instead!  It is surprisingly silly and fun, as well as a great way to feel feminine, sexy, and get in great shape with your gf’s.  

These are my fur kids!
Perhaps you want to revert to the activities you loved most as a child, where playing was fun and not exercise- jump rope, go for a bike ride, walk and talk with a friend, lover, or your best furry friend- the excitement my dogs have from the mere word “WALK?” can both shame you for not being more excited to exercise, and enthrall you to share in the simple joy they have from being outside and seeing the world.

The moral of this story is simple- you have to be open minded to try new things! As the weekend approaches, I encourage each of you to go out, find something new and fun to try.  Don’t worry about making a mistake, in the words of Tony Horton (P90X guru) “Do your best and forget the rest!”. In Zumba, we say you ditch the work out, and join the party. Fitness needs to be perceived as fun and games or we subconsciously avoid it!  If you find something you love, instead of counting the minutes, the time will just fly by, and you will be healthier and happier for it.

Stay tuned for my next blog. Now that you’re moving, we’ll need to start tracking! I will let you in on some awesome electronic gadgets and gizmos which can help you track your progress!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Weighing In at this corner....

I present you with the WiFi Scale! TA DA!!!!!

I can see you looking for the X, but please don’t run yet- I promise it is like ripping off a band aid, it will only hurt for a second.  In order to know where you are going, you have to know where you begin.  Think of it this way, the number you see is your beginning, and you will never have to see it again, so smile, it is all downhill from here... lbs/kg that is!

According to a recent study in the Journal of Women’s Health (JOWH), one-third of young women didn’t recognize when they gained anywhere from 4.5-8.8 pounds, which could ultimately raise their risk for heart disease and obesity. So, how do you track your weight? 

According to the following poll from JOWH, almost half (49%) weigh themselves everyday,  17% once a week, 20 % base weight gain/loss on how their clothes fit, 8 % base weight gain/loss on the way they look naked, and 5 % don’t track their weight. 

I fit into the once a day majority, but I do not recommend that for most people as it may be over kill and provide unnecessary highs or lows, especially those starting out. Throughout the day as you eat, drink, breathe, sweat, and use the restroom your weight varies. In fact, from one day to the next your weight can vary by as much as 13 1/2 pounds according to some medical studies.

That is why most people recommend that you don't weigh yourself every day. It is emotionally draining to look at the scale one day and see that you've lost 3 pounds, only to look at it the next day to see that you've gained 5 pounds. Most people, can't take that kind of emotional abuse. To really understand how you are doing on a diet you need to filter out that noise.

 I highly recommend weighing yourself at minimum once a week, at approximately the same time every time (for consistency).  It helps keep you accountable, track progress, and reflect on what you did the week before which hindered, or more importantly helped your goal.  What is the best time to weigh myself? Since we never eat the same thing, at the same time of day; and we never do exactly the same activities at the same time every day (If you do- yikes!  Please stay tuned for my blog on how spontaneity is the spice of life- shake it up a bit!;o). It is clear our weight varies during the day in unpredictable ways. This is why I recommend that you weigh yourself every morning after using the restroom, but before eating or drinking anything. In my experience, this is the one time of day that all of the factors that affect your weight are most consistent.

Unless you are in that 49 %, I know you are thinking- “I already have a scale…somewhere, covered by dust bunnies or in a closet…somewhere?  Won’t that do?”  Yes, technically any scale will do, however not any scale will give you a great break down, or provide a graph to look at the bigger picture.  Sure, 100 lbs of bricks weighs the same as 100 lbs of feathers, a basic scale will tell you that, but a WiFI Enabled scale will not only tell you your weight but it will also give you a more detailed breakdown of what that number actually means, and provide you a graph of the bigger picture of your progress and success

I recommend Withings WiFi Scale ($159 first of it’s kind and available today) or FitBit Aria WiFi Smart Scale ($129.95 available April 2012).   { As an early adopter and technology and fitness nerd I love me some gadgets, I do not claim to represent these products in any way, except through my experience and opinion; nor do I have any stock in the companies ;)}.  Back to the aforementioned scales, both track your weight, % of body fat, % of muscle and your Body Mass Index (BMI).

These numbers provides critical pieces of information to show you your true results and provide you clarity on what you need to focus on to improve.  Your weight alone will not give you your total health picture.  BMI (a combination of your height, weight, are used by both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as a way to define your body weight as compared to what is healthy.

 Knowing your BMI is important because your weight alone doesn't tell the whole story. If your BMI is too high, you may be at an increased risk for many chronic health problems. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, and osteoarthritis. It may also raise your risk for endometrial, breast, prostate, and colon cancers.   I know it is a hefty price for a scale, but you are investing in YOU, transforming your mind, body, and soul, and YOU are worth it!

 One final note, I would also recommend a basic Tape Measure, and taking all of your measurements before you begin your journey.  You may not lose pounds, but you may lose inches.  A realistic goal is to lose 1-2 lbs a week, but any weight loss even small can improve your health (which is the true goal- to be fit and healthy); and don’t be discouraged by the number but focus on getting leaner, toner, more muscular, or fitting into those “skinny jeans”. Whatever your goals, visualize it, define it, make it timely, and focus on achieving your dreams, one hop, skip, or jump at a time.  Stay tuned for more lessons and cool gadgets to help you embark on the new and improved Fit and Fab you!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Get Fit, Get Healthy, Get Happy!

Most people who first meet me would describe me as happy, bubbly, and one of the best compliments/descriptions I have ever received was by my love who said I was filled with a "zest for life".  Those are all true *most* of the time, but there is a reason behind it which I do not share with too many people, until today... 

When I was two years old, I was rushed to the emergency room for a high fever, and stomach flu which would not subside.  I laid in the ICU for several days approaching what the doctor’s prepared my mom for (the worst), as they could not diagnose what was wrong with me, or why nothing was staying down.  They ran superfluous arrays of tests, poking and prodding me to no avail.  Until a young cardiologist discovered I had a heart condition, a rare one.  Every year since I was two I had to go to a Cardiologist for an annual check-up for my condition (for those curious, it’s a mitral valve cleft) in laymans terms, this fancy jargon translates to the fact that I will need open heart surgery to replace the valve… eventually. 

I have known this my entire life, and frankly it’s a tad scary for a young kid to think about- and is not much easier for an adult to digest.  Anyone who has a young child knows the thought of what if’s and why’s for a small child are endless as they try to process and understand life.  Two of my favorite books (fittingly) are Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture”(the lecture turned novel written by a man dying of cancer…but the book strangely enough wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment) ; Tied for my favorite book is Mitch Albom’s “Tuesday’s with Moorie” (the reflections of an old man giving a young man a second chance to reinvent his life), both are amazing “must reads” which every person should read to revaluate their life and how they will enjoy their precious time on this earth. So I have spent every day of my life with this conscious knowledge of the inevitable, and decided I would not let fear overcome my life, my love, my passion, and my chance to be happy- every single day of my life!

I know you are thinking, “OK, Why do I tell you all this, and how does this relate to getting fit, or happy?”.  Well, too put it nicely, I was “pleasantly plump”.  There are many reasons for why this occurred, but if I were to be honest with myself, none of it matters as much as why I hesitated to make a change.  Part of it was I was scared of changing and pushing myself (both physically, and mentally), part of it was “I did not have the time”(I have heard this one tons of times), part of it was I did not know where to begin?  Someone once told me, “every time I see you, you are always smiling”.  Although I smiled and felt happy, I felt something did not add up, I felt the person on the outside did not match the person on the inside.  I was not reaching my full potential, and deep down, I was unhappy about the way I looked, and wanted to look better, and more importantly feel better. I share my journey to get fit, health, and happy with you in the hope that perhaps you can relate to me on some level, perhaps I can inspire you in some way, perhaps my words can help motivate you to take action and control of your life, health and happiness the way I did- and continue to strive to.

In the beginning I  haphazardly went through the “motions” of getting fit.  I tried the diet fads, you name it, I tried it… Atkins, South Beach, NutriSystem, Weight Watchers. It was around this same time, I was extremely successful diving myself into work, working constantly, coming home and feeling mentally drained and too tired to work out (sound familiar?).  But I was dieting, wasn’t that enough?  It was around this time, my cardiologist appointment turned up some unpleasant news.  My condition had worsened, and my status was now upgraded to severe.  Houston, we have a problem.  One of the Weight Watchers mantras then became ever so clear to me: “this is NOT a diet, this is a LIFESTYLE CHANGE”.  I packed my things and went on a trip to Costa Rica, I kayaked, I horseback rode, I zip lined.  I was active… and I liked it!  My endorphins were pleased, it made me feel better, healthier and happier.  I came back and made it my mission to live a more active and healthy lifestyle.  I finally figured out the secret… Do you want to know what it was?  It’s so simple, it’s scary.  No crazy diets required-- Calories in, vs. calories out. Shocking? I know! Sometimes the obvious is more easily digested in pretty packaging and fluff- but that is all there is too it.  I do not mean to oversimplify, as obviously there is a lot more to it, mentally, physically, and emotionally- sweat and tears, and above all the right attitude, but at the core most simple definition- that's it.  Knowing that makes it easier to start.  I had to stop waiting for the perfect time, as there is no such thing.  I had to just begin...   I began to eat healthier, I began to move more, I began to try new things and challenge myself.  I made a commitment to take care of myself ala the old adage “take care of your body, and your body will take care of you”.  Put quality nourishment in your body to fuel you, get active doing what you love, get fit (magical side effect), learn to love you, and get happy!

So being a closet nerd and techie-a-holic I wanted to help you get on track for your goals, whatever they might be.  Over the next few days I will share a list of the top techie devices, tools, and methods, which have helped me have great success, and  I think can help you meet your goals. Stay tuned!