Archive for July, 2009

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Exercise vs. Sleep

July 8, 2009

Two days ago I finally did it. I signed up for a race. A week from this coming Saturday, I will have accomplished my goal of running a race this summer. I am incredibly excited about it. I chose a 6km trail run so that I’ll have some nice scenery to look at as I’m on the move. I’m also getting a free pancake breakfast out of it, and how can you go wrong with pancakes, right? Right.

I haven’t been following any kind of training schedule at all. I’ve just been running about twice a week, for around 30 to 40 minutes at a time. Running by myself, weaving in and out of the streets and through parks. On Monday I went for a run with Caroline, so it was a really nice change to have someone to run with. Playing soccer twice a week has also been helpful for increasing my speed.

There’s just been one problem that has come up: the issue of sleep.

In some ways, sleeping is a real nuisance. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to crawl into bed at the end of the day, but sometimes the day just doens’t seem long enough to do everything that I would have liked. And that’s when I’ve had the conflict of trying to decide what is most important to me; sleep or exercise.

I’m well aware of the importance of a good night’s sleep. Resting is just as critical to our health as physical activity is. But what about when they cut into each other? I really like to exercise early in the morning. I don’t mind waking up at 6am to fit in a run before going to work. If I’m waking up at 6am, though, then it’s probably a good idea to go to bed at a reasonable hour. The summer is a sociable time and it disagrees with the notion of “reasonable hour”! Going out with friends or playing soccer later on in the evening keeps me up past the time I should be in bed. And then I have to make the decision, do I sleep an extra hour to get a decent amount of rest, or do I wake up early to go for a run, thus cutting into my rest time?

I usually choose the latter. I don’t mind foregoing sleep in the name of exercise because it makes me feel great. As long as I don’t do it all the time, my body is quite happy with waking up early. Sometimes the early morning exercise is actually what I need to keep my energized throughout the day. That, after all, is what I was doing with boot camp. I dragged myself out of bed early each morning no matter what I’d been doing the night before because it was something that I loved and made me happy. I think I’d rather be a little bit tired but have enjoyed a good and healthy burst of exercise than to get a longer sleep and miss out on the therapeutic run/walk/<insert other activity here> which does my body so much good. It can sure be a hard decision, even so.

What do you like to do? Rest or exercise? The biggest thing that concerns me when I don’t get adequate rest is that then I might not be performing as well on my runs as I could have if I’d skipped the run that day for the sleep-in, and gone for a run a couple days later. But on the other hand, I don’t want to keep putting it off. It would be too easy to say to myself that sleep is important, and I can always go for a run “some other time”- I wouldn’t want that to become a regular frame of thought.

It certainly is a conundrum! Have you had this issue before? What do you do to deal with it?

Anyone else running a race within the next couple weeks? If you happen to be in the area, you should join the Try a Trail race that I’ll be running on July 18th! It’s going to be a fun time. And pancakes. We all love pancakes.

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How does music affect your health?

July 6, 2009

Living Rhetorically in the Real World

Just so you all know, I now have a subscription feature at Living Rhetorically in the Real World– subscribe and you will get a notification when I update posts (twice weekly)!

Baking in the Blogosphere

My friend and temporary roommate Caroline has started up her own food blog, called Baking with Caroline! Check it out for some tasty recipes.

Music for Health

This coming weekend, from July 9th to 12th, I’m taking four days off to get out of the city and enjoy the infamous Folk Fest, so I will be away from the blogging world from Wednesday to Monday. I’ve got some posts already pre-written so be sure to check back throughout the week! Some exciting things are in store, including a product review and giveaway, and an interview with a yoga instructor. You definitely do not want to miss out on those 🙂  I’m even going to take a break from wearing my pedometer while I’m at the campsite. That’s a big deal for me! There is a great lineup of musicians set for this year and it’s sure to be an excellent time.

My iPod has been acting up lately and so I have been without it for a month because the cables that I require for fixing it mysteriously disappeared around the time that my sister/roommate left for Montreal. I’m not the kind of person who absolutely needs to have music, but I do enjoy it very much and I have been missing it. Apart from simply enjoying music, I also really like what music does for the soul. Usually considered a form of entertainment, music is not often thought about as a way to improve our health.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know there was such thing as the Canadian Association for Music Therapy until yesterday. Just as exercise can be used as a treatment for depression and other ailments, music has the potential to inspire people and help them to heal. It serves to calm us and can change our mood drastically depending on how much we like or dislike what we’re hearing.

I really feel that with such an extensive list of things that music can allegedly heal or help to treat, it demonstrates that our mental limitations are often the real stumbling block. Physically we are capable of truly amazing feats, but we do not realize our full potential because mentally we are not in the right place. Music therapy, it would appear, has some affect on this. I’m sure, in fact, that we can all confirm this notion just by thinking about our own experiences with listening to music. Sometimes music is the reason that we’re able to push through a tough session of exercise. Or we need it to be able to fall asleep at night. Or listening to music helps us to concentrate when we’re working on a paper. Or perhaps you use music to escape from a mind that is over-crowded with thoughts. Whatever the case, music certainly has a place for all of us.

Do you think that there’s something to this notion of music therapy? Had you heard of this before? What kind of impact has music had on your life?

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Is it healthier to sit on the couch or to ride a bike?

July 3, 2009

I came across this article in the New York Times and felt an immense amount of frustration which I felt the need to vent out here. If you can’t be bothered to click on the link and read the article, in a nutshell it discusses whether bicycling is bad for your bones. This debate has risen as a result of a number of studies which suggest that competitive bikers have a lower bone density than the average person.

To me this has the same sort of ring to it as the old “bananas are really high in sugar so you should limit your intake of them”. Yes, if you eat five bananas a day, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but really you’re better off eating a couple extra bananas than you are eating junk food. I know of people who will choose sugar-free packaged foods over a banana and think that they are doing their health a favor by choosing an item with less or no sugar in it. I’m doubtful it’s a healthy choice to make.

Considering how much bad food we eat, and how little we exercise, why are we concerning ourselves and wasting time and money with conducting studies saying we shouldn’t eat as much healthy food or shouldn’t compete in certain sports?

Okay, so that’s not really what the article is trying to imply, I’m sure. But it still bothers me. Because I know that there are many people out there who will jump on something like this and use it as an excuse why they shouldn’t exercise or eat healthy.

I think that once you’re eating quite healthy and exercising regularly, then these studies are things that you should maybe think about. I didn’t start to cut back on my excessive carrot intake until my skin started turning orange. Why is that? Because eating a few too many carrots is better than eating a bag of chips or drinking a can of Coke. I don’t eat quite so many carrots these days and I instead am eating more vegetables with a variety of nutrients so that I’m not having an overabundance of vitamin A. My skin has turned a normal, non-orange color as a result, too.

Something that I did find interesting in this article which I was not previously aware of is that a possible reason for the skeletal damage in competitive cyclists is because they sweat so much, and we lose calcium through sweat (although that makes perfect sense, come to think of it, that we’d be losing nutrients other than electrolytes from sweating). But part of this doesn’t really make sense: don’t competitive runners sweat just as much as competitive cyclists? Yet it is bicycling, rather than other endurance sports, which appears to be correlated to a loss in bone density. We also have to remember that there could be many, many factors involved which could all be possible reasons for bone damage.

What do you think? Is there a point to these kinds of studies? Does it just encourage people to fall back on junk food because they already know full well that it’s bad for them? These sorts of research are a good reminder that moderation is key… but I still believe that the majority of us should be more concerned with cutting back on the junk and increasing the exercise than worrying about not eating certain fruits or not engaging in certain activities.

Don’t forget to answer this month’s poll!

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Poll: What kind of lifestyle diets have you tried?

July 1, 2009

Understanding nutrition labels

I’m writing about analyzing the rhetoric behind nutrition labels on food products over at Living Rhetorically in the Real World. Check it out to learn how to decipher labels and to offer your input about your frustrations with the sneaky marketing tricks used in our grocery stores!

Giveaway winner

I’m happy to announce that the winner of the Zhena’s Gypsy Tea giveaway is… Spring Girl! Congratulations! E-mail me your mailing address and I’ll contact the company with your info so they can send your tea to you.

Last month’s poll

Last month we discussed our differing opinions regarding taking medication and/or supplements. Of 40 voters, 3% take drugs as soon as they get the sniffles, 30% take them because they’ve been prescribed something special by a doctor, 48% only take them when they’re very seriously ill, and 20% take all-natural supplements or vitamins on a regular basis. I thought that many more would say that they take meds or supplements regularly, but it’s good to know that we’re mostly relying on food as our sources of nutrition. I firmly believe that diet alone can make a drastic difference in our immune system- it won’t be able to do it every time, but the majority of the time, what you eat is going to have a huge impact on your state of health.

This month’s poll

We’re doing our monthly polls at the beginning of each month now rather than the end- I’ve decided I prefer the beginning of the month. That means that we skipped June altogether. No matter! Onto July’s poll (this is a controversial one that many people might feel very impassioned about, so bear in mind that the views presented here are my personal opinion only, I’m not an expert, and I don’t want anyone to feel offended!):

Lately I have become very interested in and curious about vegan and raw foodist diets. They seem to be cropping up more and more these days, and both of these lifestyles are something that I personally have very little knowledge about. From the little that I do know, it sounds as though these diets do not fit with my health philosophy (no eggs? What is this madness! :)). However, I’m also aware that oftentimes we disagree with other perspectives simply because we don’t know enough about them and therefore do not understand them. There has also been a lot of conflicting information in the media debating whether either of these diets are beneficial to our health. My solution to getting to the bottom of it all? Try out these lifestyles, of course! In the future, I would like to do each of these as challenges (but not now. The Burpee Challenge and the Run A Race Challenge are enough at the moment). I’m undecided as to which I’ll challenge myself with first- does anyone have a preference (seeing as I’ll be writing all about it on this blog when I get around to undertaking the challenge)?

So! What kind of lifestyle diets have you tried? Which ones have improved your life and which ones have worsened your health? Answer the poll, checking all and any that apply to you, and expand on your answer in the comments! My understanding is that all of our bodies are different, so we should follow a nutritious diet that our body agrees with. It’s for this reason that I’m not a huge fan of extreme philosophies (unless, of course, some kind of medical condition requires extreme measures). Vegans? Raw foodists? This is where you get to chime in! I’m endlessly curious about the healthiness of these diets. Eventually I’ll be trying out your lifestyles so that I can really form a proper opinion about them and gain greater understanding, so any tips you have about transitioning from being a flexitarian to being a temporary vegan or raw foodist would be most helpful.

…while I was creating this poll, it occurred to me that I’ve never heard of anyone going on a “low protein” diet. That’s kind of funny. What’s so special about carbs and fats that some “experts” tell us to limit them, anyway?

And HAPPY CANADA DAY, everyone!