Self-care ideas for men and women

“Self-care” sounds like a bit of a wank, but it’s the term these days for doing things that help you feel less stressed, more Zen.

Here are some ideas that are not all about spa treatments or makeup.

  • Tidy a space – a table, a drawer, a cupboard.
  • Discuss an insight from your day with a loved one, without gossiping.
  • Watch a TED talk or YouTube instructional video about something you wondered about recently.
  • Go outside for a walk or a bike ride.
  • Enjoy your time on social media without feeling guilty or rushed.  Use it as downtime and as a treat.
  • When scrolling on Facebook and you see something or someone that always annoys you, let it go and unfollow them.
  • Smile.
  • Edit a photo, draw a picture, write about your thoughts.
  • Breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 2, then out for 3 seconds, hold for 2. Do this 10 times.
  • Try a new recipe.
  • Stretch.
  • Say no to something without feeling guilty.
  • Go to bed on time.
  • Give someone a compliment.
  • Go for a walk at lunch instead of sitting or shopping.
  • Put some money in your retirement fund, even if it’s only a small amount.

Things I’ve learned about running shoes

So many shoes and so many types of feet!  It’s confusing for the recreational runner.

The main brands (Nike, Asics, Brooks, Salomon, Mizuno, Adidas, New Balance, Saucony, Under Armour) tend to have models of shoes with one of these types of main feature:

  • Cushioning / Neutral (without built-in arch support).
  • Stability / Support (with built-in arch support).
  • Racing Flats (lightweight shoes for sprints and short races).

Shoe companies are always coming up with some new “feature” that makes their latest model sound good. But the above features are the main ones to be aware of over all brands.

You can also find these sorts of shoes (shoes can be a debatable topic!):

  • Minimalist (e.g. Vibram). Some call these “natural” running shoes, perhaps to try to get you converted to them. They have thin soles.
  • Maximalist (e.g. HOKA, Altra). These have highly cushioned soles. Some also say these are “foot-shaped” to try to convert you.

The main thing is to get a type of shoe that fits your specific foot traits.

You can have one or some of these foot traits:

  • Wide.
  • Narrow.
  • Flat feet (low or no arch).
  • High arch.
  • Under-pronation / excessive supination (rolling too far to the outside of your foot).
  • Over-pronation (rolling to the inside of your foot).

Over-pronation is not quite the same thing as having flat feet. You can have completely flat feet which therefore don’t over-pronate (roll). Your feet can over-pronate but not roll completely inwards or be flat.

The many brands of shoes each have different models aimed to assist people with the many permutations of traits. Not all brands offer all permutations.

My feet are weird, and most people’s are too.

Skip the next paragraph to avoid things that may not be relevant for your foot type. Read it if you want to learn how I came to learn the above information through muddling along with my unique foot problems.

I wear orthotics I had made by a podiatrist. My flat feet were operated on when I was 5 years old to shorten the tendons. I can’t walk flat, because it hurts the tendons. Before I got the orthotics I had to consciously arch my foot so it didn’t pull on the tendon. It hurt to run as my tendons pull all the way down the chain of my leg, when my feet over-pronate/roll. I got hip tendon pain when I started running and sore foot/ankle tendons. I’m pretty flexible, and my feet can make a high arch if I want. It’s too hard to control the arch movement when running, so I need the orthotics. The hard orthotics also mean I don’t have much foot balance or control when running on technical trails, so I’m best if I avoid that, but I’m fine on roads and paths. I was told by the podiatrist to wear support shoes. But wearing the orthotics with stability/support shoes for 2 years meant I had excessive supination which caused me pain in my glute/hamstring. I don’t wear stability/support shoes now. I’ve found cushioned/neutral shoes work very well with my orthotics. I wear the orthotics under the inner soles of the shoes. I was first in a sports store told to go up half a size in running shoe. I’ve had 7 black toenails and gone up four half-sizes before getting it right.

The biggest lessons I’ve learned:

  • Don’t wear stability/support shoes with your custom-made orthotics. This would mean wearing extra arch support on top of built-in arch support – overkill.
  • You need a bigger size running shoe than your normal shoes. Feet expand when running, from force and swelling. I wear US women’s size 10 regular shoes, and US women’s size 12 running shoes.
  • For your first pair of a brand of running shoes, you need to try them on. You can buy online if you know the brand/model and its sizing are right for you.

How I lost weight

20180712weight

I lost 36 kg (80 lb) eating whatever I most wanted within my calorie limit. No dieting. And I’ve kept the weight off for over 2 years so far the same way.

Most people fail at weight loss because they try to follow a restrictive diet. They deprive themselves of things they love, and they think being healthy means one meal of kale and boiled chicken a day. Then they wonder why they crash and burn and binge it all back.

I stuck to my calorie limit and lost the weight in 12 months, and I had chocolate and alcohol almost every day.  I would never have lasted that long otherwise.

The Healthy Food Pyramid allows for 20% of treats. Treats are still protein, fats, and carbohydrates, the building blocks of nutrition.

I used the free app, My Fitness Pal (MFP), to keep track of my calorie intake.

I also used a Fitbit watch to sync my exercise calories to MFP (I now use a Garmin), and those calories allowed me to eat more while still eating less calories than I burned. You set your MFP goal to lose weight, and you stick to those net calories, and any exercises you do are bonus yummy calories to fuel your exercise.

MFP is an amazing resource. It’s got a massive worldwide database of nutritional information on foods – raw, cooked, and purchased. It has a Community – multiple forums where I have made friends, learned from successful people, and participated in fascinating discussions on general health, weight loss, fitness, and food.

To use the MFP app, you enter in your height, weight, and age, and how much you want to lose per week, and it tells you how many calories or kilojoules you need to eat daily to achieve your goal.

You might be thinking, “But counting calories sounds so time-consuming!” No, it only takes a couple of minutes per day. 3 minutes less time spent scrolling on Facebook, yay!  MFP remembers your most recent entries, so your favourites are easy to find. You can also scan food barcodes for quick data entry.

You don’t have to spend hours preparing smoothies for every meal (unless you like doing that), or pay thousands of dollars for someone to tell you to eat things you hate. MFP is free, and you can eat whatever foods keep you satisfied!

It’s a simple concept, though there are lots of questions people ask. MFP has a noticeable presence of members who debunk the many annoying myths of the fitness industry, and these people have helped me immensely.

The Community has a list of Most Helpful Posts at the top of each forum, which guide you through the process, and I highly recommend people read them. I’m proud that a few of my posts also made it onto lists.

I’m honest with myself about what I eat. I choose what I enjoy, and log it accurately, and my MFP calorie limit does the rest.

I look at my calorie limit like my bank balance. I need to keep an eye on it, and not spend calories I haven’t earned yet. I don’t need motivation to do it, it’s just a daily habit – like being aware of my bank balance, the news, or the weather. A couple of taps on the phone can help so much.

Better health through technology!

 

How I Started Running

I hated running at school. I would gasp, huff, and puff, and it made me feel like my lungs were bleeding.

In January 2015 I’d been working at a sedentary job for 4 years and was 35 kg (80 lbs) overweight. I started walking a bit more often, but mostly weekends.

In April 2015, aged 48, I started walking to and from work every day, and using the free My Fitness Pal app to track my calorie intake. Then I started walking purposely at lunchtime too.

By September 2015, I’d lost 18 kg (40 lb), and on September 21 I woke at 6 am full of energy. I got dressed and went for a brisk walk for an hour.

On September 22, I was wide awake at 6 am again, and set out walking, fast.

I had a burning compulsion that walking didn’t feel fast enough.

Holy crap, I feel like running.

I hate running.

Go, on, you need a challenge.

I am so not a runner.

You could time yourself and get some lovely data.

Shut up.

How about timing yourself running from the next 500 metre marker to the one after?

Really?

It’s coming up.

Resentful but deep breath… look at watch…

Oh my fucking God why am I running? I’m fucking running! My legs feel great! I can’t breathe hard enough! Is that blood I can taste? This is the longest 3 minutes 30 seconds ever! Oh, 500 metre marker, here you are, I love you! I can’t believe how happy I am that that’s over!

When can I do it again?

I downloaded Couch to 5K the same day, parkrun started here 2 weeks later, and the rest is history.

The World is Getting Better

In his farewell address as President, Barack Obama said, “I’m asking you to believe. Not in my ability to make change, but in yours.”

We all think we are the only ones doing any good in this world. Yet somehow, we keep trying, and the world keeps getting better.

3 Facts Everyone Should Know:

1. Since 1960, child deaths have plummeted from 20 million a year to 6 million a year.

2. Since 1960, the fertility rate has fallen by half…from more than 5 children per woman to fewer than 2.5 children. The world population growth rate has also halved in the last 50 years and is just above 1 percent.

3. 137,000 people escaped extreme poverty every day between 1990 and 2015. (In 1990, 1.86 billion people were living on less than 1.90 international-$ per day—more than every third person in the world. Twenty-five years later, the number of people living in extreme poverty has more than halved to 706 million, every tenth person.)

We all think nobody else is helping, but we are all still helping.

More lovely data from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

1. 122 million children’s lives have been saved since 1990. These children would have died if mortality rates had stayed where they were in 1990.

2. Coverage for the basic package of childhood vaccines is now the highest it’s ever been, at 86 percent. And the gap between the richest and the poorest countries is the lowest it’s ever been. Vaccines are the biggest reason for the drop in childhood deaths.

3. Newborn mortality rates are lower, influencing childhood mortality rates.

4. Nutrition is better, influencing childhood mortality rates.

5. For the first time in history, more than 300 million women in developing countries are using modern methods of contraception. It took decades to reach 200 million women. It has taken only another 13 years to reach 300 million – saving women’s lives.

6. Poverty is sexist. But now 75 million women in India are in self-help groups aimed at improving women’s power, preventing HIV, responding to violent attacks, accessing contraception and financial services.

7. Extreme poverty has been cut in half over the last 25 years. That’s a big accomplishment that ought to make everyone more optimistic. But almost no one knows about it. In a recent survey, just 1 percent knew we had cut extreme poverty in half, and 99 percent underestimated the progress. That survey wasn’t just testing knowledge; it was testing optimism—and the world didn’t score so well.

8. The most magical number is zero. Zero malaria. Zero TB. Zero HIV. Zero malnutrition. Zero preventable deaths. Zero difference between the health of a poor kid and every other kid. That’s the goal, and we’re getting there. In 1988, when the global campaign was launched to end polio, there were 350,000 new cases each year. In 2016, there were 37.

We all think we are the only ones doing any good in this world. Keep lighting your candle in the dark.

About Me

I had 15 minutes of fame from my “before/after” photo from my first year of running.

A Year of Running

10 October 2015 to 22 September 2016

The photo garnered an article in The Telegraph, UK.

It had 1,400+ likes on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Group One Year of Running.

My Imgur photo made “Viral” status and had nearly 200,000 views

It was posted on Reddit and had 10,000 points and 381 comments.

 

I lost 36 kg (80 lb) between April 2015 and April 2016 by eating whatever I felt like (in moderation) within my calorie limit, using the free My Fitness Pal app.

I had started feeling better and better after quitting smoking cigarettes cold turkey in May 2014 and have just kept going. In 2015 I started walking a bit more every day.

On 22 September 2015 I suddenly felt the urge to run for the first time in 30 years.  2 weeks later, I started doing parkrun on Saturdays when it started in my town and I have only missed parkrun 3 times since then. #loveparkrun

I ran 50 km in 6 hours on 10 June 2018.

 
Along the way, these are the goals I’ve made and completed:

Raise money for cerebral palsy and walk 10,000 steps a day for Steptember 2015.
Run 5 km. 5 December 2015.
Run 10 km. 6 March 2016.
Run 15 km by end of June 2016. 27 March 2016.
Run 5 km in under 30 minutes. 9 April 2016.
30 Day Planking Challenge. May 2016.
Run a half marathon. 26 June 2016.
Run 100 miles in August 2016. Done by 22 August 2016.
Run 1,000 km in 2016. Done by 27 August 2016.
Walk 35 km on 23 October 2016.
Run 100 miles in October 2016.
Run 10 km in under 55 minutes. 8 Jan 2017.
Run 30 km. Done 24 March 2017.
Walk 50 km on 6 May 2017.
Hike 80 km in 2 days. 10-11 June 2017.
Run my first marathon in my year of turning 50. Sunday 27 August 2017.
Run my 100th parkrun. 17 February 2018.
Run a half marathon run (or further) every month for a year. July 2017 to June 2018.
Run a 50 km run in 2018. Sunday 10 June 2018.
Hold a handstand for 10 seconds. 17 June 2018.

Writing all this is a reminder to myself that goals are achieved by making a little effort every day.

Don’t wait around for motivation. Just do it.

Challenge your thoughts.

Don’t believe everything you think.

Zenmode.org was started 20 June 2018.

How To Spot a Weight Loss Scam

A weight loss scam:

• Uses personal testimonials, such as “it worked for me” rather than large, good quality scientific studies.

• Demonises food groups.

• Insists you need to “detox”.

• Is sold outside normal commercial distribution channels, such as through the internet, by unqualified individuals or mail order advertisements and multi-level marketing.

• Claims effortless or fast weight loss such as ‘lose 30 kilos in 30 days’ or ‘lose weight while you sleep’.

• Claims that you can achieve weight loss without exercise, or without managing food or energy intake.

• Fails to recommend medical supervision, particularly for low-calorie diets.

• Claims to target fat or cellulite in specific areas of the body.

• Uses terms such as “miraculous” or “metabolism-boosting” or “all-natural”.

• Recommends the use of a type of gadget

• Sounds too good to be true.

• Claims it is a treatment for a wide range of ailments, diseases, and nutritional deficiencies.

• Promotes a particular ingredient, compound or food as the key factor of success.

• Demands large advance payments or requires you to enter into long-term contracts.

• Expects you to believe there is a conspiracy against the product and it’s being suppressed by “big pharma” or “the government”.

• Often has in small print, “Use in conjunction with diet and exercise”.

• Advocates eating less than 1200 calories a day or losing more than 1% of your weight per week.