Sunday, November 27, 2011

Health and Whimsy: Continuing Success

Hello ladies,

I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had an enjoyable holiday. The Schuylkill River path was well travelled Thursday through Saturday. It was inspiring how many Philadelphia residents and tourists were making use of the city's green spaces.

Below is my favorite sculpture in the North Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial Sculpture Garden. The exercise path travels through the garden.

Poet: He Shaped Our Dreams

This week, I am down two more pounds, which brings the total to 19 pounds lost since September 1st.  My silhouette looks leaner even than a week ago. On Friday, a man in his late 60s jogged by me and saluted. Such moments are nice, especially from people who have been focused on fitness for a long time.

I decided to purchase P90X for working out at home. The main reason I chose the set was the affordability. With tax, I paid $75, which amounts to $6.25 per DVD. Even if I only enjoy half the DVDs, it still is a good value.

My goals with P90X are to have the opportunity to gain strength and practice exercises I will later be doing in group classes at the gym. I am not swayed by the dramatic before and after pictures or expecting similar results in a short time. A person working out in a test group with trainers and nutritionists monitoring their progress will likely have different results than a person working out at home without the same support. This isn't to say I don't expect to use and benefit from the DVDs. I am just realistic that I won't be ready to appear on the cover of Fitness by March 1st. Thankfully, that's not my goal!

I chose the 12 DVD box set without the nutrition books. Preferring a vegetarian, whole foods approach to diet, I have no interest in their supplements and meal plans. While I'm sure it would be useful to some people, the philosophy is different from what has worked for me in the past. I wish the fitness guide would have been packaged with the DVDs. With a little research, I was able to quickly locate the information for workout schedules, printer friendly worksheets and a breakdown of equipment required for each DVD.

If you are interested in working out with DVDs at home, I recommend perusing The site provides short clips of each DVD for sale, allowing you to preview the workout before buying.  I advise choosing the video by your current skill level (beginner/intermediate/advanced) along with the personality of the instructor.

Behaviors that helped this week:

  • Focusing on fresh produce. On Wednesday, I shopped for fruits and veggies at the Korean grocery store so there would be no room in my fridge for any foods not befitting of my goals. 
  • Moving my snack time to within 15-20 minutes before and after my workout. While I didn't consume any additional calories with the change, my body seemed to burn fuel more efficiently. I wasn't hungry for a snack later. 
  • Purchasing a new sports bra. Check out the underwire styles from Champion. These provide much more support than the compression tanks with the elastic band. 
  • Packing a snack for my trip to the mall. Even though I was meeting a friend for lunch first, I stashed a peanut butter granola bar in my purse. I did end up needing it and saved myself the trouble and expense of trying to procure a healthy snack in the Food Court. 
  • Accomplishing what I can. Since I had to order a new DVD player, adding to my program this week wasn't practical. I was still able to walk 5 times, 4 miles (6.4K) on each occasion.  I found a pair of cross training sneakers at the Nike Outlet and tee shirts at Old Navy for 75% off. 
Goals for next week: 
  • Try DVDs from P90X. My new DVD player is due to arrive Tuesday night. I was able to preview several of the DVDs at my friend's house while cat sitting this week. Yoga X looks like a carbon copy of gym classes I have taken in the past. Core Synergistics has unique body rolling moves mixed with classic exercises like jumping jacks and lunges. While both these videos appear challenging, I feel confident I can attempt the modified versions of the exercises. The Chest and Back program looks beyond my skill level at this time, but I can revisit it when I get stronger. If you decide to add a workout DVD to your regimen, I advise taking the time to watch the program first. Having a general familiarity with the routine will help you be ready with whatever equipment you need and will maximize your time when exercising. It can make the transitions from one move to the next more flowing. 
  • Organize my exercise equipment. This has been in the back of my mind for awhile. I am arriving at the point where if I want to workout at home, I need to get set up. 
  • Get an idea of how I want to restructure my routine. While I don't expect to have my regimen set in a single week, paying attention to how my body is feeling will certainly give my clues to when I need to add or subtract activity. 

Do any of you like to keep fit using DVDs at home? Do you have any favorite titles or instructors? For those in the US, how was your holiday?

Health and Whimsy is intended to be a journal of my personal experience. Please consult a doctor before making any changes to your health care regimen. 

Happy painting, ladies!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Health and Whimsy: Thinking forward

Hello ladies,

I had a quiet week in fitness as my walking companions, Cate and Sophie, are out of town until after the Thanksgiving holiday. The temperature made a brisk shift from tee shirt weather to requiring dri-fit layering under fleece. The grey skies formed a cold mirror over the Schuylkill  River. Although there was a lovely symmetry between the clouds and the water, I am always grateful for the moments the sunlight ventured to join the scenery. 

I thought much about my health and fitness goals for the future as well as shaping my routine towards achieving those goals. While I feel comfortable with the aerobic activity so far, I can see the opportunity for increased core strength. In the Spring, I would like to join a gym and participate in group classes. I find having an instructor present can help me exercise at a challenging pace. 

While some people sign up for a gym membership the moment they decide to begin a new fitness program, I take a different approach. The difficulty of classes and instructors, I would imagine, can vary by location. In Center City, Philadelphia, it's common for professional athletes to regularly take group classes. I met members of the Pennsylvania Ballet in both yoga and boxing. 

I am wholly willing to be challenged, but I prefer being prepared. I also recognize the hazards of having done the exercises before and putting my mind before my body. This is a recipe for injury. I decided to add strength training and yoga to my regimen by following along with DVDs and videos at home. This will give me the option of pausing and working more slowly through an exercise. Even though I understand proper form, I will need to give my body a chance to perform to that level before increasing speed.  

Not quite a morning glory, but I am awakening a little earlier.

The scale is showing my weight down one pound, but I am noticing a visible increase in muscle. Apparently, so is the postman. I was complimented by the neighborhood mail carrier who said I was "looking good." He also remarked upon my dedication and said he sees me "out in all kinds of weather." I don't think it's possible to get more exalted praise from a mailman. For those who like to keep track, I'm down 17 pounds since September 1st.

Behaviors that helped this week:

  • Planning ahead for dining out. My friend Pam and I went to Green Eggs Cafe in Northern Liberties for brunch. It was useful to peruse the on-line menu beforehand and consider healthy options. I ordered the Ultimate Tofu Scramble with veggie sausage and multi-grain toast. Substituting a fresh fruit cup, I find it best to enjoy potatoes at home where I can control the amount of salt and oil in preparation. I saved half my meal for lunch the next day. 
  • Deciding to keep to my routine even when the weather wasn't ideal. I put my hood up when I got caught in a light rain and was happier for the outing.
  • Using the time during my walks to consider future fitness goals.
  • Continuing to work on shifting my sleep schedule. I woke up a few minutes before my alarm several times this week. 

Goals for next week:
  • Walk four miles (6.4 K) five days. 
  • Complete two exercise videos in either yoga or weight training. 
  • Write about experiences in journal. 
  • Winterize my walking wardrobe. I could use a polar tech hoodie and scarf that are easy to toss in the wash. 
  • Look for cross training sneakers. The walking shoes I have aren't stabilized for side to side movement. It's always best to wear shoes that are designed to support your regimen. 
How was your past week in health and fitness? Did you achieve any of your goals or create new ones? 

Health and Whimsy is intended to be a journal of my personal experience. Please consult your doctor before making changes to your health and fitness routine. 

Happy painting, ladies!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reviva Labs: Lindenflower Facial Spray

Hello ladies,

I've been having a positive experience with Lindenflower Facial Spray from Reviva Labs. Although it is targeted for normal to oily skin, I believe it would be beneficial for all skin types. As linden flowers are the product of lime trees, the scent of this astringent is fresh and invigorating.

I enjoy using Lindenflower Facial Spray after exercise. Although the astringent can be misted directly on the skin, I prefer to moisten two cotton rounds to cleanse my t-zone, cheeks and neck. This product does a thorough job at quickly removing sunscreen, makeup and impurities. I feel better taking an extra moment to freshen my complexion immediately after a workout. This small effort helps my sensitive skin remain clear. Lindenflower Facial Spray is a useful addition to a gym bag or locker. 

I appreciate how the alcohol free formula balances my skin. Employing an astringent/toner as a regular part of your skin care regimen helps to regulate an oily t-zone and heal dryness on the cheeks. When used after cleansing, Lindenflower Facial Spray can enhance the performance of your regular moisturizer. The hyaluronic acid aids in moisture absorption. 

Lindenflower Facial Spray is refreshing in the midst of housework. A quick mist after doing the dishes, cooking or folding clothes fresh from the dryer can be uplifting. 

A similar offering to the astringent with lindenflower is the Rosewater Facial Spray. I find the rosewater formula to be more of a freshener while the Lindenflower Facial Spray provides a deeper clean.   

Ingredients: Distilled Water, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, Hyaluronic Acid, Aloe, Ginseng Extract, Linden Extract, Carrot Oil, Carrot Extract, Carotene, Fragrance, Tocopherol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid, Zinc Sulfate.

Along with anti-inflammatory properties, the leaves and flowers of the linden offer the antioxidant benefits of quercetin. Carrot oil contains the potent antioxidants, carotenoids and Vitamin E. The ingredient tocopherol is the natural form of Vitamin E. I'm impressed to find this concentration of antioxidants in an astringent. These components will help fight the damage caused by free radicals and pollution, which show on the skin as pre-mature aging.

If you are looking for a gentle astringent with quality, natural ingredients, I recommend giving Lindenflower Facial Spray a try. I love the versatility of this product!

Lindenflower Facial Spray was sent to me for review. This product is available for purchase from An eight ounce (236 ml) bottle retails for $9.00.

Happy painting, ladies!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Health and Whimsy: Fit with Friends

Hello ladies,

This was a social week in fitness as my neighbor Cate and her dog Sophie accompanied me for several walks along the river path. With Sophie in the lead, we were able to extend our walk to the four mile (6.4 K) mark four out of six days. The time certainly goes faster while chatting with a friend as a joyful dog urges us on. Sophie will actually turn her head to check on us as we walk up the hill near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I offered to take Sophie for her mid-afternoon stroll around the neighborhood on Monday, when Cate had afternoon meetings across town. Sophie recognizes me as her companion for long walks. The second we touched foot and paw to pavement, she pulled in the direction of the river path and did not slow down for blocks. She made clear she was going to be my personal trainer for the day.

Meet Sophie, my personal trainer. 

She is modeling the latest in fitness fashion.  

Sophie initiates a lead by example approach. 

She's a trailblazer!

While the scale didn't show any losses this past week, my exercise clothes were loose enough to necessitate a shopping trip. I can wave goodbye to anything in XL unless I am looking to purchase something oversize for layering. Because of the change in how my clothes fit, I feel pretty confident that I increased muscle. 

I also had a companion for clothes shopping. My friend Laura and I met at Old Navy last night and I was able to find two pairs of pants, a graphic tee with a songbird, and a tonal grey, leaf patterned hoodie. With a little searching, there are exercise clothes to be found that are cute and affordable. I definitely recommend bringing a fashion conscious friend along to help build a look. 

Behaviors that helped this week:
  • Involving human and animal companions in fitness. If you don't have a dog, I recommend borrowing one for long walks. 
  • Shopping for exercise attire with a stylish friend. Clothes for fitness can be a little lackluster. A friend with a good eye can help you find things in different departments/stores for a pulled together look.  
  • Maintaining a positive attitude towards body image. Beginning a new health and fitness program can put you in touch with people who are not able to adopt a healthy mindset at this time. I have decided not to engage with such people. 
  • Planning ahead for meals out. I packed a lunch for work on Saturday. Laura and I were meeting to shop in an area with a concentration of fast food places. We decided ahead of time to visit Maoz Vegetarian for falafel. 
  • Picking up a couple of fitness magazines at the bookstore. It's nice to be inspired and also to see that I am already engaging in many recommended behaviors. 
  • Shifting my sleep schedule. I purchased an extra loud alarm clock from Timex. I could sooner sleep through a mallet to the head. 
  • Going to the movies. I have friends at two local theaters. It's 42 blocks round trip. Watching three films this week added incidental exercise. 

Goals for next week: 
  • Walk four miles (6.4 K) on 6 days.
  • Write in a journal a few days this week.
  • Create a positive focus for my walk each day. 
How has your week been? Have your friends (in person or on-line) motivated you this week? 

*Health and Whimsy is designed to be a journal of my personal experience. Please consult a medical professional before making changes to your health plan. 

Happy painting. ladies!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Health and Whimsy: Finding motivation

Hello ladies,

There were a few days this past week wherein my motivation seemed to have been spirited away to that secret place, usually reserved for lost house keys or my misplaced cell phone. I was feeling fatigued from the wrap up of my busiest month of the year work wise and my body decided it was time to cramp my style, so to speak. I really wanted to hide out under my electric blanket with The Princess Bride novel and my owl teapot filled with Irish Breakfast tea.

In response to my feelings, I altered my goals for the week to simply adhere to my hour of walking, six days, and maintain my healthy eating plan and Twitter food diary. I decided not to worry about trying to walk early in the day or focus on speed/distance. All I asked of myself was to get to the path and move as quickly as my body was able that day.

I found once I was on the trail, the enthusiasm and strength of other walkers, joggers and professional athletes helped propel me forward when part of my self was still at home under the blanket. Even on low energy days, I was able to finish my walk within five minutes of my usual time. I felt proud of myself for staying committed when I could have easily abandoned the week to a series of good excuses.

Today, a jogger passed me in full marathon regalia including the printed number pinned on his shirt, front and back. I usually see this type of display with cyclists even weeks after the race has finished. As I approached mid-block, a little boy on his scooter asked his father what the jogger was doing. His dad said, "He's exercising." The boy pondered this for a moment and replied, "Well, I am not exercising!".

His father affirmed that he was even if he didn't realize it. I smiled at both of them as I walked by, doing my best to hold in my laughter. The little boy then inquired, pointing at me: "Is she exercising?".  He received confirmation that, yes, walking is also exercise. The little boy replied: "Okay, if she's exercising, then I can be exercising too."

This moment really made me think from a child's perspective that goals and acheievement have their place, but in the end being in the moment can make exercise fun. The only reason he would associate himself with exercise was because I was smiling.

This week, I lost two pounds. This brings the total to 16 pounds lost since September 1st. More exciting than the weight loss was evidence that my workout clothes are fitting loose enough that I will consider purchasing the next size down soon. I chose the Old Navy slim fit athletic pants because I figured the lycra would offer me added wear time before needing to shop again. My pants look acceptable, but they swish a bit too much for a proper fit.

Behaviors that helped this week:
  • Focusing on maintaining efforts during difficult days. There are times when it is best to keep goals simple.
  • Making exercise a priority. When I was feeling low on energy, I looked at my to do list and put off non-essential tasks in favor of a focus on health. 
  • Incorporating a fiber supplement into my regimen. Changes in diet can tax the digestive system. I feel better providing extra support in clearing toxins out of my body. Each morning, I mix Colonix Fiber powder with fruit juice. A few years ago, I employed this powder as part of a cleanse. It also works well as daily fiber supplement. With an herbal blend including slippery elm bark and licorice along with psyllium and flax, I find the formula gentle and effective. A fiber supplement can help reduce the plateau stage during a weight loss program if it is caused by sluggish digestion. 
  • Adding nuts as a snack. A handful of nuts will offer protein and iron, while staving off hunger. 

Goals for the next week:
  • Extend walking route distance three out of six days. I discovered by the mile marker that the Girard Avenue Bridge is two miles from my starting point on the path. I am covering close to that distance now, but I would like to make my walk on the trail officially four miles. 
  • Formulate a plan for alternate exercise on stormy days. 
  • Focus on positive thinking, an active meditation, during my walk. 
How has your week been going? What do you do on days when you struggle with motivation? 

*Health and Whimsy is designed to be a journal of my personal experience. Please consult with your doctor before making changes to your health plan. 

Happy painting, ladies!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

T. TAiO Exfoliating Sponges (great for cellulite)

Hello ladies,

I have recently been enhancing my shower experience with T.TAiO sponges. I enjoy the sponge with oatmeal soap for thoroughly cleansing hands and feet. The body scrubber sponges produce a generous lather while their exfoliating texture stimulates circulation and helps with reducing cellulite.

 Exfoliating Sponge with Oatmeal Soap

The Body Scrubber measures 4.5 x 2.7 inches (11.5 x 7 cm)

The Firm Texture Body Scrubber measures 5.7 x 4.5 inches (14.5 x 11 cm). 

The sponge with oatmeal soap is intended for oily skin. Since my my skin is dry, I kept my use limited to hands and feet, which can require deeper cleansing. I am really impressed with how well the soap and sponge combination worked. It's a useful soap to have for after gardening, housecleaning or athletics.

One side offers a thicker layer of soap and the other has the sponge texture at the surface. If you have children and are concerned they are washing their hands attentively, this soap and sponge combination is good to keep by the sink. It would make washing up fun and thorough. I definitely recommend these soap bars for cold and flu season.

The exfoliating body scrubbers are my new favorite beauty find. The texture of the sponges stimulates circulation and removes dead skin cells. I appreciate that the scrubbing surface is not too rough, even for my sensitive skin.

I was surprised at the positive effect the body scrubbers have on reducing cellulite. After using the body scrubbers every day for a month, I noticed my skin texture was much smoother. If you are looking to reduce cellulite or are wanting to help promote skin elasticity during weight loss, these scrubbers are worth trying.

Another benefit is my shower soap produces such rich lather when paired with these sponges! There are far more bubbles than with a wash cloth or traditional sponge.

I can certainly recommend the T. TAiO oatmeal soap and sponge bar and the body scrubbers. I will be ordering more when mine need replacing.

The T.TAiO sponges were sent to me for review. T. TAiO products are sold at HEB stores in Texas. They are also available in California at Vallarta Supermarkets, Cardenas and Super A Foods. To purchase T. TAiO products on-line, visit or The price points of most sponges are under $1.99.

Happy painting, ladies!