Adventures In The Great Outdoors – Fall Style

Ever since I can remember, I have loved the outdoors.  Fall was no exception.  I used to beg my parents to go on weekend picnics in the fall.  True, partly I liked the “Live It To Beaver” image I thought a family function like this would bring but mostly I wanted to enjoy outdoor family fun.  Jumping in the leaves that we had to rake on the weekends was fun as well.  I can remember as a teenager dating (yes, we went on dates, we didn’t “talk” as the term is used today) and some of the best dates included riding or walking through the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.  Everyone visited Mabry Mill – it was a sure sign of fall and traditionally everyone went there to view the leaves.

Brynn singing in the rain

Brynn singing in the rain

I have to say my fondest memories; my best times are always when I am outdoors.  And, it was just in the last few years that I fully grasped the healing power of nature.  Sorry readers if I repeat myself in my posts but I have an important point to make.  As I wrote in my posts, Let Nature Restoreth Your Soul (And Your Home) and A Breath Of Fresh Air, nature is a powerful elixir.  It restores you in ways nothing else can.

No wonder that intuitively my whole life I was drawn to nature.  No wonder I felt the importance of teaching a love for the outdoors to my children.  Now, I hope to teach others through my writing and speaking of how important it is to connect or reconnect with nature.  I passionately believe that as part of humanity we must both singly and collectively connect with nature.  We must spend time in nature and then bring it indoors.

Recently I stumbled on a book by Richard Louv.  He wrote a book called, “Last Child in the Woods”.  He also coined the term, “nature deficit disorder”.  Take the time to read his book or certainly take the time to understand what he means by this term.  It is very thought provoking.  I for one absolutely, positively get where he is coming from.  We are seriously becoming a humanity of what I call participants in “man”ufactured fun.  We play indoor games, watch TV indoors, and exercise indoors.  If we spend time outdoors it is still in “man”ufactured ways more often than not.  We play tennis, soccer, go to football games and so on and so forth.  Vacations tend to be in places like Disney World.  Beach vacations are often spent shopping and putting our children in day camps while we play golf and tennis instead of lazing the day away together fishing, swimming, crabbing and walking the sandy beaches looking for shells.  If we do go exotic, we tend to go to tropical resort areas.  If you ask me, these places are just another man-made, “man”ufactured replica of another resort simply plopped down on a different island or locale.  What happened to real woods?  What happened to real lakes, ponds and streams?  What happened to real adventure that only nature can provide for us?

Don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that there is a time and place for everything.  But, as technology (and corporate greed) has grown our distance from nature has grown.  This is not something to be proud of for it is from nature we came and to nature we will return.  Why act unnatural and spend life away from it?

Enjoy nature-made fall fun

The season of fall is a spectacular time of year.  The air is crisp and the colors that burst forth from the changing of the leaves are simply glorious.  Every single day rain or shine is an opportunity to step outside and feel fall.  Weekends can (and should) be spent walking, hiking, biking, apple picking, canoeing or just sitting on a park bench or a fallen tree trunk breathing in the fresh air.

The Mullins kids loving outdoors

The Mullins kids loving outdoors

For both of my sons, fall signals the start of hunting season.  For my sister, Bee and her husband Dave it is another season to enjoy sailing the Chesapeake Bay.  For the entire Balzer clan, fall is a special time for the annual father-child weekend at Hunt Camp.   My David and I recently spent a Saturday in Wisconsin apple picking.  Not only was it fun but we are also still enjoying the “fruits” of our labor every day with the apples we picked.  And even this afternoon after David, Sammi and Ansley finish napping (Sammi and Ansley are visiting) we plan to rake leaves and let “Little Bits” (Ansley) enjoy her first adventure in playing in the leaves.  Talk about fun…  Talk about memory building…

Life is an adventure

Ryleigh and Blake working outdoors

Ryleigh and Blake working outdoors

Life itself is truly an adventure.  Figuratively, you never know what is on the other side of the next hill you climb or around the next bend in the road.  The same with exploring nature- it is one great adventure itself.  Remember one of my favorite quotes in my post, These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things, “And I took the road less traveled by”?  Take the road less traveled by.  Take to nature.  Forget “man”ufactured fun and take part in “nature-made” fun.

Yep, Nature is one great big adventure just waiting for you.  Fall is a perfect time to explore it!  Get out there and explore!  Head for the parks and preserves.  You will be glad you did!

David enjoying the “fruits” of his labor

David enjoying the “fruits” of his labor

To exploring nature this fall…

Check out a full album of outdoor photos sent to me by family, friends and fans on my Facebook Fanpage, livinginperfectharmony.  Feel Free to share pictures of your adventures in the great outdoors on the fanpage as well.  Enjoy the fall!

Let Nature Restoreth Your Soul (And Your Home)

Tree changing colors in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

My David and I were taking an early morning walk in nature this morning.  The moon was spectacular and the breeze gave a slight chill to the air.  Awwwww, the hint of autumn!

I couldn’t help but be excited.  With my senses alive to this feeling of fall I said to myself, fall is the best season of all.  Then I laughed  because I say this at the beginning of each new season.  The truth is that I love each of the four seasons.  Each one carries with it special meaning, fond memories and a renewed sense of anticipation for things to come.

The first day of fall just happens to be tomorrow.  Let us all welcome the beauty that this season brings us by allowing it to restore our souls.

We can do this in many, many ways.  At the same time, we can bring autumnal feelings into our homes.

Letting nature restore you

I believe that nature has the ability to restore each of us time and again, season after season.  In my post, These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things I quote one of my favorite Psalms from Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season.”

Autumn is the time to restore ourselves with feelings of warmth and comfort.  Autumn’s purpose is to ready us for the coming winter.  It gives us the chance to focus inward and prepare for the coming changes winter is sure to bring.

Beautiful tree in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

With autumn comes a myriad of opportunities to embrace the season.  For many people autumn is all about football.  Others explore the wondrous beauty of the changing leaves by hiking and biking in nature preserves and greenways.  Regardless of the activity, fall is a perfect time to be outdoors.

I have learned the medicinal properties of nature personally.  I call nature the best tonic on the market.  And, it’s free!

When David and I moved to the Chicago area a little over two years ago I found a lot of free time on my hands.  Plus, I didn’t know a soul so I had days to myself to explore.  Who would have guessed that moving to the city would produce so much nature for me to immerse myself in?  I began to walk, hike, bike and even snowshoe (now my favorite hobby for sure) by myself.  Slowly but surely I began to notice a change in my attitude.  (OK, David did first but so what!)  I began to let things go, calm down and relax.  What an amazing transformation!

I even noticed that my music choices I made on my IPod while walking and hiking changed.  For a while I listened daily to all my faves- from the 1950’s to today.  Before long I realized I was only listening to soothing selections that you would normally hear while getting a massage.  Now, more often than not I don’t take my IPod on my walks at all.  The only music I want to hear comes from what nature provides- birds chirping, frogs croaking and the ducks quacking to each other on the water creates an awesome symphony.  Walking in silence brings the music of nature to an incredible volume!

Brilliant red tree in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

To say that getting back to nature restored me just doesn’t do justice to the truth of it.  Getting back to nature has done so much more.  I am walking, talking proof of its tonic!

So, I challenge you to find ways to give yourself daily doses of the outdoors.  It could be as simple as eating lunch outside while at work, walking your dog, doing your exercising outside (instead of the treadmill) sitting on the porch or taking off to the woods.  A small dose of nature’s elixir will go a long way!

Nature has mental, physical and spiritual benefits just waiting for you!  Give yourself a chance to reap from it all!

Bring the glory of Autumn inside

I have espoused time and again in recent posts such as Two Colors Every Homespace Needs the importance of bringing nature inside.  As I have said before, we humans have distanced ourselves from nature and have created a false reality.  Our homes and offices are full of gadgets and gizmos that have nothing to do with nature.  What a travesty to ourselves!

Loving color

Photo Credit: Susan Muehl

By bringing nature inside we allow ourselves to stay connected to it.  It is that simple.  And, it is simple to do.  My “fall line-up” of posts will give you lots of ways to achieve this.  Look for Becky Balzer’s post on the best indoor plants for the home environment.  Chef Ryan will treat us to his idea of a great tailgating party.  Hector Benetiz will offer you suggestions on outdoor exercises to coincide with the season.  I will be sharing many different ways to infuse nature in your homespace through decorating.  And, that’s just the beginning.  Stay with us and enjoy the season of autumn!

Think color…

Making Exercise An Equation

At the conclusion of my last post, I commented that exercise programs are made up of 2 parts.  What I left out was the end result of these 2 parts also known as its “function”.  I realized this while studying an article on finance that discussed finances as an equation of function.  Bingo, the light came on in my head and I connected the same theory to exercise.

Consider this Part I of your journey to an improved self!

The ideal exercise program should be balanced on both sides of the equation.  The equation becomes a function of three parts.

  1. R.O.M.- Known as “the movements”.
    1. Joint Flexibility
    2. Tendon Strength
    3. Core Strength (i.e. functional abdominal strength, back muscles, iliopsoas muscles, glutes, hip muscles)
    4. Stabilizers

    Jennifer McNally core exercise

    Jennifer McNally. Photo credit: Hector Benetiz

  2. Strength- The emotional will and patience to logically march forward towards accepting where and who you are physically, emotionally and mentally.  The strength to accept that the tides of change are difficult… but well worth the salty water coming off your brow as you conquer every wave no matter how high or violent as you come closer to your destination.  Keep paddling!!!

    Jennifer McNally working out

    Jennifer McNally. Photo credit: Hector Benetiz

  3. Balance- The satisfaction of overcoming your fear by completing one set of jumping jacks, one set of sit-ups or push-ups, one “Nike Shox” step-up, one mile walking or running, stretching… one at a time.

    Jennifer McNally stretching

    Jennifer McNally. Photo credit: Hector Benetiz

Think outside the box.

I have learned through the years of working with clients that have varying health or lifestyle concerns that there isn’t one way to work out and get in shape.  The options for exercise are endless.  Just think creatively.  For example, all the exercises you see in the pictures above can be done in various settings.  Case in point, the first exercise can be replicated at home or in the office simply by using a chair.  The last photo can be done on your bedroom floor.  You simply need to adapt your environment to suit your needs.

I have learned this well through working with clients like Jennifer McNally.  Jennifer struggles daily with R. A. (Rheumatoid Arthritis).  In fact, just a few short years ago Jennifer was house bound and crippled over in pain.  Her husband, Sean used to have to carry her up the stairs to bed every night.  Her pain was too severe to do it on her own.

Look at her now!  She is a perfect example of someone who chose, “Fight over Flight”.  In other words, she chose to fight her condition instead of fleeing and living a life of incapacitation.  What an honor to work with her and others like her such as another client, Sammi Blake who also struggles with a chronic health condition.

I have learned more from them than they have learned from me.  We work in concert with one another, each learning valuable lessons.  I love my job!!!

Change your point of view.

Look at exercise as more than a chore.  Look at it as an equation of function.  The equation is balanced (the mental part) because you have incorporated physical aspects as well as emotional.  By looking at your exercise (program) in this way, you will certainly loose weight, reshape your body and become healthier overall; but, most importantly, you will feel full of life and empowered.  This feeling of accomplishment and empowerment will trickle over into every other facet of your life.  Go for it!

Get moving, one step at a time…

Our Bodies are the Homes to our Souls

“Watch this!” Steve exclaimed with sheer delight, “I haven’t been able to do this in years!”

I had met Steve less than an hour before when I offered him assistance with a treadmill in the fitness center that my husband owns and operates. As a head custodian in a local public school, Steve was participating in a program geared towards helping at-risk students, faculty, and staff make healthy lifestyle changes. He had told me upon our initial greetings that he was so thankful for what my husband, Ché, was doing for him and the other participants. Now, after having completed his work on the treadmill, he was bubbling with the joy of meeting a couple of his top goals. His first: to walk a mile “without stopping”. He quickly let me know that not only had he achieved this, but was now jogging a little “here and there” throughout his mile so that he could eventually run the whole thing. His second, which he proudly and promptly demonstrated: to bend over to pick something up off the floor. “Two weeks ago I would have had to put a knee on the ground and then do some work to stand myself back upright, but now, look, I can do this all day long,” he went on, beaming with pleasure, as he repeatedly squatted to pick up some imaginary object from the floor. “It might not seem like much to some people, but believe me, it makes a big difference in my line of work!”

The Ultimate Homespace

With the newfound abilities and functionalities of his body, Steve had experienced a sense of accomplishment that is incomparable. Our bodies are the homes to our souls. Throughout our time on this Earth they are our primary and permanent homespaces, if you will. It is disheartening that in this age of obesity and innumerable other life-threatening illnesses we focus so little on the cultivation and maintenance of our health. Don’t get me wrong, we are overly concerned, some even obsessed, with the outward appearance of fitness and wellness. How many people do we know whose goal every New Year is to get back in shape to look good in a bathing suit for the upcoming warm season? I admit, the thought of prancing around half-naked in front of family, friends, and strangers alike is enough to motivate anyone to cut out some sweets and give the gym a few visits! The disappointing part is that we are often setting ourselves up for failure. When we focus on the superficial aspects of fitness… looking good in a bathing suit, losing just 5 more lbs., we inevitably set immeasurable goals and choose methods to reach them that we know we can’t maintain for any substantial length of time. Are we really going to eliminate all carbs for the rest of our lives? Never again eat sugar? Is it reasonable to commit to several hours a day in the gym? Forever? Not likely. So why do we continue to do this to ourselves? What if we begin to see the maintenance of our ultimate homespace, our body, as an outward expression of our soul?

walking on trail

Photo credit: Lindsay Torry

When we focus on the spiritual and profound implications of a healthy body, we experience changes that are indescribable. If we approach nutrition and exercise from our inner selves and focus on the functions of our bodies, health and fitness become authentically integrated into our lifestyles. Ask the 80-yr-old man who just walked up a flight of steps for the first time in ten years, the 50-yr-old physician whose exercise halted her menopausal symptoms, or the 25-yr-old who was just taken off of medication for high blood pressure. Setting and reaching fitness goals will inevitably change your physique for the better, but the real change in your appearance will be in your spirit. It will light up your face with joy, you will radiate positive energy, you will approach life with determination, you will exude confidence. And you won’t quit! How many people do you know who train for one 5k and then never do another one again? Not many, because when the motivation is from the inside, it grows and multiplies. As you approach meeting one goal, like Steve, you will already be planning your next goal!

What’s your goal?

Young girl climber

Photo credit: Lindsay Torry

So the question is, where do you want to start? Swim 100 meters? Walk a mile? Run 3 miles? Bike 10 miles? Set a goal for yourself! Make nutritional changes to help fuel your body to reach it. What if you replace 1 soda a day with a glass of water? What if you add an extra fruit or vegetable to one meal a day? Yes, your body will change, but MOST importantly, your life will change!

Happy training!

 

Toddler on excercise equipment

Photo credit: Kelly Walsh

Creating Balance Through Exercise

My first experience with exercise outside of elementary school play period was a show on TV called “The Arty Levin Show”.  I loved it and I loved the feeling of stretching my body.  Then,  exercise in my early adult life included walking, hiking, tennis and all sorts of indoor aerobic classes.  As a mother of young children, my kids and I exercised by dancing to Marlo Thomas’s album, “Free to be you and me”.  Little did my children know that in dancing for fun they were also exercising both their bodies and minds through the lyrics of this wonderful album.  If you have young kids yourself, check it out!

Also, I was a runner for years (in fact, quite obsessively so for the first few painful years of separation and divorce) and ran so many miles some days that I felt like Forrest Gump- my legs just needed to run and run and run.  For years come rain, sleet, hail or snow my running partner Susie (and my dearest friend) and I ran every morning.  It is amazing how many problems of the world and most importantly, your own that can be worked through with each step you take. 

Trauma-drama looks very different when viewed through the haze of exhaustion from exercise.

(If you know Susie ask her about her fall and subsequent trip to the hospital after completing a few more miles!!!)

So, I believe it was no coincidence that after pounding the pavement for more miles than my body shape could probably handle I succumbed to health issues.  Running, tennis and a few other choice activities became a thing of the past.

I first met Hector while embarking on a fitness-training program for myself in answer to these changes.

I needed a trainer to put me on the right path of combining exercise with weight training to give myself a healthier routine.

Hector and his fellow staff met my needs.  Today, he works with many people I know that have very specific needs as well. He knows how to tailor each of their programs to meet these needs.  But, over and above that- Hector is passionate about teaching everyone the joy of being physically fit.  He is passionate about bringing exercise into every home he can.

Remember, “Everything begins in the home”.

I am honored to have him join my Blog as an expert in his field.  I hope his words, pictures and videos will empower you.

I sat down with Hector to do a Q&A to introduce him to you readers.

Please read on…

A Conversation with Hector Benitez

What was life like in your home of origin?

Born and raised in sunny south Florida, I grew up spending afternoons and weekends at the beach.  My family life was full of birthdays, cousins and friends.  I also grew up watching and participating with my mother in exercising, drinking protein shakes and hanging out at fitness clubs watching her wrap a leather belt around her hips because the vibration was supposed to induce fat loss!

How has it impacted your career choice today?

The impact that my upbringing had on me towards my career choice is empowerment.  The career path that my adolescence carved out for me wasn’t fitness or training.  The choice for me involved the path that would allow the best way for me to help people realize how much control they truly have over their emotions, thoughts and physical well being.

Explain the importance of physical fitness as you view it.

The importance of physical fitness as I view it has to do with feeling balanced. Physical fitness like painting, drawing, music, writing, or Interior Design is another way for people to express themselves through physical exertion, emotional accomplishment and imagination.

Are there ways to incorporate physical fitness in the home on a daily basis?

Examples of how people can incorporate exercise into their homes are as easy as rearranging furniture using proper lifting techniques, jumping jacks in the living room, push-ups in the bedroom before bed and in the morning before starting your day, and stretching in the shower under warm water.

What is the message you would like to give readers?

The message I would like to pass on to readers is EAT, LOVE, STAY ACTIVE!!!!  Participate in your life and don’t watch it pass you by while sitting down.  Embrace it and hang on to it through healthier-balanced choices.

What future topics will you discuss?

I’ll be discussing the 2 goals of EVERY Physical Conditioning Program to fine-tune the beach body.  I’ll also be discussing the Phases that every exercise program should include and when to incorporate them safely.  These 2 examples will assure that all will be ready for Summer of 2012.  Other topics will include everyday exercises to use at home, family fun exercises and exercises for senior living.

Welcome Aboard Hector!

One thought:

A healthy body makes for a healthy mind.

Get up on those feet…

Jamie's New Cruiser

Jamie’s new wheels for decorator sleuthing. Photo credit: David Solganik