When to work (out) and when to rest

The question of working out versus resting up has always been a source of confusion for me. Should I stay home? Am I lazy? Am I overdoing it? So, I’ve checked some of the guidelines for fitness and present their suggestions here. But first, let’s talk about how being sick can affect your productivity.

Recently researchers have been warning us against the practice of “presenteeism” – coming to work even though you don’t feel well. In a Harvard Business Review article written by Hemp (2004), coming to work sick so you don’t fall behind can backfire on you. I was heartened to see that depression and migraines made the list of illness that people tend to power through instead of taking a break to heal.

The costs to productivity are high. People are, of course, less productive when they are sick. They might be more cranky and more difficult to get along with. Constant pain may be exacerbated by work requirements (e.g., carpal tunnel).

Those of us with chronic illness are most prone to presenteeism, and that makes perfect common sense. Not every supervisor is kind to those with chronic illness. It costs less to have someone come to work than stay home. If we stepped out of life every time we didn’t feel well, you wouldn’t see us.

So for most of us, knowing when to rest can be difficult. If the issue is depression or anxiety, then working out most definitely will make you feel better. But what if it is sore muscles, a cold or flu, etc…?

According to the Mayo Clinic, if you have just a headcold, go ahead and work out (but please wash your hands and wipe down the equipment). If your symptoms are “below the neck,” like coughing, joint aches, and fever, take a day off and let your body recover. Either way, take it easy. You aren’t going to make a personal record.

What about the soreness that comes from a new workout? That stuff hurts. How do I know if I’m just sore or if I injured myself? The distinction between soreness and injury can be a subtle one, especially for newer exercisers. The American Physical Therapy Association has a handy table in the article I’ve linked. To sum it up, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a normal reaction to exercise. Your muscles might be really sore for 24-72 hours after you worked out. If it’s just the muscles that hurt and stretching and movement help, then it’s probably DOMS. Keep moving at least a little bit. Anything else is probably an injury and best addressed by a physician.

So, anyway, there is no harm in taking a day off when you are sick or injured. Your body and your productivity will thank you.

Hydration!

This one hits close to home. I’ve been on the couch today with a mild headache (migraine) and just feeling generally like doing nothing.

About halfway through the day, I started to wonder how much of my malaise was due to dehydration. I’d only had one Spindrift and a cup of coffee. But how much is enough, what’s too much, and what is the best thing to drink?

Thomas, et al., (2008) defines dehydration as “the loss of water from the body…at a rate greater than it can be replaced.” Keeping the water balance in your body is a complex process. That is why older adults often suffer from dehydration – which in some cases, can be fatal. The authors suggest examining urine to determine hydration levels. The more concentrated and dark the urine, the more off-balance we are.

Let’s examine with the symptoms of dehydration. Remember, now, I’m not the kind of doctor that is an expert in this area, so make sure you are always checking with your doc if you don’t feel well.

Picture of the symptoms of dehydration
http://shine365.marshfieldclinic.org/wellness/stay-hydrated/

The interwebs are full of suggestions on how to keep hydrated, usually involving their product. Heck, the infographic above has all kinds of ideas for you. What do the doctors say?

The American Heart Association says that you should be aware of your hydration needs, and basically listen to your body. Certain medications as well as excessive sweating increase the amount of fluids you need. Changes in climate and elevation can also affect your need for water. Water, in most cases, is enough to hydrate your body.

The Cleveland Clinic advises against relying on caffeinated beverages and alcoholic drinks to meet your hydration needs (boo!). They also recommend limiting fruit juices and sugary drinks, as the carb/sodium ratio might upset your stomach. I notice that after drinking really sugary beverages, I’m slightly nauseated – especially on a hot day.

In my case, I have orthostatic hypotension (part of the cocktail that comes with my genetic issues – did someone say cocktail?) and have been advised to use an electrolyte supplement. When I’m really behind in the hydration game, the best thing for me is Gatorade. But on a regular basis, I’d rather not consume that many calories. Plus see the upset stomach suggestion above. There are some really good, low-calorie hydration tabs on the market that I use in those cases. But does the average Dr. Prof need it?

Strangely enough, a lit search on the topic turned up a lot of research in bulls and horses. Wonder why? But anyway, back to humans.

If you are prone to foot or calf cramps with sustained activity, then Jung, et al., (2005) suggests that electrolyte supplementation might be a good idea for you. They compared dehydrated participants to those who consumed electrolyte enhanced drinks, though – they did not include a water-only group. This, in my opinion, limits their conclusions. But it seems that if you are training in the heat, for long periods, or at a high intensity, an electrolyte drink might be for you.

Also remember that it is possible to drink TOO MUCH water. Too much water can throw off your electrolyte balance as well, and can possibly be fatal. It’s rare, but if you feel terrible even though you are drinking enough water, you might very well be overdoing it. Your urine should be light in color, but if you’re peeing what looks like water at a high rate, you might be overdoing it.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a glass of water, or maybe a nice herbal tea….

Schedules of Reinforcement

Before I took a brief hiatus, we were talking about reinforcement and how to use it effectively. I mentioned that there is no such thing as intrinsic reinforcement. What could I possibly mean by that? Of course there are inside sources of pleasure and joy!

Yes, and I don’t deny that is true. But many of the things we think we do for altruistic reasons just ain’t altruistic at all. Why thanks, Dr. Buzzkill…. Sorry. The truth is most of the things that we do are either 1. Reinforced by something other than what we think it is; or 2. Reinforced so infrequently we don’t even realize it’s happening.

So far, we have talked about identifying your reinforcers, but as we said before, if it doesn’t increase responding, it ain’t a reinforcer. Sometimes, things happen like good feelings and that warm feeling in your stomach. Sometimes there is a skip in your step. They can reinforce your behavior, but reinforcement is more complicated.

Take, for example, me running. I hate it. No, really, I hate it. Yet I sign up for 5ks, get on the treadmill occasionally, etc… Am I just masochistic? Nope. A Cochrane Review on exercise and depression shows evidence for the mood lifting effects of exercise. The most frequently studied type of exercise? Running. Therefore, I get a good hit of neurotransmitters, and that seems to lift me out of my ruts. I run 5ks because I like being with others. Working out alone never lasts very long.

But back to schedules of reinforcement. Here’s the thing – behavior isn’t necessarily reinforced every time we do it. Most behavior is reinforced on some sort of schedule. Sometimes, two or more schedules might be in effect. This always boggles my intro to ABA students, so we might need more than one blog to talk about it.

Most long-term behavior is on some sort of intermittent schedule. Please forgive my lapse into Wikipedia here, but it is accurate information. Basically, with intermittent schedules, reinforcement comes after a certain number of responses, a certain passage of time, or in discreet bursts. The more regular the intermittent schedule is, the more we adjust our behavior to be around that specific time frame. This can explain why we tend to diet and exercise more closer to specific events, like competitions or high school reunions.

It also explains why even though we promise ourselves we won’t, we typically fall off the wagon right after these events. If reinforcers are predicable, we tend to pause for a little and wait until just before the next reinforcer is expected. So, cut weight for the match, fill back up for a while, cut weight for the match, etc…. you can see where this is going.

So, how do I make healthy living consistent? First of all, accept that you won’t be perfect. It is not achievable and don’t let anyone tell you it is. I guarantee if you talk to the most dedicated triathlete, they will tell you they have times where they sit on the couch and eat ice cream.

One of the best ways is to made reinforcement unpredictable. The more unpredictable and the more we have to do to get the reinforcer, the more persistent we become. Think of lottery tickets. What if I get the payoff this time? So we buy the tickets, and usually, nothing happens.

Which brings me to the second part of why the lottery is so brilliant. You might not win a million dollars (and if you do, adopt me), but you might get a dollar or two. Or if you are my nephew, $400 on a scratch-off. These little wins (reinforcers) keep you going in hopes of the bigger prize.

This is where the behavior analyst as coach has an opportunity to help. They can put together a plan that reinforces little things as well as keeps things unpredictable. I’m thinking of some little things can occur when I least expect:

  • Last week, I was able to lift a 45-lb bar over my head more than once without fear of it crashing on my head. Very little win, very big reinforcer.
  • My favorite Spin instructor plays cool, obscure music and has music trivia days. His favorite musician happens to be my cousin. I get to his class when I can, and I never know what will be on his playlist.
  • I have 10-15 minute stretches without back pain. They are rather random and I don’t know when they are going to happen, but when they do, they are awesome.

Your reinforcers will, of course, be different, but I challenge you to consider the little, less expected things that keep you going. How do they work in your life? Would love to hear your comments!


Fitness, Disclosure, and Disability

I’m going to deviate a little from the posts I usually write, and offer you something a bit more personal. I may or may not talk much about research, but wanted to get my experience out there in the hopes it might help others. There will be a family member or two who will think this blog is ill-advised, but so be it.

I went to spin class today, and left a little teary. For those who know me, I cry once a year. I guess today was the day.

What in the world would have triggered such a big reaction? Telling me to keep my cadence up. Someone walking up to me and calling out my cadence in front of the class.

Now before you say, “who does that?” know that this is not about vilifying any instructor and/or their methods. This particular instructor was concerned for my safety and didn’t want me to get hurt. Also, there were four of us in the class and this instructor corrected everyone. It’s not about that.

It’s about having to come clean about why my cadence wasn’t up to snuff. I just said “I have sciatica” and left it at that. Usually I say that, or I say I have hurt my neck. The truth is a bit more complicated.

I have a Chiari Malformation Type I, Hydrocephalus (not syphilis, which someone once thought I said), and a possible mild case of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Note that two of the three meet the NIH criterion for rare diseases. Basically, my brain is herniated into my spinal column, which builds up fluids. Some of that is related to my connective tissue being softer than most peoples’. So, the systems of my body hang out and don’t talk to each other well. My body is a painfully awkward high-school Homecoming dance.

The symptoms are subtle. I look nervous. I have no Achilles reflex in my left foot. I can’t drive stick. I don’t know my right from my left and have trouble with basic addition. I can be drifty sometimes. My brain hurts when the weather changes. I can’t do a full push-up, and my elbows fling out to the side when I punch. My startle reflex is comparable to someone with combat-related PTSD (I’m not kidding on that one).

I’ve had surgery to correct the hydro and that has eased up the Chiari. The EDS isn’t too bad – I just sprain and strain more easily than most. I also have a tremor. Having mild symptoms is a good thing, because I can do most of the things I want to do. Martial Arts, mud runs, spin class.

To be fair, there are also some advantages. Flexibility in my fingers allows me to learn instruments with ease. Most jobs requiring fine motor skills were not my forte. I had the opportunity to have cool jobs in a video store, pharmacy, and as a nursing home receptionist, all of which led me to where I am today. I don’t want this to be a pity party.

That said, when I need an accommodation or modification, my motives are often misunderstood. A lot of instructors say, “tell me if you need to modify.” But, that is a loaded question. You see, disclosing is a crapshoot. You’re super vulnerable. What reaction will you get? Best case scenario is that you get a trainer willing to work with you, who asks questions, and makes suggestions based on what you both understand. This is what happened today. But it doesn’t always go down that way, and that can make a person defensive. Some reactions I’ve had to disclosure are:

  • “If you can’t stand the heat, get the F**k out.” (from a coworker at another place and time)
  • “The more you talk about it, the worse it gets. Mind over matter.”
  • Eye rolls and the subtle feeling you’re holding everyone else back
  • “If you don’t do it this way, it’s improper positioning.” Thanks, Einstein.
  • “Just keep practicing and it’ll get better.” Sometimes that’s true, but I’m not going to fix the nerve damage that’s been there for 20 years.
  • “Stop being a wimp and catch the stupid ball.” This one was from grade school, when I had no depth perception and would have a startle response to any ball coming close. This is why I had suicidal ideations in the third grade.
  • “Have you tried (insert miracle cure here)?” I like kombucha as much as the next guy, but it isn’t going to change my genetics.
  • Disclosing makes you an “inspiration.” Really, if you knew me, you’d question that.

I just want to blow off some steam and get healthy – without having a headache, need for yet another MRI, or faceplanting in front a bunch of people. Most of the time, I don’t want to have to share my entire medical history just to get a good workout.

So how can trainers approach this delicate situation? Well, everyone is different and what I would like isn’t necessarily what others would appreciate. Personally, know that I respect your expertise. There might be times when I’m a slacker and need to be told so. You may have an idea I haven’t tried before. At the same time, please respect my knowledge about my strengths and limitations as well. I’m probably just as frustrated as you that I can’t do what everyone else can. I may have talked to a million experts before settling on this approach (either because of them or in spite of them). A subtle “hey, I noticed that you…” is always appreciated. Let’s work together to come up with the best solution.


Using Reinforcement

Now that we have talked about identifying reinforcers, how are they effectively used?

This is where things get tricky. You reward good behavior, right? Well, not exactly. There’s more to it.

The first thing that is very important is that reinforcement MUST be contingent upon responding. You gotta do the thing to get the thing. If you are going to get a pedi, latte, or glass of wine anyway, it doesn’t count (sorry!). When you use non-contingent reinforcement (NCR), you are essentially decreasing the worth of the reinforcer.
Here is a video that explains the process. Ignore the jargon like abolishing operation and motivating operation.

So basically, not only are you not going to increase your exercise, you’re probably going to bag it altogether. Make sure your reinforcer is contingent upon exercise.

The next issue is delay. The longer the time period between the behavior and the reinforcer, the less effective that reinforcer is. We’re more likely to go for the smaller reinforcer delivered sooner than the big one delivered later. This is why that donut today is way more appealing than the body changes we have to wait for. Boo biology. This is also why the “wait until your father gets home” strategy wasn’t nearly as effective as it seems. Here is our same friend explaining delay discounting:

So, reinforce when you do the thing. Reinforce as soon as you can. Smaller, sooner reinforcers lead to larger later payoffs. It makes way sounder behavioral sense to give yourself a gold star, a pat on the back, or a glass of wine after working out than it does to have some big thing you can only access once in a while. If you want to use a massage, for example, as a reinforcer for getting to the gym, make sure you also have smaller, backup reinforcers as well.

In the next blog, we’ll talk about schedules of reinforcement…or, why there is no such thing as intrinsic motivation. Have ideas on how you use reinforcement? Share them in the comments!

Reinforcement and the Athlete

I made another dangerous assumption – that my readers all know what reinforcement is and how it can be applied to the athlete.

According to Miriam Webster’s Dictionary, Reinforcement means the act of strengthening. Their take on “psychology” needs work (classical conditioning doesn’t involve reinforcement). The part about strengthening is actually closer to a behavior analytic definition. By presenting something (or taking away something aversive) you increase the probability of that response. You strengthen it.

Yeah, yeah, ok. So we have to reward ourselves. I’ll go get a pedicure.

Wait. Put the car keys down. That isn’t what I meant.

Anything, and I mean anything, can end up being a reinforcer. It doesn’t have to be happy or nice. It just needs to maintain our behaviors. Your behavior can be positively reinforced while you feel absolutely miserable. Remember how you felt when you downed that whole box of Oreos? Yet, if you do it again in just such a situation, that behavior was reinforced. Yelling at you to keep moving can be a positive reinforcer – remember when that was a fad? And it doesn’t have to be tangible, either. It could be as simple as breaking a sweat. Or meeting a bunch of nice people at the gym. Or getting back at an ex.

What are your reinforcers? Well, to be honest, I don’t know. Everyone is different, and what is one person’s reinforcer is another’s punisher. The best way to start to figure it out is through taking note of the things you choose to do repeatedly. Or, you might want to fill out a reinforcer inventory like the one here. This survey definitely needs some updates, but it’ll do for now. The things and activities you identify might be reinforcers, but the only way to know for sure is to try them out. If they maintain your behavior, you’re golden. If not, try again.

Want to make the workout itself reinforcing? Take the reinforcers with you. Pairing is where you – well – pair one situation or thing with an already reinforcing situation or thing. You might want to binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix while you work out. Or maybe you like podcasts. It doesn’t so much matter what it is as long as you do it repeatedly. Now, admittedly showing up with a huge tub of ice cream to eat on the treadmill might be frowned upon, so be sure your reinforcers are appropriate to the setting. After a while, the workout itself will be the motivating factor.

For my next blog, I’ll talk more about how to use reinforcement effectively.

Reinforce Appropriate Behavior or Punish Inappropriate Behavior?

Fun fact: did you know that the burpee was invented by – I can’t make this up – Royal H. Burpee?

Is it better to reinforce good exercise habits or to punish unhealthy ones?

Much of the research out there is cognitive or cognitive-behavioral. Frederick-Recascino and Shuster-Smith (2003) looked at motivations for exercise (using the intrinsic/extrinsic motivation framework, which as behavior analysts is a little dubious). They administered a battery of surveys to two groups – competitive cyclists and casual undergraduate exercisers who received credit for class for completing the survey. Predictably, the competitive exercisers did so more often and were more “sport competitive.” Those who were casual exercisers were a bit more competitive overall and more motivated by appearance. Ko (2010 – behind a paywall) determined that martial artists were most interested in self-development and actualization, but that actual motivators were pretty variable.

Obviously, reinforcers and punishers are unique to each individual’s learning and genetic history, but does that help Ms. Gym Owner who wants to increase business?

Kubanek, et al., (2015) talked about how reinforcer magnitude was associated with performance. The bigger the reinforcer, the better the performance. Punishers work differently. In their words, “the data suggest that rewards and penalties are fundamentally distinct factors in governing behavior.” Punishment had a more robust, immediate effect. This should come as no surprise, right? However, the popular press soon jumped to the conclusion that punishment is better than reinforcement. When I read the article, I saw something a little more nuanced. But that also should not be too surprising:

The science news cycle
http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive_print.php?comicid=1174

This article by Shape Magazine suggests an approach that is more compatible with what we know about reinforcement and punishment – yes, punishment works. Use a little, not a lot. But also make sure to reinforce appropriate behavior.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a book on Positive Behavior Support in physical fitness. I haven’t ordered it yet or read it, so I can’t say whether it will answer my question. There is a chapter on ethics that I’m looking forward to reading to see if it aligns with the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts.

This also looks like a fertile area of research for behavior analysts. Looking forward to seeing more articles on motivating the average person to exercise!

Healthy Online Teaching

Teaching online has its own skill set that isn’t immediately appreciated by those who haven’t experienced it, or are experiencing it for the first time. Serdyukov (n.d.) lays out many of the differences in online education, from characteristics of successful students to differences in teacher-student interactions. Online teachers must possess a very specific skill set with regard to content, technology prowess, and social skills. Students should possess the same level of tech and social skills, as well as strong problem-solving and organizational strategies. (Good news: as behavior analysts, we know all of that can be taught – it isn’t a lost cause).

My experiences with online teaching and learning go back to 1998, when I took my first online class. There was no guidance back then for students or teachers. I read my articles on my Compu-Serv dial-up connection then wrote a reaction paper. The professor responded with all-caps comments. Grades were distributed online without a second thought to FERPA. Since then, I have taught many online courses. Here are what I see as the differences between online and face-to-face:

  • You can’t just record your lectures and call yourself an online teacher. Online teaching requires deliberate planning of activities and interactions, or they just don’t happen.
  • The asynchronous nature of online teaching makes you more of a producer of educational content than a classroom teacher. Think recording artist versus live performer.
  • Boundaries are very different. You are expected to be available when your colleagues are resting and renewing (late nights, weekends). There is a lot of apologizing to your friends for staying home. The speed at which you respond to inquiries is also expected to be shorter. We’re used to an instant access culture.
  • Related to that same idea, feedback for assignments is expected within 24-48 hours of submission.
  • That said, the rest of the IHE is business as usual. Faculty meetings are held M-F. People are in their offices during typical academic hours. Depending upon your schedule, support staff might be working hours opposite of yours and your students. The expectation is that your job is the same as, or even easier than, a brick-and-mortar teacher.
  • Go to a conference? You are still on the same clock – can’t use an out of office email for a few days.
  • Thrive on the immediate social reinforcement of your students? This will be less in an online environment unless you plan for interactions.

The draw of the online siren is that you can work anywhere (true), hours are flexible (true), and the impression that the workload is less (so not true). Teaching online can be a great experience, it just won’t be the same experience you have as a brick-and-mortar teacher. The contingencies are just different. Grading is different – for example, watching presentation videos is very different than watching in-class presentations. Some of these tasks take more time, and some less.

Think about the last webinar you attended where your video and microphone were off. How many times did you check your phone? Leave to do something quickly because no one would be the wiser? Maybe (c’mon, admit it) filed your nails or dusted the house? My life changed completely when I figured out that I could watch student videos at 1.5-2x speed and still make out every word.

Given the misunderstood nature of online teaching and learning, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m not seeing a whole lot about wellbeing for online teachers. Some of the issues are similar to others who don’t work in an office, and we have discussed them before. That said, I think there are some things that are very different about online teaching. Specifically, online teaching and working from home is only one part of your job. The scholarship and service requirements still remain, and they remain more “brick” than “click” in most cases.

So, I guess we need to make up our own rules for balance and health. Here are the ones that I suggest (references and ideas welcome):

  • Set your own boundaries. It is ok to take an hour to go to the gym, or not answer email after a certain time. Try it. “Sorry, while I would love to attend your 7:30 am meeting, I have another obligation scheduled at that time.”
  • Explain to your friends and family that your schedule is going to be different when you teach online classes. For the most part, you’ll be working second shift for a while. Actually, it is probably more of a split shift, where you get urgent things done in the AM and work on other things later in the evening.
  • Putting the burden of learning on the student is a win-win. We know that active learning strategies are more likely to produce better outcomes. Allow them to interact with the materials, and each other. One behavior analytic way (that doesn’t involve discussion boards) is interteaching. I find that students grumble at the concept, do it a few times, then ask for more.
  • Find ways to interact with your co-workers, either through email, working (or not) lunches, and text messaging.

To be fair, I’m a work in progress with this topic. I’m sure that my practices and attitudes will evolve with experience and research. Comment below if you have some tips for online teaching you would like to share!

Conference Health

I am writing this as I sit in an airport waiting for my flight home. This week, I presented at a conference. This one was not my usual gig, and I felt a little out of place. The good news is that I hung out with some really wonderful colleagues. The presentation went well and was well-received.

Many academics travel for work on contracts or for conferences. How do you stay on track with your health and fitness on the road? I must admit the gym in my hotel was a little lackluster, so the workout clothes stayed in my suitcase. My body was screaming for sleep anyway, so I took advantage of the quiet hotel room to do that.

When I had a consultancy contract a few years ago on the other side of the country, I learned a few tips and tricks for traveling light yet professionally. A lot of times, I was staying in the middle of nowhere. There might be a restaurant if I was lucky – but most times, the hotel breakfast buffet needed to last me. Not a lot of choices, right? So how did I stay (mostly) on track?

  • Airport > Rental Car > Grocery Store. I would land in a rather urban area, which meant I had a choice of groceries. There, I would pick up things like toiletries, protein powders, bread, and other non-perishable items. Dried fruits and veggies are a decent stand-in for the real thing in a pinch. So are protein powders. One thing I know now is that I always over-buy, so I would purchase enough items for half the trip. Which brings me to point #2:
  • Pack for half of the trip. I realized that carry-ons are the way to go. I packed three days’ worth of clothing for a 6-day trip. An old tee shirt works as a laundry bag, and you can use the sleeve as a pouch (it’s washable, too!) Here is a tutorial to make one, although I hemmed the “handles” and the bottom. Halfway through, I would do laundry. At the end of the trip, I would do the same. That way, I never had to do more than replace worn out items when the next trip rolled around.
  • Water? Extra hydration is a must in dry environments or when you know you’ll spend too much time in a dry hotel. Bottled water can be expensive. The tap can be sketchy, but ask the locals. If they drink it, you can, too. At first, I purchased a bottle with a carbon filter. Not sure if the technology has changed, but that did not work for me. Now, I either buy a jug or refill at the hotel gym water cooler.
  • Take some time for relaxation and renewal. I look at business trips as a retreat in a way. Yes, you have to do what you came to do. I don’t recommend busting out of a conference for a spa day. But are there little things you can do to make sure you are relaxed and renewed when you get home? I often take time to work on projects that have fallen by the wayside. I’ll also look for little out of the way things and places to take up my free time. I’ve found beauty schools that the locals didn’t know about, manicure places, and hot yoga spots. The quiet of having your own room might be conducive to meditation or journaling before bed. Or that deep conditioning treatment. The only thing I don’t recommend is trying some new product on your face. You never know what will trigger an allergic reaction.
  • Use the time on the plane to do something relaxing. Repeat after me: I will no longer start my presentation on the plane to the conference. Is there a book you have been dying to read? A podcast you want to catch up on? I don’t find flying fun, and anything to make the time go by more pleasantly is awesome.

Speaking of cool travel items, here are a few I highly recommend:

  • Earplanes-My ears are overly responsive to pressure changes. When I would have pressure issues on a plane it was a migraine trigger, which made me irritable, which meant I was difficult to live with when I got home. These things were a game changer. They are specially designed to normalize the pressure in your ears. I find them especially helpful on takeoff and landing.
  • Buckwheat neck pillows – The nice thing about buckwheat is that you can microwave it if you need something to ease those tight muscles.
  • Dr. Bronner’s castille soap – You can use this awesome-smelling soap for laundry, as a shave cream, or for dishes. Just don’t use it as a body wash (I did so you don’t have to).

Share your travel trips and tricks below!

The air hurts my face

The Air Hurts my face. Why do I live where the air hurts my face?
http://depressedalien.com/143

Today, where I live, it is unseasonably cold. Well, there are always a few days that are cold here, but this one is one of the colder ones.

When I was little and growing up in Northern PA, our parents bundled us up in layers of snowsuits and sent us out to play. Or, as we got older, we bundled ourselves up and threw snowballs, went sledding, or just ran around the neighborhood. Someone would get hit in the face with a snowball and run home crying. A fun time was had by all.

Now, I’m less inclined to leave my cocoon. I’m one of those people who is always cold and in a hoodie. I wear hoodies to faculty meetings. I have found professional looking hoodies, casual hoodies, sleep hoodies, you name it. While I love to shovel, the thought of getting out of bed, putting on workout clothes, and voluntarily scraping the ice off my windshield to go to the gym seems, well, a little nutty.

So, when the hot chocolate is calling your name and the world says hibernate, what does one do to stay fit? These are just some of my own ideas, not based in the literature:

  • Have a emergency workout video list on the ready. There are many good workouts on YouTube. You can also buy subscriptions to home workouts like Beachbody or Pear Sports (I’m not linking to them because I don’t want to advertise). Today, I’m going to dust off my home spin bike rather than brave the cold.
  • Make something both hot and healthy. I enjoy chamomile tea as well as hibiscus tea. I think I’m going to make this Turmeric Eggplant Curry for dinner tonight. Might add some tofu or seitan to it for a little extra protein.
  • Sign up for something. Can you find a class you have to sign up for in advance? That way, you have an obligation to someone to show up.
  • Find unusual ways to move. I’m writing this on MLK Day, a national holiday. Too bad that online teachers never take a holiday. However, since this is a National Day of Service, what about doing a workout for charity, decluttering and giving away things other people need and you don’t use, or doing some sort of charity work? Getting fit and helping others doubles results, right?

As always, these are just some of my musings. Have a way to get yourself up and at ’em in the cold? Leave a comment and let me know!