First Day At Golf

We joined the Mid Pacific Country Club in Lanikai!  We picked up a couple of used golf club sets at Roots & Relics in Honolulu.  Mid Pac has a gorgeous golf course and we can walk there easily. Although I’ve never played before, Bill and I played 9 holes this morning.  Bill did well while I picked up my ball a lot but the  day was great and we had fun.

This photo of Lanikai Beach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I was surprised at how little the clubs cost relative to all accoutrements.  Golf bogs,  golf bag carts, shoes, an club-appropriate clothes….  We are looking forward to checking out the gym, dining rooms and social events at the club while we are in Hawaii.

Getting Back Into It in Hawaii

Between the knee and hand/arm issues, I’ve not done regular, strenuous exercise in over a year. We have committed to getting back into it. This morning, we walked 2.5 miles and played a bit of tennis before the rain came down.

I was happy doing basic hula hooping in the living room while listening to 1980’s music. 10 minutes in one direction and 10 minutes in the other. Hula hooping burns 210 calories in a 30-minute workout, or 7 calories per minute. I wore my Fitbit Blaze tracker and got credit for steps as I did the work out.  It was a win-win!

I wrapped up with 20 push ups so today wasn’t completely cardio-centric.

Gentle Knee Stretches and Strengthening Exercises to Decrease Pain

Time to get my knees back into the game! Found some very gentle knee stretches and knee strengthening exercises on the Sparkspeople.com site.  I’ve supplemented their text with videos.

Knee Stretches

Chair knee extension: Sitting in a chair, rest your foot on another chair so the knee is slightly raised. Gently push the raised knee toward the floor using only leg muscles. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds and release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.

Heel slide knee extension: Lie on your back, with left knee bent and left foot flat on floor. Slowly slide the left heel away from your body so both legs are parallel. Hold for 5-10 seconds, return to starting position. Repeat 5 times on each leg.

Knee flexion: Sitting in a chair, loop a long towel under your foot (resting on the floor). Gently pull on the towel with both hands to bend the knee, raising your foot 4 – 5 inches off the floor. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.

Hamstring stretch: Standing, put one foot in front of you, toes up. With hands on the small of your back (or one hand holding a chair for balance), bend the opposite knee and hip (not your lower back), until you feel the hamstrings stretch. The upper body comes forward at the hip. Hold for 5 -10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.

Knee Strengthening Exercises

  1. Wall slide: Leaning with your back against a wall, bend your knees 30°, sliding down the wall, then straighten up again. Move slowly and smoothly, using your hands on the wall for balance. Keep feet and legs parallel, and do not allow knees to go out over the toes. Repeat 5 -10 times.
    Wall Slides for Knees


  2. Straight-Leg Raises: Sitting in a chair, straighten one leg in the air (without locking the knee). Hold for about one minute. Bend your knee to lower the leg about halfway to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. Return to starting position. Work up to 4 reps on each leg.

  1. Abductor Raise: Lie on your side, propped on one elbow. The leg on the floor bent, the other straight. Slowly lift the top leg, hold for 5 -10 seconds, then lower. (Ankle weights will increase the intensity). Do 1-3 sets with 12-15 repetitions each. Remember to rest in between sets.
  2. Hamstring Curl: Stand with the front of your thighs against a surface (a table or wall). Flex one knee up as far as is comfortable. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds, then lower slowly. If possible, do not touch the floor between repetitions. (Ankle weights will increase the intensity.) Do 1-3 sets with 12-15 repetitions each. Remember to rest in between sets.
  3. Step-Ups: Stand in front of a step, like a sturdy bench or stairs, about two feet high (or less if necessary). Step up onto the support, straighten your knees fully (without locking them) and step down. Maintain a steady pace. If you are comfortable with your balance, pump your arms while doing this exercise. Start with 1 minute, slowly building your time. Gets your heart pumping too!
  4. Stationary Bike: Biking is a good way to increase strength and range of motion. Make sure you have the right positioning of the legs. At the bottom of the pedal stroke, the bend in the knee should be 15 degrees. Start with 10 minutes and slowly increase your time.

Restarting Kickboxing Workouts

For the past few months, I have been working out with my Body Opponent Bag using the FigCentury BOB XL with Base is a full-size, life-like mannequin.ht Trainer app.  I had limited myself to only to boxing rounds but decided I would do a basic kickboxing training session today.

My warm up was 2 minutes of jump rope and the 10 minute workout I included under Guidance/Exercises on this site. (Do it twice and you’ll burn about 170 calories.)

Minutes: Combination Moves:
0:00–2:00 Jab, cross, hook, uppercut lead with left (30 seconds each)
2:00–4:00 Jab, cross, hook, uppercut lead with right (30 seconds each)
4:00–5:00 Front kick (30 seconds each, left and right)
5:00–6:00 Roundhouse kick (30 seconds each, left and right)
6:00–7:00 Side kick (30 seconds each, left and right)
7:00–7:30 Combination (left foot forward): Jab, (L), uppercut (R), Front kick  (L)
7:30–8:00 Combination (right foot forward): Jab, (R), uppercut (L), Front kick  (R)
8:00–8:30 Combination (left foot forward): Jab, (L), cross (R), Roundhouse kick (L)
8:30–9:00 Combination (right foot forward): Jab, (R), cross (L), Roundhouse kick (R)

I did the Fight Trainer basic kickboxing session at a really slow pace and was doing well.  Unfortunately, I realized that I completely forgot how to do a back kick!  Just in case anyone else wants to refresh her/his memory:

 

 

 

Strengthening Your Wrists

I’ve been feeling weakness and pain in my wrists these days, especially while playing tennis.  I found a couple of web sites that offer wrist strengthening exercises.

7 Exercises To Maximize Hand, Wrist, And Forearm Strength


It suggested the following to increase in the overall strength of your upper extremities will also help to improve your hand and wrist dexterity :

  1. Flex and extend all fingers, while making a complete fist for 30 seconds. Next, open and close your fingers do 2 sets of each for a total of a minute.
  2. Flex your wrist and hold in maximum flex for 30 seconds with the elbow straight but not locked.
  3. Extend your wrist with the elbow straight for 30 seconds. Do 2 sets for a total of 2 minutes. These initial three stretching exercises will prepare you for the more complex and more intense weight-bearing exercises to optimize muscular development and the strength of the forearm.
  4. Seated Wrist Hammer Curls – In a seated position with your back straight, place your forearm on your thighs with your thumbs pointed upward. Use a 5-, 10-, or 20lb weight in a hammer position and lift it back and forth slowly for 3 sets of 20 repetitions. This will develop your brachioradialis muscle, which inserts at the distal aspect of the forearm at the wrist. Greater hypertrophy of this muscle will give more definition and balance of the forearm.
  5. Seated Wrist Straight Curls – This is to develop your flexor muscles. In a seated position, with your forearms on your thighs and palms facing upward, with a 5-, 10-, or even 20lb weight in hand, flex your wrist upward. Keep the forearms well placed against your thighs for greater stability and isolation of the wrist and forearm musculature. Be careful to place the wrist three to four inches away from the knee to allow the full range of motion. Take caution not to overextend.  Do 3 sets of 20 repetitions.
  6. Seated Reverse Wrist Curls – This is to develop your extensor muscles and is also done in a seated position with your forearms on your thigh, palms facing downward, with the wrist three to four inches away from the knees. Grasp the weight and extend the wrist fully. Do this for 3 sets of 20 and be sure to not lift the elbows from the thighs when extending the wrists. Keep the palms down.
  7. Finger Curls – This is an easy exercise to perform and will develop finger and hand strength. Simply sit and hold a 5-, 10-, or 15lb in weight your hand. Turn your hand with the palm upward with the back of your wrist on your thigh. Allow the weight to roll down your fingers, and now curl your fingers back holding the weight securely. Remember to keep the back of your wrist against your thigh throughout the execution of the exercise. Use weight which you can effectively control and execute the exercises properly.

Another web page provided exercises and an explanation of e I found: 3 Wrist Strengthening Exercises To Prevent Yoga Injuries

In order to protect the wrist, it is essential that we place more weight on the mounds of our thumb, index, and middle finger and less so on the ring and pinky side.

Most often, due to weak upper arm and shoulder strength, our weight automatically falls on the outside of our hands. This weight on the heel of the palm will lift the index finger off the floor placing a great degree of tension on the ulna, which isn’t designed to bear as much of a load. To protect this sensitive joint, more weight should be placed on the heel of the hand while at the same time, using the fingers pads to distribute the weight evenly.

Other exercises suggested were:

Ball Squeeze

Take a stress ball or tennis ball and grip it in your palm as firmly as possible with your fingers. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat about 10 times. Switch hands. There are a few variations you could do with a ball squeeze.

Towel Wring

Take a dry towel and twist the towel in opposite direction, as if to squeeze the water out of it. Hold the contraction at the end for a few seconds. Be mindful of overstretching as this can aggravate your already injured wrists. Switch sides and repeat 8-10 times.

Fourth Quarter 2015

What an amazing time we’ve had these past few months!  We traveled to London, UK to visit with best friends and family and then headed out on a cruise through the Baltic. After that, we traveled to Jamaica to attend a friend’s wedding.  Finally, we returned to New York!

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, netherlands
Van Gogh

When we began the cruise, we stopped off in Amsterdam, Netherlands and visited the Van Gogh Museum. Just a hint: be sure to order tickets online or be prepared to wait a long time to get into the very small museum.Ocean Princess Balcony and the Kiel Canal

Our next day was spent traveling from the North Sea to the Baltic via the Kiel Canal, Germany.  We had an amazing suite overlooking the ship’s prow.

Once we arrived in Stockholm, Sweden, we took a tour of the waterways [boring] then walked through the Gamla stan (The Old Town).  The streets were closed down for the 15th Stockholm Half Marathon. It was fun to see all the runners and the celebrations.

In Tallinn, Estonia, we walked on our own into the quaint old city and went shopping. The woolen goods are gorgeous, well made and reasonably priced.  Woo hoo!

Peterhof Palace, St PetersburgTwo days in St. Petersburg, Russia meant we visited the Hermitage, Peterhof Palace, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and cruised down the River Neva.
The Old Town of Riga, Latvia had lots of medieval culture and Art Noveau architecture to explore.

Despite mockery by our friend, Eric, our excursion to the former missile silo in the Zemaitija National Park in Klaipeda, Lithuania was terrific. The best par Outside the missile silo, Klaipeda, Lithuania 2015t of it was listeninOutside the missile silo, Klaipeda, Lithuania 2015g to the guide’s childhood stories and the gradual growth of his sense of Latvian pride and nationalism.

We had the opportunity to visit the Louisiana Museum outside of Copenhagen, Denmark and saw the Yayoi Kusama: In Infinity exhibit.  It was terrific fun.

YAYOI KUSAMA IN INFINITYIMG_0539The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen

Lazy Exercises on the Beach

Thought I would try to do some easy exercises while I lay on the beach (while not attracting lots of attention):

  • Hand Finger Forearm Strength TrainerHand Exercises: Using a Hand/Finger/Forearm Strength Trainer, I did a hundred repetitions while suntanning on the beach.
  • side-lying-leg-liftsSide Leg LiftsSide leg lifts work the abs, especially the hard to get at obliques, as well as the inner thigh.  Lie on your side with your legs stacked and your head resting on your arm. Tighten the muscle in the front of the top thigh and lift that leg into the air. Hold for one count, lower to touch the bottom leg and then lift again.
  • Two-Knee Twistback pain, low back pain, yoga for back pain, back pain relief, yoga for back Lying on your back, bend your knees into your chest and bring your arms out at a T. As you exhale lower your knees to ground on the right. Keep both shoulders pressing down firmly. If the left shoulder lifts, lower your knees further away from the right arm. Hold for 1-2 minutes each side
  • Forward Seated Bend:  There are many benefits of this posture, the main and most obvious one is to provide a complete stretch of the entire backside of the body from the back of the head through the heels.  seated-forward-bend
    • Sit up straight with your legs together, stretched out in front of you. Point both feet straight up towards the ceiling.  Be sure you are sitting straight up on the sitbones with your spine straight.
    • Inhale, and stretch your arms up over your head. Following the direction of your hands, at the same time lengthen the entire spine upwards
  • Sphinx:  back pain, low back pain, yoga for back pain, back pain relief, yoga for backLying on your stomach, prop yourself up on your forearms. Align your elbows directly under your shoulders. Press firmly through your palms and the tops of your feet. Press your pubic bone forward. You will feel sensations in your lower back, but breathe through it. You are allowing blood flow into the lower back for healing. Hold for 1-3 minutes.

Fighting a Fatty Liver

A couple of years ago my doctor asked me how much alcohol I was drinking because my blood test came back with abnormal results.  I don’t drink very much or very often so i was surprised by the question.  It turns out that the most common disease in America is called NALFD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) or fatty liver, for short, and is a major risk factor for diabetes, heart attacks, and even cancer. It can progress to Non Alcoholic Steatohepatis (NASH), which causes liver inflammation and can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer in about 10% of those affected.

Fat and the liver: Though the exact effect of excess fat on the liver isn’t well understood, it appears to create problems on a spectrum. At the low and least harmful end, the liver may be able to perform its many functions even while it contains too much fat. However, once inflammation and swelling occur in the organ, scarring can result as the liver tries to heal itself. This is a hallmark symptom of liver injury in advanced non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: collagen is laid down, and fibrosis or thickening of the liver tissue ensues. As the disease progresses, about 10% of cases will develop over the next ten years into the much more serious NASH, or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. NASH can lead to cirrhosis or hardening of the liver, liver failure, liver cancer, and death.

What causes it?  The high fructose corn syrup found in our processed foods is the single biggest cause of fatty liver. Soda, which, frighteningly, is the number one source of calories in the American diet, is the biggest cause of fatty liver.

Who gets non-alcoholic fatty liver disease? Though the exact causes of NAFLD are not known, most of the people who develop it are obese, have type 2 diabetes or have metabolic syndrome, which is associated with insulin resistance. What’s more, the severity of NAFLD increases with the degree of obesity, and abdominal or belly fat seems to increase the risk of dangerous NASH, even in patients with a body mass index (BMI) in a normal range.

Genetic factors influence each individual component of the syndrome, and the syndrome itself. A family history that includes type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and early heart disease greatly increases the chance that an individual will develop the metabolic syndrome.

Environmental issues such as low activity level, sedentary lifestyle, and progressive weight gain also contribute significantly to the risk of developing the metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is present in about 5% of people with normal body weight, 22% of those who are overweight and 60% of those considered obese. Adults who continue to gain five or more pounds per year raise their risk of developing metabolic syndrome by up to 45%.

While obesity itself is likely the greatest risk factor, others factors of concern include:

  • Women who are post-menopausal
  • Smoking
  • Eating an excessively high carbohydrate diet
  • Lack of activity (even without weight change)

How do you know if you have it?

There are blood tests available that can detect a fatty liver. You can also see it on an ultrasound. And if your test comes back abnormal, you are in trouble. But even if your test comes back normal, you might not be out of the woods. It’s important to know that a liver function test doesn’t always detect a fatty liver. An ultrasound can be more sensitive.

The bottom line is, if you eat a lot of sugar and flour, if you have a little bit of belly fat, or if you crave carbs, starch, and sugar, you probably have this.

How to fix your fatty liver

The most promising treatments for NAFLD are weight loss (including bariatric surgery) and exercise. There are some really simple things you can do:

  • Cut out all high fructose corn syrup from your diet. If you see it on any label for any product—whether it’s a salad dressing or ketchup or tomato sauce—don’t eat it.
  • Reduce or eliminate starch. Get rid of white, processed flour. Even whole grain flours can be a problem.
  • Add some good things to your diet to help heal your fatty liver. Add plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Add lean animal protein like chicken and fish. Add good oils like olive oil, macadamia nut oil, avocados, coconut butter, and fish oil. Good fats like these are anti-inflammatory, and they help repair your liver.
  • Improve your metabolism through exercise. This is a fabulous way to improve insulin resistance and reduce fatty liver.
  • Supplements:  Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA’s), can be helpful. Omega 3 fish oils have been shown to reduce fatty infiltration on ultrasound, and they’re also anti-inflammatory and reduce insulin resistance. A recent study used Cinnamon (1500mg) to treat NALFD and found that liver enzymes improved (as well as blood sugar, lipids and inflammation markers).

More information:

On a lighter note (pun intended) I really like doing the online Body Age quizzes. A thorough one (which incidentally gave me a happy analysis) can be found at: http://www.biological-age.com.

Is Canned Tuna Good For You?

Looking at the problem with Ramen, I was worried that canned tuna fish – my next favorite for a quick and easy meal – may not be healthy for me either.  Happily, it looks like tuna fish is still good for you.  One article on Healthy Eating SFGate listed all sorts of happy news:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The small amount of fat present in canned light tuna is mostly the healthy unsaturated kind, including omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids support a healthy brain and promote proper growth and development. These essential fatty acids reduce inflammation in your body, which can reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
  • Niacin: A 3-ounce serving of canned light tuna contains 11.3 milligrams of niacin toward the 14 milligrams women need each day and the 16 milligrams that men need. Niacin is a B-vitamin that helps keep your digestive system, skin and nerves healthy.
  • Vitamin B12: You need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 each day, and a 3-ounce serving of canned light tuna supplies 2.5 micrograms. Vitamin B12 supports the normal function of your brain and also aids in the formation of red blood cells.
  • Mercury: You can safely eat a serving of canned light tuna every three or four days and a serving of canned albacore tuna every nine-to-14 days, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

There’s only 179 calories in a can of tuna fish so it sounds like I may be eating a lot more of it at lunch.

Just as a side note, there was a recall of Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea cannd tuna fish in 2013.  “There have been no consumer reports of illnesses attributed to these products,” Steve Mavity, Bumble Bee’s senior vice president of technical services and corporate quality assurance, said in a statement. “But because we’ve identified an issue with seal tightness, we’re voluntarily recalling products to ensure the highest margin of safety and quality.” Loose seals and seams can lead to bacterial contamination, which can cause food poisoning, according to the FDA.

Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee, two of the major tuna brands that you’re likely to see on the shelf at your local grocery store, will combine into one as the owner of Chicken of the Sea.  The merger, if approved, would probably happen in the second half of 2015.

Greenpeace has posted notes that Bumble Bee and companies like it, continue to rely on fishing practices that kill millions of marine animals every year, including sharks, turtles, rays and juvenile fish of all kinds. These practices threaten the very ecosystems that will keep our oceans healthy for generations to come.

How Bad is Ramen Anyway?

marruchan ramenI love Maruchan Ramen noodles. Unabashedly.  I ate them a lot in high school and I still order them in large batches from Amazon.com.  They are fast and filling and warm during the winter months. I figured I was making Ramen more healthy by adding peas and/or carrots and, occasionally, chicken. Ingredients: Ramen Noodle: Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil (Contains One Or More of The Following: Canola, Cottonseed, Palm) Preserved By Tbhq, Salt, Soy Sauce (Water, Wheat, Soybeans, Salt), Potassium Carbonate, Sodium (Mono, Hexameta, and/Or Tripoly) Phosphate, Sodium Carbonate, Turmeric. Soup Base: Salt, Monosodium Glutamate “MSG”, Sugar, Hydrolyzed Corn, Wheat and Soy Protein

More recently, I thought I was really getting ahead of the cnonggshim noodleurve by purchasing Nongshim Spicy Chicken Noodle Bowls.  The label says there is no MSG added, and 0 g trans fat (although the Maruchan Ramen does not contain trans fat either.)  The Nonghim Noodles have an endorsement by Professional Chefs (a 2011 Chef’s Best Award)  and there’s 30% less sodium than their regular product.  They come in their individual bowls (yes, each bowl is 2 servings, go figure.) Ingredients: Wheat flour, palm oil, potato starch, modified potato starch, salt,contains less than 2% of each of the following: artificial flavor, beef extract*, beef fat*, beef stock*, black pepper*, calcium phosphate, chicken broth*, corn syrup*, dextrose, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, disodium succinate,dehydrated vegetables (carrot, green onion), garlic*, ginger*, gum arabic, hydrolyzed soy protein, lecithin (soy), malic acid, maltodextrin, modified corn starch, mushroom extract*, natural flavors, onion*, potassium carbonate, red chili pepper*, riboflavin (color), rice*, sand lance concentrate*, seaweed extract*, sodium carbonate, sodium phosphates, soybeans*, spices, sugar, tapioca starch, textured soy protein (soy flour, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, yeast extract), tocopherols (antioxidant), yeast extract, yellow corn flour. *powdered contains wheat, soy, and sand lance. Manufactured in a facility that also processes crustacean shellfish and milk.

Here’s the bad news.  Apparently, Ramen isn’t bad for you just because of the sodium. There are a number of articles that noting just how bad Ramen noodles are and how they will kill you. What can you do if you still want Ramen?  Most recommendations to make Ramen healthier is to add vegetables, as I have done.  One site recommends that once your noodles are a little over halfway cooked, (still al-dente) dump the cooking water out and drain the noodles. Put another 2 cups of water on the stove.  (Hey you just discarded a lot of gross starch and a fair amount of fat!).

If you want to read more, here is a good article:

The Street.com – Ramen Noodles May Lead to Chronic Illness: The article uses data from WebMD and, most importantly, findings from a new study by Baylor University. The study was published in The Journal of Nutrition and shows that consumption of instant noodles significantly ups the risk of a scary condition for certain groups of people.

  • Cardiometabolic Syndrome – Cardiometabolic syndrome is a scary condition ; a Baylor study found that eating instant noodles two or more times a week was associated with the syndrome, which raises a person’s likelihood of developing heart disease and other conditions, such as diabetes and stroke.  Ladies, pay attention to this: Women (specifically South Korean), not men, who ate instant noodles at least twice a week showed a 68% higher risk of metabolic syndrome.
  • Noodles: In order to create a long keeping noodle that can be on store shelves or in your kitchen cupboard for 4 to 12 months, it’s deep fried in oil. That’s right, they are fried noodles.
  • BPA Chemicals: Bisphenol A (BPA), is used for packaging the noodles in polystyrene foam containers. Studies have shown that BPA can affect the way hormones send messages throughout our body, specifically the primary female sex hormone, estrogen.
  • Salt: Ramen is high in sodium, packed with 41% of your daily allowance with each package. Most of this sodium is in the flavoring packet. Using less flavoring, which is mostly salt, will reduce the sodium content. Also remember that eating too much sodium can increase a person’s risk of heart failure, osteoporosis, stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Flavoring Packet: The flavoring powder is made of salt, monosodium glutamate, seasoning, and sugar. The worst ingredient is the MSG, or monosodium glutamate. That’s the “flavor enhancer” used to improve all kinds of tastes. Instant noodle makers use it to make their shrimp flavors taste more like shrimp, and beef flavors more like beef.
  • Fat: One 85 gram package of ramen noodles has 14.5 grams of fat. The unhealthy saturated fats make up 6.5 grams, which is about one third of your daily allowance. The remainder of the fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

Another issue is that Ramen noodles contain Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), which is a byproduct of the petroleum industry and food additive frequently to preserve cheap processed foods. In processed foods, it’s sprayed on the food or on its packaging to prevent discoloration and changes to flavor and odor. Others products, such as cosmetics, perfumes, varnishes and lacquers, contain TBHQ to maintain stability.

Small amounts of TBHQ may not kill you (although death has occurred) or even make you feel immediately sick, but it can have a long term effect on your health such as weakening of organs and contributing to the onset of cancers and tumors.