Building A Strong Core – Five Essential Exercises

We all know the importance of regular exercise, and you most likely know that keeping your muscles strong and toned is key to your overall health. What you may not realize is that, when it comes to increasing and maintaining muscle strength, working your ‘core’ is vital to your success.

Core strengthening exercises are important for everyone, not only bodybuilders or those out to impress with their six-pack abs.  A strong core trains the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony, leading to better balance and stability.  A strong core can help reduce the risk of back injury, alleviate back pain, aid mobility in the spine, and improve posture.

You may think that your core is composed of only your abdominal muscles. In reality, your core musculature is a series of muscles going far beyond your abdominals and includes all the muscles in your trunk…..everything but your arms and legs. Your core even includes your diaphragm and pelvic floor.

When you do any sort of movement, from swinging a golf club to mopping the floor, your core muscles act to stabilize your body and transfer power to get the job done. A strong core helps prevent injuries.  Research studies have shown that athletes who have a strong core have fewer injuries.

Knowing the benefits of a strong core, what sort of exercises do you need to incorporate into your health and wellness program to get one?

You’ll be relieved to know that doing endless sit ups and crunches is not recommended. In fact, these exercises don’t do much to strengthen your core and they can be bad for your back as well, as they put unnecessary stress on the discs in your spine.

While the popular plank and side-plank exercises are good for core strength, if you are a beginner, your best approach is to begin slowly and recondition your muscles with these five simple exercises I’m going to outline. I’ve also included a video below so you can see exactly how to do them.  Note that these exercises are geared towards the beginner level.  You can include more advanced exercises as you build strength.

  • Tummy Vacuums – good if you sit for long periods of time, you are a woman who has had children or you just haven’t been active for awhile.
  • Clam Shells – this one will strengthen your glutes or ‘butt’ muscles.
  • Dead Bugs – (don’t let the name put you off!) – this exercise will build stability in your hips and trunk.
  • Anti-band rotation – This is the one movement most people don’t know about incorporating into their routine, yet it’s essential.
  • The Bird Dog – This is a super exercise which combines a lot of movements into one.

Ok, that’s a description of the five exercises and here’s a video I like from the JungleFit folks that demonstrates how to do these.

Comments, thoughts, questions?  I love to hear from you so leave them below.  I’ll be sure to answer.

Ready to Be Here Now?

By now, most people have heard something about mindfulness meditation and that it’s somehow good for you. In our very busy lives, and in between trying to get everything done that we need to do every day, plus eat well and squeeze in enough sleep and exercise, starting a mindfulness meditation practice is well…seriously?

Here’s good news.  There is a simple but powerfully effective way to bring mindfulness into your daily life, and you don’t have to become a monk and retire to a cave to do it.  I’ll explain what I mean in a moment, but first let me go over exactly what mindfulness is and the benefits of a daily mindfulness meditation practice for you.

There are many, many types of meditation, ranging from reciting a mantra (a word or sound that is repeated over and over) to Zen meditation and more. The common thread running through all these types of meditation, whether associated with a spiritual tradition such as Buddhism or Hinduism or not, is training the mind to focus on a single point of attention.

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Mindfulness itself is derived in part from the Vipassana Buddhist tradition, but has been adapted by Westerners without any associated religious or spiritual trappings. Mindfulness meditation’s popularity has been greatly influenced by the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School with the development of his very effective mindfulness based stress reduction program. Some of the scientifically proven benefits of mindfulness meditation include anxiety reduction, increased body satisfaction, improved cognition and improved focus and concentration.

So that’s all good, but how do you actually ‘do’ mindfulness meditation?

Here’s where people, especially beginners, get hung up.  There’s truly no need because mindfulness meditation is extremely simple. First of all, find a spot to sit comfortably.  Using a chair is fine or you can sit on the floor if you want. Just sit comfortably but don’t slouch. Then focus your attention on your breathing and just observe it…how it goes in and out, in and out. As you do this, you’ll find that thoughts naturally come into your mind. Thoughts about how you are sitting, questions like ‘Am I doing this right?’ or thoughts like ‘This is boring. I’ve got so much to do!’ and so forth. The idea is not to try to suppress your thoughts (you couldn’t, even if you tried!) but to simply observe them. When you notice that you have gotten distracted (and you will) just refocus your attention back to your breathing and then begin to “watch” your thoughts once more. That’s it…there’s all there is to it.

If you are new to this, I recommend starting with 5 minutes, then gradually extending your meditation to ten or even twenty minutes a day. I guarantee that with regular practice, you may be surprised.   The first time I tried it, it felt awkward and, well, weird.   Now I look forward to my morning quiet time.  I’ve had a daily meditation practice for over 35 years now and can’t imagine my life without it.

By the way, this doesn’t mean I spend the entire time in some sort of blissful state.  There are mornings when my to-do list or a conversation I had the day before just aren’t going away easily.  The point is to continue to practice in spite of these intrusions. When you throw a pebble into a pond, the water ripples out until it finally stills. It’s the same thing with our minds.  It might take a few minutes or more to “still the waters,” but when it happens you’ll want to come back for more.

Next time, I’m going to show you an another extremely effective way to bring mindfulness into your everyday life, without having to take any extra time from your already busy daily routine.

Lots of people include a period of mindfulness meditation in a morning routine, and find that it helps to ground them throughout the day. Having a daily structure can improve mood, focus and productivity. For more on developing your own morning routine or ritual, you can go to: https://www.positivehealthwellness.com/fitness/7-morning-rituals-to-make-your-day-8-times-more-productive/

Comments, thoughts, questions?  I love to hear from you so leave them below.  I’ll be sure to answer.

Enjoy these first days of summer!

Designing Your New Business – Part II: Your Home Office

In my last article, I gave you my perspective and philosophy on what goes into planning a successful business. In this Part II, I want to get practical and talk about what you need, in equipment, attitude and good habits, so you can set yourself up for success.

The First Trap – Overspending

First of all, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to have a fancy home office, expensive furniture, the latest computer, software and office equipment to be successful. Remember, it’s your business idea coupled with the ability to locate and sell to those who want and need your product or service that determines the viability of your business…not how much you spent on that impressive modern glass and steel desk. Some of the most successful businesses in the world, including Microsoft and Apple, were started simply.  Many entrepreneurs have started businesses in a corner of their kitchen or living room.

Having said that, I do want to emphasize that your working environment is extremely important. Having a comfortable, well lighted and organized space that is solely dedicated to your business will go a long way in setting you up for success.  If you will have clients coming in person to your home office, you do want to make it an attractive and professional space.

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Business equipment will vary, depending on the nature of your business. Most home-based consulting, coaching or service professionals need a spacious desk, shelves to store books, a filing system of some kind, and a computer and software, depending on the type of service you provide. In our connected age, reliable and fast internet access is a must, as is an up to date smartphone.

It can be tempting to overspend on equipment and furniture, but not overspending in the beginning means more money you have to put into marketing, and getting new customers and clients. This alone can mean the difference between failure and success.

The Second Trap – Boundary Creep

The second trap into which the home based business owner can easily fall I call boundary creep!  Unless you set clear time boundaries around your work it’s easy to get off track and lose focus before you know it.  Clear work rules are essential.  Successful entrepreneurs who work from home will tell you they have had to set up a clear and regular structure for their day.  Yes, you will have flexibility working for yourself but you also need discipline.  Decide on a work schedule that makes sense for your life and stick to it.

Set daily office hours for yourself, with a definite start and stop time and then politely but firmly enforce them.  Unless you have a deadline driven project to complete, try not to work on the weekends. Like many of my clients, you may find that you have  to not only be firm with friends and family during your work time, but also with yourself.  If you do this from the outset, though, you will reap the rewards in terms of increased productivity, satisfaction, and business growth.

Most of us have had the experience of falling prey to the Law of Task Expansion, which goes something like this: a task will expand in proportion to the time available to complete it. This goes double for those of us who work at home!

If you have worked for someone else and have been accustomed to having a ‘boss’ to answer to, you may be in for a rude awakening when you begin to work for yourself. Keeping an organized daily calendar with a schedule and defined work periods will keep you away from the time drift that engulfs so many home business owners.

The Third Trap – It’s A Pajama Party!

Personal preference varies, but I like to dress for work instead of staying in my proverbial pj’s and I advise coaching clients to do the same. A benefit of working from home is not having to dress up in business attire every day but wearing comfortable, casual clothes instead of slouching around in your robe gives your mind the powerful signal that you are in charge here and that you mean business!

As a new business owner, designing your business so that you maintain balance and boundaries can be a real challenge. I’d love to help support you in designing and developing an efficient and workable structure for your business. As I’ve said before, I believe in designing a business that works for you….one that fits into your lifestyle and enables you to develop and maintain a healthy balance between your business and personal life.  Simply contact me by clicking here to set up a complimentary, no-obligation consultation.  I know the challenges of starting a new business – I’ve been there.  I’m here to help!

Enjoy today!

You’re the Boss – What You Need to Know to Start and Design Your Own Business – Part I

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Thinking about starting your own business? Congratulations and welcome to the club! Entrepreneurship can be a rewarding way to make a living and perhaps even design a complete career change for yourself. There’s no cap on your income, you get to take control of your own destiny and you have a chance to see your creative ideas come to life. Most importantly…you’re the boss!

That’s good news because it means that you can design your business exactly how you want it to be. For some, being the boss can be bad news as well, because all the responsibility for your success or failure is on your shoulders.  You may have read scary statistics stating that a huge percentage of new businesses fail in the first year.  While that can be alarming, it can also be a signal for you to do your business design and planning right up front so you don’t end up being one of those businesses. Let’s take a look at what goes into planning a successful business.

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First, as a coach, I want to address a common problem.

If you are like many people starting your own business means, at least in the beginning, you are a company of one. This is especially true if you are a coach, consultant, therapist, interior designer, fitness trainer or other service professional who has finally decided to go out on your own. This means you are not only going to be the owner and sole decision maker in the company, you are also going to be marketing your business as well as providing the service to your clients and customers.

As you grow, your ability to wear all these hats at once can quickly become overwhelming. Many new entrepreneurs start with a frenzy of initial marketing to get clients and then stop marketing so they can deliver services to their new clients. As those clients naturally complete or drop away, you may suddenly find that your income has slowed considerably. Panic sets in, so you spend all your time marketing which brings in a new round of clients. Then you stop marketing so you can serve your clients and the feast or famine pattern begins all over again.

How to Get Off the Income Roller Coaster

What can you do to prevent this? Make decisions like you are the boss but work like you are an employee. What this means is that you need to be regularly marketing to keep your pipeline full, as well as be fully engaged in serving your clients. The key is in smart planning, systems – and getting help!

First of all, identify where your clients and customers originate from.  Do they come mainly from referrals? Set up a system to continuously and systematically ask for those referrals. Do you rely on LinkedIn to cultivate clients? Again, you need a structured way to continuously connect with your ideal prospects and a systematized way to reach out to them regularly.

Chances are, your customers or clients are initially going to come from a variety of sources. You can try  different marketing methods when you first start out, but it’s important to narrow those down to the most profitable so your efforts will be as efficient as possible. As soon as you can, invest in an assistant, virtual or otherwise, to help you with marketing and scheduling tasks that can be delegated, which will free you up for more time with your clients and enable you to expand your customer base.

Virtual assistants can be hired as independent contractors on a very part time basis while you get your business up to speed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard new business owners resist hiring an assistant saying, “I can’t afford it!” only to come back around six months later saying they wished they had hired someone to help them sooner.

The Key to a Successful Business

The key to a successful business is planning for sustained growth. This involves a balance between consistent marketing and delivery of your services. Identifying where your customers and clients are coming from, and setting up systems to take advantage of those portals, is essential. Teasing out which tasks in your business can be delegated and hiring an assistant to help you early on will put you ahead of the game.

The truth is you may be the boss but, as a new business owner, designing your business so it functions successfully and without overwhelming you can be challenging.  Successful business owners know when to reach out for help. Early on, I found the help of a business coach invaluable and I still have one today. What’s important is to design a business that works for you…one that fits into your lifestyle and enables you to develop and maintain a healthy balance between your business and personal life.

I’d love to support you in designing your new venture.  I know the challenges of starting a new business – I’ve been there. Simply contact me by clicking here to set up a complimentary consultation. I’m here to help you bring your hopes and dreams into reality!

Want to Start a Running Program? Here’s How!

With the arrival of spring, many people are retooling their exercise programs to include some outdoor time. And there is no better way to get exercise outdoors than to begin a running program.  We’ve already seen some of the benefits regular exercise can bring, including having a positive effect on mood, decreasing stress levels and, perhaps most importantly, exercise can significantly lower inflammation in your body as you age.

Moving your exercise program outside comes with its own set of benefits as well, including the positive effects sunlight has on your sleep-wake cycle, since natural sunlight is a powerful biological agent that assists in regulating your body’s internal clock and can help you consistently get a better night’s rest.

When I talk about beginning a running program, I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m asking you to train for a marathon! I’m going to introduce you to a running program that takes only 20 minutes 3 or 4 times a week, and that has tremendous cardiovascular and fat burning benefits and is easy and enjoyable.

As always, just to be on the safe side, you should consult with your licensed healthcare provider prior to beginning any exercise program, especially a running program, as your heart is going to get a workout as well as your legs. And, no worries if you can’t imagine yourself running for even half a minute, much less twenty!

The key to success here is to begin very slowly. You’ll actually begin with relaxed walking alternating with fast walking and work up gradually to your 20 minute goal. Many beginning running programs will have you do some combination of running and walking for a total of 30 minutes each day over a period of about eight weeks and gradually increase the minutes you are running until you are running continuously for 30 minutes.

The problem I see with these programs is that they assume the same level of fitness of everyone who begins and this is simply unrealistic. There are some folks who can just take off and breeze through eight weeks, and others who can’t run at all on the first day. I would rather see you make a plan that works for you and your level of fitness.

Here’s one way to get up to speed that has worked well for a lot of people and is based on the idea of progressive accelerated exercise which Dr. Al Sears has popularized with his P.A.C.E. program and others are calling HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training. Here’s how it works:
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On Day 1, start walking to warm up at a comfortable pace for 2 to 3 minutes. Then gradually pick up your pace until you are walking like you are late to an appointment. Walk at this pace for a minute or two. Then slow your pace back down until you are completely recovered in terms of your breathing and heart rate. This is one complete cycle or set.

You may not be able to do more than this on the first day, or you may be able to do two or even three cycles of relaxed walking alternating with fast walking. Do this every other day or at least three times a week, gradually adding in more cycles of relaxed walking and fast walking up to 20 minutes.

When you do this consistently, you will be surprised at how quickly you progress and it will become much easier to walk even faster. At some point, you will likely naturally begin to run when your cardiovascular conditioning reaches the level where it seems natural to do that. The key to this is to rest in between periods of exertion, by slowing down to a relaxed walk until your breathing and heart rate recovers.

Add cycles of relaxed walking and fast walking or running until you are exercising for 20 minutes at a time. Once you get to the point where you are doing three or four cycles or ‘sets’ in one 20 minute period, you can gradually increase your exertional effort from say, 30% in the first set to 50% in the second set to 70% in the third set and on the fourth set, give it all you have.

The beauty of this type of exercise is that it’s over quickly and takes no more than twenty minutes to accomplish. Unlike running at a moderate pace for thirty minutes, this type of exercise is training your body in a very efficient way that minimizes stress on your connective tissue and minimizes your chance of sustaining the types of injuries that so often plague runners.  Plus, the benefits of this type of interval exercise continue long after you’ve put away your running shoes, as your body continues to burn fat for hours after you exercise.

Here’s another benefit. Once you have been doing this regularly and you have to run to catch a train or quickly change gates at the airport, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to not only sprint quickly but to recover quickly as well. So why not give this a try? Don’t be roped into believing you have to become a marathon runner to get fit. It’s just not true! Let me know how you are doing in the comments below.

Enjoy today!

Struggling with Building Healthy Habits?

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I know I need to do something about my health, but I just don’t know where to start.” “As soon as I have time, I’m going to exercise.” Sound familiar?  Let’s face it – everyone’s busy. How would you like a program where it’s all been figured out for you?  The Evergreen Wellness Program will help you develop better sleep, food, mood, and exercise habits to help you look and feel your best. Research shows healthy habits make us better contributors to our families, organizations, and society, too. You will learn how to:

  • Control food cravings and enjoy – yes, enjoy! – healthier foods
  • Get into great shape even if you can’t spend 10 hours a week in a gym
  • Sleep tight each night
  • Snap back after setbacks
  • Become a more energetic, more optimistic, more engaging version of yourself.


PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES, TOP EXECUTIVES AND SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS ALL UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING THEIR OWN COACH. A PERSONAL COACH CAN HELP YOU DEFINE YOUR GOALS, SEEK OUT THE BEST THAT IS IN YOU, AND CONTINUALLY CHALLENGE YOU TO SUCCEED AT YOUR KEY AIMS. POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY AND STRENGTHS-BASED COACHING OFFERS AN EVIDENCE-BASED FRAMEWORK AND A VALUABLE TOOLKIT OF INTERVENTIONS THAT HAVE BEEN PROVEN TO BE EFFECTIVE IN SUCCESSFUL GOAL ATTAINMENT.

My holistic, entirely research-based coaching program is 6 weeks filled with great info, fun short videos, and lots of cool health-boosting activities. I’ll be by your side every step of the way with my special Premium Coaching Package that includes weekly or bi-weekly 30 minute coaching sessions to get – and keep – you on track. If your goal is to live a healthy lifestyle, you can’t afford not to try this program. Call 303-670-7863 or email me at suzanne@evergreenlifeandwellness.com for details and a 30 minute complimentary session to determine if this program is right for you.

What You Can Do Now To Promote Anti-Aging – Emotional Reserves (Part Five)

In Part Four of our anti-aging series we looked at sleep and its surprising contributions to anti-aging. To wrap up this series, we will now turn our attention to your emotional reserves and how to build them in a way that contributes to wellbeing and anti-aging.

What exactly are emotional reserves? First of all, at the most simplistic level, it means that your basic emotional and physical needs are being met. If this is not the case, then any stressful event in your life, even relatively minor ones, can easily threaten your ability to face life head on and to build a better quality of life for yourself and your family. If you feel constantly under threat, then your body goes into stress response mode. One of the many things that happen when you are under stress is that your sympathetic nervous system signals your adrenal glands to release the hormones adrenalin and cortisol into your bloodstream.

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Your body is simply trying to protect you from the signal it is getting from your brain…that you are under a threat of some kind. And no matter that this threat is probably not the threat of bodily harm. Most likely the threat is entirely mental…stemming from worries over financial pressures, relationship difficulties, concern over children, elderly parents (or both!) and a hundred other things most of us face from time to time.

In the short term, adrenalin will help you run fast if you cross paths with a hungry bear while walking in the woods. Cortisol helps to regulate a variety of bodily systems, including blood sugar regulation, and helping to metabolize fats, carbohydrates and protein. But if your emotional reserves are depleted and stress becomes chronic, these hormones can wreak havoc on your body, including elevating your blood pressure, suppressing your immune system and literally speeding up the aging of your cells.

For now, let’s assume your basic emotional and physical needs are being met. What if you could build an even larger emotional reserves reservoir that would be there in case of a major life event? The good news is that you can!

We’ve already covered many of the important ways to do this in this series, including regular exercise, adequate sleep and proper nutrition but there is another way to add to your emotional reserves that goes beyond these basics:  Taking advantage of positive emotions.

In 2001, psychologist and researcher Barbara L. Fredrickson postulated a new theory on the role of positive emotions on physical and mental health, specifically their ability to build psychological resilience, in other words their ability to strengthen and build your emotional reserves. Since then, her findings have led to a whole host of other studies supporting her work and researchers continue to investigate the best ways to apply her findings.

I plan on addressing positive emotions and how to experience them regularly in your life in another article. Meanwhile, I’d love to know any thoughts you have on our anti-aging series in the comments below!