Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Listening to Your Body

I was trying to have this post ready last week but Canva was refusing to download the pictures, skewing my posting schedule.  Then came Friday's massive outage.  So frustrated by it all I gave up on completing this post last week.  Technology...can't live with it, can't live without it.

For many of us, better health does not come naturally. It is something we all must work on in order to lead healthy lives and have overall excellent health. This means listening to your body and understanding what it's telling you about what's going on inside the body. Here are four ways you can listen to your body so you can have a life that is sustained by good health.

You can listen to your body every time you put on your clothes or when stepping on the scale.  Do your clothes fit right?  Are they becoming too loose on you or are they fitting snugly?  Is the scale tipping one way or another in the wrong direction?  If you find that you are losing too much weight or packing on the pounds, it may be that you are being affected by stress and are not eating in ways that promote good health. Good health comes from eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. This is in lieu of eating processed foods such as cookies, cakes, processed meals, and candies—all of which have excess calories and preservatives that are generally unhealthy for you. 

Eating too little can affect your health as well. (I tell Benny this all the time since the only meal he really eats is the dinner I prepare.) When you eat less than the amount of food you are supposed to eat, you can suffer from lack of proper nutrients. Lacking in proper nutrients, your body does not function properly and you can cause yourself to be sick from lack of the nutrients to support immune health.

Your digestive system is not only the way you get proper nutrients but also it is a main way your body uses to protect itself from pathogens. The digestive system is one big part of the immune system so you need to treat it with the care it deserves. This means paying attention to episodes of diarrhea that can strip the colon of protective bacteria, constipation, and indigestion from being under excess stress or eating the wrong foods. 
You can care for your digestive system by eating healthy foods and by taking probiotics, which can 
replenish the gut with good bacteria. Probiotics can be taken in by eating plain yogurt with live cultures or by eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kefir. 

If you can’t get it in the foods you eat, you can purchase many probiotic supplements at the drug store or online. Some of the best probiotics are those that come in spore form. The spores can survive the acidic environment of your stomach and then release the live bacteria in the intestines, where they take root and drive out the bad bacteria and fungi.

This means following your blood pressure and pulse very carefully. If you are inactive or have a family history of high blood pressure, you may be suffering from high blood pressure and not know it. This means you have to check your blood pressure every time you run across a blood pressure machine at the drug store or grocery store. When you see the doctor, your blood pressure will be taken as well. If it is consistently elevated, you may need to be on an anti-hypertensive medication or modify your diet and exercise program so you can avoid some of the many complications of high blood pressure.

You should check your pulse as well on a periodic basis. A high pulse can mean that you are too inactive or are under a great deal of stress. Exercise can cause your heart to function better and will slow your pulse to normal levels. 

Feel tired, but keep pushing yourself past your limits? Are you fighting fatigue on a regular basis, instead of taking the time to rest and rejuvenate? Fatigue and low energy are both your body talking to you and letting you know that you need to rest and relax, if you don’t listed you will crash and burn.

Are you ignoring anxiety, instead of looking to erase its sources and lower stress levels? Stress kills, and you are the only one that can take care to reduce its load on your body, mind, and spirit. Great ways to fight stress and its impact are Tai Chi, meditation, yoga and taking vacations on a regular basis.

Where do you need to listen to your body more?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Some Basic Psychology

What most of us aren’t aware of is just how much of a slave we typically are to our biology – and especially when it comes to neuroscience.
We have the illusion of self-control. That is to say that we feel like we choose what we do and we choose how we feel. If we’re angry, it’s because of some injustice – we’ve thought about the situation and decided that anger is the correct response.

If you’re happy, it’s because all is well with the world and you’re content.

We then take all this information and decide what we want to do next and how we’re going to perform at that activity.
But the reality is that we are not in charge of our brains. Rather, our brains are in charge of us. And they’re largely controlled by our bodies and our situations too. Unless we understand the workings of our brain and we’re able to take conscious control over the processes that dictate our moods, our motivations and more, then we are destined to remain at the whim of certain chemicals – and completely oblivious to that fact.

Okay, so let’s go deep right off the bat. Who are ‘you’? What makes you, you?

The answer is your brain to a large extent. And your brain in turn is made up of billions of neurons – small cells that have tendril-like extensions reaching out and into the different corners of your skull. These neurons can be created, destroyed or changed via our experiences and they represent all kinds of things including memories, sights, smells, thoughts and ‘commands’ to move our body.
When an electrical impulse moves through a neuron, this means it is ‘firing’ and thus we experience whatever correlates with that firing. If you open up someone’s skull and use an electrode to stimulate individual neurons, then one might make someone see a point of red light, one might make someone move their arm and another might make them remember their Mother. 
These neurons are all interconnected and the more often two neurons fire at once, the more connected they become. Thus, when one neurons fires, it is likely that others around it will fire depending on the strength of the firing (called an ‘action potential), other activity in the area and the strength of the connection. Some ‘clusters’ of neurons form the major brain structures like the occipital lobe, motor cortex or hippocampus which are responsible for particular behaviors. Other neurons reach from one end of the brain all the way to the other!
Already you can see how your brain is not always entirely under your control. If you see something specific, then this will cause certain neurons to fire based on your memories and understanding of that object. But it might also cause surrounding neurons to fire, depending on the associations you’ve formed during that life-time.
And when certain neurons fire, they cause particular emotions. That’s because neurons communicate across synapses – small gaps between the end of one neuron (the axon – which is like a tail) and the dendrites (like arms) of another.

At the end of each axon is the synaptic knob, which is filled with chemicals called neurotransmitters, held inside ‘neuro vesicles’. When the synapse fires, it causes these neurotransmitters to be released and that then alters the behavior of the transmission and the surrounding cells. Some neurotransmitters are ‘excitatory’ and make other neurons more likely to fire. Others are ‘inhibitory’ and make them less likely to fire – and more suppressed.
Others have more complex roles. Some for example will make you more likely to remember something, while others will make you feel happy or sad. This is what controls the way you ‘feel’ about certain experiences.
Neurotransmitters are linked closely with hormones too. Some hormones act like neurotransmitters while some neurotransmitters can act like hormones. Essentially, hormones are longer lasting and generally produced in the body, while neurotransmitters have shorter-lasting effects and are produced in the brain. Even hormones produced in the body though are largely triggered by the pituitary gland, which is located in the brain. 

See a lion for instance and your brain will sit up and take notice owing to the associations you form with that image. Relevant neurons will fire and because those neurons are coded with danger, they will release a number of neurotransmitters like dopamine and cortisol to increase activity and say that something important is happening. This increased activity causes more of the brain to light up and areas around the hypothalamus will then begin to trigger activity in the pituitary gland, producing adrenocorticotropic hormone. The adrenal gland will also be triggered at this point, releasing the hormone epinephrine, which is essentially a form of adrenaline. This is then what causes changes in the sympathetic nervous system.
This triggers physiological changes, including:
  • The acceleration of the heart and lungs
  • Vasoconstriction (thinning of the blood vessels) 
  • Dilation of the blood vessels leading to muscles
  • Dilation of the pupils
  • Sense of dread/anxiety
  • Tunnel vision
  • Thickening of the blood to encourage clotting after injury
  • Pain reduction
  • Contraction of the muscles
  • Shaking
  • Suppression of digestion and immune function

Essentially, the body now directs all blood, oxygen, nutrients and resources to the muscles and the brain, in order to aid in combat, escape or other physical activity.
All this is involuntary and all of this is controlled entirely by automatic responses throughout your body. And it completely changes the way you now think and the way your body operates. It changes the way people see you and it drastically effects the way you perceive everything that happens subsequently.
But it’s not just during times of high stress that you see such uncontrolled changes throughout your body. And there are many complex interactions of chemicals and hormones going on inside your body all the time…

Next week we'll dive further into neurotransmitters and how they interact with our bodies.

Monday, October 17, 2016

It All Starts with Your Mind

I believe that knowledge is power.  Everyone should improve themselves no matter what stage of life they're in.  Moving forward is key.

No matter what it is you want to achieve in life, what makes you happy, or how you hope things are going to turn out – it all starts with your mind. That is to say, that your mind – and your mindset more specifically – is responsible for how successful you are in any pursuit, how others see you, your health, your physical strength and even how happy you are with what you have accomplished.

Any change you want to create in your life starts with the decision to make that change. That alone is enough to mean that all change necessarily must come from within to begin with. It is then your conviction about that change that ensures you’re able to accomplish it, your planning and your determination. And finally, it is your perception of that change that determines whether or not you are content with it.
Take a look at any of the most successful people in the world. One thing they almost always have in common is an absolutely unwavering commitment and determination to what they want to achieve. Take Arnold Schwarzenegger for instance – reportedly, he was so determined to become a champion bodybuilder that he would even break into the gym on the days when it was closed in order to train. He once even snuck out of army barracks during his conscription in order to attend a competition!
People who are truly committed to what they want to achieve will be more than happy to wake up at 5 am every morning in order to workout, to work on their project, to research, to learn or to train. They never tire and they never simply give up. This same commitment and passion is what helps you to focus on boring work, to finish early or to see breakthroughs that you otherwise might have missed.
And simply having the conviction and belief that you can and will success is often enough to draw people to you and to increase your chances of success. When you are truly driven and when you have complete faith in yourself, you exude passion and confidence – which inspires others and convinces them to take risks on you. This is called the ‘law of attraction’ and in a nutshell, it means that for others to believe in you, you first need to believe in yourself!
But perhaps you don’t need any of those things? Perhaps you already have everything you already need to be completely happy but the problem is simply acknowledging that and being content with it. Perhaps it’s just the ‘hedonic treadmill’ that keeps you in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction and prevents you from living life to the fullest and making the most of your opportunities, experiences and relationships.
I'm about to change all that, teaching you the skills you need to really take control of your own mind and to thereby take control of your body and even your situation. 

In this Monday Motivation series, you will learn:

  • How your brain works and how this impacts on your experiences and your capabilities
  • How you can take control over the workings of your brain in order to alter your emotional state and more
  • How controlling your own mind can help you get into the best shape of your life
  • How to be happier and more content
  • How to manipulate others by understanding the workings of their mind
  • How to increase your confidence and use the ‘law of attraction’ to get whatever you want in life
  • How to overcome your fears and other obstacles
  • How to increase your energy levels and never have a lazy evening again
  • How to accomplish incredible focus and tap into ‘flow states’
  • How to be engaging, charismatic and attractive
  • And much more…

There are 14 days until Halloween, 38 days until Thanksgiving, 69 days until Christmas, and 76 days until 2017.  What are some changes that you want to make by these deadlines?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Great Pumpkin Run

Last year's 5Ks were small, local events, so it was a shock to my system to participate in a race with ~2000 people!

The Great Pumpkin Run was held about an hour away from my house in Thorntown on Dull's Tree Farm & Pumpkin Patch. Austin and I left the house around 7:30 Saturday morning. He was a great copilot so that I didn't have to look at my phone to know the next turn! Even with the waves going every 10 minutes starting at 9 the line of cars was long to get into the farm. I got checked in, added the race shirt as a layer, and gave Austin my jacket and keys. My water bottle, phone, and tablet were in the bag that I carried the whole time.

Participants stretched a little before the wave began, led by someone local (never caught her name or organization). Then it was time to go. The wind was ripping through the farm keeping it chilly. It was difficult for me to walk along the path they'd made with corn stalks or gravel throughout most of the course. The instability kept me slower than I wanted not wanting to risk my ankles giving out. I reached the halfway point in a little less than 30 minutes. There was a water station along the northern part of the route.

A photo posted by Cassandra Schmigotzki (@longandwindingroadtowellness) on

The lake was a nice bonus to see but I thought that it was weird that it was located on a stretch of land with a no trespassing sign along the way. The last section of the race was through part of the cornfield.

A photo posted by Cassandra Schmigotzki (@longandwindingroadtowellness) on

They handed out water, a banana, and our finishing medals as we crossed the finish line. I'd told Austin that I'd call him once I was done but he'd found his way to the finish line and met me there. We walked to the other side and picked up a cup of cider and a small Pumpkin (I let Austin pick it out).

Race participants were allowed into the farm activities for free but we had to pay for our guests. We looked around briefly then went back to the cornfield to explore the maze. I would NOT have done the maze had Austin not been there as I'd have been completely lost! The pumpkin went into my bag while my tablet was in my hand as we walked through it.

Screenshot of the maze from Dull's website
We took a break and rode the wagon back to the barn instead of walking. We each got a cookie from completing the maze. Austin also got a chocolate waffle on a stick while I ate pulled pork nachos. We sat on the hill to watch the 1 pm Pumpkin launch. They have one powerful cannon shooting the van hourly!

We headed back home after that. Austin had fun and said that it was a good day. It was until a tire blew about 11 minutes from home. While waiting for the tow truck the car battery also died. I told the driver this so he could load the car properly. Benny showed up just as we were pulling away so he followed us to the tire shop. They charged $57 for the tire! Benny had to go find a bank because they were both cash only but he'd gotten lost and took forever to return. It took two vehicles hooked up to my car with jumper cables a while to finally get it started again.

If it wasn't for the car trouble Saturday would have been a perfect day with Austin.  I don't hear him having much fun anymore since Benny never seems to want to go anywhere.  Now that I found something new Austin enjoys I need to find more mazes for us to visit!

How do you get your teen boys outside when they're not into sports?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Repairing My Shoulder

I can tell a huge difference when I lift on my right side vs the left.  There must be something in my muscle structure causing this, right?  Also, my left hand is often going to sleep and all tingly.  My coworker was thinking this was carpal tunnel.  I finally broke down and went to a sports medicine doctor.  This one is closer to work (actually on my way to the farmer's market) so it's a little more accessible (and free parking) than the rest of the doctors I've seen over the years.

Last Wednesday I stopped at the office on my way back from the farmer's market and scheduled an appointment for Friday.  When I saw the doctor she did multiple manipulations of my left shoulder.  I also had her check the bump in case that was related.  I was surprised when she took me to another room that had a portable ultrasound machine.  She took a quick informal look at the bump.  The diagnosis?

Other specific joint derangements of unspecified shoulder, not elsewhere classified, Benign lipomatous neoplasm of other sites, Impingement syndrome of left shoulder

Once I was done with the doctor I went across the hall to physical therapy.  They were able to get me in with a therapist right away; I just had to wait a little for her to finish up with her current patient.  After all I was in no hurry to get back to work.  The therapist manipulated my shoulder some more.  She determined that I also have at least one kink in my ulnar nerve, causing my pinky and ring finger to go numb on occasion.  So with all that, instead of her normal 2 exercises to work on she gave me 7!

Tweet: Physical therapy - shoulder impingement & ulnar nerve kinks @lawrtw

Yes, I tried to get creative on this picture.  Do you know how hard it is to use a stylus on a tablet to color in hair? LOL  I gave up trying to color the others.

Same as the first but using the opposite side of my arm.

This one makes me think of it as a modification on the Superman exercise.

The therapist didn't have me use a weight for this.

My fingers would go numb doing this exercise.  I like doing this one while brushing my teeth.

The therapist said that sometimes the median nerve is also affected when the ulnar is funky so she threw this one in too.

Looks like I'll be laying the smack down! LOL

Today I got to use the arm bike for the first time ever.  Both ways my hands went a little numb.  I noticed that forward pedaling (do you call it pedaling when it's your arms not your legs?) my right arm felt more dominant but backwards pedaling it was my left.  The therapist gave me 3 more exercises to do but with the therapy bands this time.

Have you ever noticed the difference in abilities to lift or carry things between your right and left sides?

Have you had a shoulder impingement?  If so, what did your treatment plan look like?

October Challenge

In the Brand New Me Healthy Living Community we will be walking and running through October. We are doing this to go along with the If Girls Ran The World campaign. This challenge will be a difficult one for me since I don't like walking in the rain and have no treadmill for indoors.  I hope the library has some Leslie Sansone walking DVDs I can pick up!

The Rules

  • Run or walk daily.
  • Choose what you are going to track over the month.
    • Time: Run/Walk for more time on Halloween vs. October 2nd.
    • Distance:  Run/Walk further on Halloween vs. October 2nd.
    • Speed:  Run/Walk a little faster on Halloween vs. October 2nd.
  • Share an image from your walk or run with your time/distance/speed noted in the post.
    • On Instagram, tagging me, and using the hashtags #BrandNewMe #IfGirlsRanTheWorld and #Walktober (if you're walking) or #Runtober (if you're running).
    • In the Brand New Me Healthy Living Community
  • At the end of the month prizes (TBD) will be awarded to the person with the most improvement in each tracked category.  This will be on the honor system.

Tweet: Join @lawrtw 4 #walktober #runtober w/ @ifgirlsrantheworld

Linking up with

#MotivateMe Monday with Fitness Cheerleader, Running Rachel, & Run Mommy Run
Sunday Fitness & Food Linkup with Marathons & Motivation & IlkasBlog

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Meal Planning with Platejoy


Eating healthy can take a lot of time.  You scour Pinterest, other online recipe sources, or cookbooks, hunting for something different to make for dinner.  Which healthy meals can you make with items you have on hand or can grab on your next shopping trip?  What will be something that your whole family would enjoy and not go to waste?  It can be difficult to sort through the recipes to make sure they match your goals and don't contain ingredients you don't like or can't eat.

I've been experimenting with this new service called PlateJoy that makes that whole process take 5 minutes not 5 hours every week. They create personalized meal plans and grocery lists to help make healthy eating easier, taking your preferences into account.

The recipes I've tried so far I've enjoyed. It's great that the software remembers what you've said that you have in your fridge when creating your shopping list, which helps to reduce food waste, so you're also getting the most bang for your buck. They also show nutritional information for all meals to make it easier to track your progress.

PlateJoy's Skillet Cilantro & Lime Fish Tacos Recipe


  • 1 ½ yellow onions
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 ½ jalapeno peppers
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 ⅓ limes
  • 2 ¼ lbs tilapia fillet
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 ½ avocados
  • 12 cups mixed greens 


  1. Slice onion, and finely chop cilantro and jalapeno pepper (remove seeds and membranes). Dice tomato. Squeeze lime juice. Pat tilapia dry and slice into strips. Whisk together half lime juice and half olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set dressing aside.
  2. In a nonstick skillet, heat remaining olive oil and sauté onion until translucent, about 3 min. Add garlic and jalapeno pepper and cook 30 seconds more.
  3. Add tilapia and cook over medium-high heat 5 minutes, or until opaque, taking care not to break up the pieces. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then gently stir in cilantro, tomato and remaining lime juice. Cook 2 to 3 minutes more until tomato has softened.
  4. Heat corn tortillas in dry skillet for few minutes per side, or cover with damp paper towel and microwave for 30 to 45 seconds. until pliable.
  5. Spoon filling into tacos and top with sliced avocado and more cilantro. Toss mixed greens with dressing and serve on the side.

 How Much Should We Eat?

portion breakdown

What I Did

You know me, I never do recipes 100% as they're listed; I'm always tweaking things.
  • 1 ½ yellow onions
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro ---> mix of parsley, oregano, & basil
  • 1 ½ jalapeno peppers  ---> bell peppers
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 ⅓ limes ---> bottled lime juice
  • 2 ¼ lbs tilapia fillet ---> used 800-something grams
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 ½ avocados ---> zucchini
  • 12 cups mixed greens ---> skipped since they were out at Kroger
Austin didn't even want to try a bite so I had to adjust the tilapia for one less person.  Besides, when I calculated the amount of fish (2.25 lbs is over 1020 g), I didn't have enough.  I used all but one fillet from the bag of frozen tilapia from Aldi's so my fingers were numb by the time I finished cutting it into strips.  The skillet was almost overflowing so I have no idea how I could've cooked the full amount!  I tossed in the zucchini to cook with everything else.

Benny ate his two tacos but he didn't enjoy them.  I think he said something about it not having enough flavor.  That I found odd with me not tasting much I rather enjoyed the flavor.  I'd love to make this again, of course it would have to be for someone else.  The leftovers I brought to work later in the week with rice for lunch.

I plan to continue to check out the weekly recipes to see if anything pops up that I think at least Benny would be willing to eat. I like that I can go in there if an ingredient pops up that I don't want to eat (like Brussels sprouts) I can remove it from my recipe queue and get a new set of meals.  I haven't seen this option in other meal planning software I've played with.

Save $10 off the plan you choose by visiting and entering the code LAWRTWBNM.

Monday, September 19, 2016

How Your Mindset Can Actually Make You Physically Stronger

Don’t believe that simply changing the way you think can have a big impact on your life or your accomplishments?

It’s a somewhat abstract concept to think that just being more positive or more driven can attract more good things to you, or that focusing more on the good in your life can make you happier.

So how about a demonstration to show just how powerful the mind is? What if the brain could make you considerably stronger, simply if you change the way you think?

Introducing Hysterical Strength

Hysterical strength is a term used to describe historical examples of people tapping into incredible physical power. The most common story is that of mothers who have to rescue their children from being trapped under cars or some other heavy object. In these scenarios, the mothers call upon some kind of superhuman strength and manage to physically move the cars out the way. How can this be possible?

While this has never been proven, there actually is a good scientific explanation for how it might work and some evidence to support it.

That’s because we normally are only capable of accessing around 30%-50% of our muscle fiber. When exercising or going about our normal routines, we can’t use 100% of our strength because we would risk injuring our ligaments or exhausting ourselves. You can see this when someone gets an electrical shock – this causes the muscles to contract to their fullest which is enough to throw the individual right across the room!

But under times of incredible stress or in life-and-death scenarios, it might just be that the brain is able to tap into those hidden depths. This would work because of the release of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and perhaps other neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine. Together, these could improve communication across the neuromuscular junction, thereby recruiting a greater number of muscle fibers and allowing the individual to access their ‘full’ strength.

Putting it Into Action

In theory then, you could gain more strength simply by imagining your family trapped under a car. If you could really believe it, then you might be able to access hidden strength enough to break your records in the gym.

But there are easier ways according to the research. That’s because yelling at the top of your voice just so happens to trigger a small stress response and studies demonstrate that this is enough to allow you to gain a little more strength during lifts! Talk about mind over matter...