#Type1Runs… or Plods

 

my feet in Sketchers

 

The half-marathon training continues… limps on, more like. My body repeatedly tells my brain this was not wise. Sheer stubbornness forces me on.

It heartened me to read of another type 1 saying her training veered between 20-mile runs that went well and three-mile runs that floored her. We juggle not only the effort of running with balancing blood glucose levels.

Too high and running turns into an activity that resembles wading through waist high treacle. Too low, and your calves seize up as your body goes on a glycogen hunt. Either way, both states bring you to a grinding halt.

Magic formula

The magic formula that is running with diabetes is akin to Google’s most complicated search algorithm. Factor in sleep, the previous few days’ average blood glucose levels, where you are in your cycle (if you’re a woman), what you’ve eaten, how much insulin you have on board, how much food you need before running, what foods provide the best fuel sources, how far your blood glucose levels drop and by what time spent running…

If you can work it out, you’re better at this lark than I am.

Exercise affects us not just at the time but for up to 24 hours afterwards. And if you’re exercising for more than an hour at a time, it becomes trickier to work out what you need to do with insulin and food.

Pilates and yoga

Bouts of activity that last half an hour to 45 minutes are relatively easy to manage. If you want to do more exercise than this, you can break your activities up—a walk in the morning and an easy jog in the evening, say. And plenty of Pilates and yoga thrown in for those nice stretch and flexibility benefits.

My vow is post September 30, I’m never doing a run longer than a 10k and my weekly runs won’t add up to more than nine miles, if that. Dear reader, I make myself accountable here.

Meanwhile, September 30 (the half-marathon date) hurtles ever nearer. Yikes!

 

 

Retirees are happier when they are active

An Australian study has shown that getting a good sleep at night and being active during the day was the most effective way to boost mood in retirees.

105 people took part in the Life After Work study. They were followed for six month before retirement to 12 months afterwards. They carefully logged their activities and their mood was measured.

The time spent on chores, physical activity, quiet time, screen time, self care, sleep, transport and work, all changed over this period of time. The most favourable substitution was replacing work time with physical activity and sleep.  Replacing work with screen time and social activity showed less effect on mood enhancement.

After retirement, depression, anxiety and stress all reduced.

Olds T et al One day you will wake up and won’t have to go to work: The impact of changes in time use on mental health following retirement. PLoS ONE.2018;13(6);e0199605.doi:101371/journal.pone.0199605. PMID:29953472

Half-Marathon Training – an Update

 

a picture of a blood testing machine on The Diabetes Diet
Post-run blood sugar today. Ten out of ten for me (for smugness too).

“Stone the crows, Emma! Wouldn’t have thought excessive temperatures would be the weather issue throwing a spanner in the half-marathon training, hmm?”

Good people, the woman who signed up for the Glasgow half-marathon in January uttered various predictions about running in Scotland. Most of them involved rain. As it turns out, my lightweight shower-proof coat has needed minimal use. Instead, I’m reaching for the sun cream and hugging the walls in a bid to stay in the shadows as I pound the pavements.

Smell that sizzling tarmac! Scotland has just reported its hottest June ever. Let’s give a shout-out to the poor polar bears in Aviemore.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered I can run in the heat. Again, not something I’ve had the chance to test out much over the years. When I trained for a half-marathon ten years ago, there were two hot days in May. I ran during them and hated it.

Blood sugar levels

But now? I’m okay. Running’s so bloomin’ difficult for me, the heat isn’t the thing that’s bothersome. It’s still the breathing, the adjusting of blood sugar levels to minimise low or high blood sugars and my reluctance to build up my miles

My half-marathon is three months away. I’ve yet to go farther than six miles. Most training plans are for 12 weeks, so there’s still plenty of time to add them up. I’ve found my ‘pace’, a super-slow snail-like jog. I’m hoping my general fitness will stand me in good stead, so that if the pre-race miles don’t stack up, those walking miles will cover ‘em.

I ought to join a running group too. Nothing like surrounding yourself with like-minded idiots people to spur one on. And they might know some different routes. I run the same roads all the time, favouring the reassurance of knowing at what point I draw on my reserves of energy and where I get excited because the end’s in sight.

Jessica Smith TV

Last week, when it was very hot (32 degrees), I exchanged outdoor for indoor exercise. I found an indoor jogging work-out on YouTube. “T’uh!” smug self said, “This’ll be easier than running out there in that heat.”

Not so! Ten minutes in and I decided I’d have been better off running outside in the blazing sunshine.

The heatwave here is set to continue. I’ll be training in high temperatures for a little while yet. Again, I’m hoping this magically builds up my fitness so that when I do talk myself into running more than six miles, it’ll be easy.

 

 

 

The Fitbit!

I’ve joined the Fitbit world. Having dipped my toe in the water via the Jawbone Up Activity tracker, I’m now the proud owner of a Fitbit.

My Up activity tracker vanished in January when the device fell out of the wristband. It must be somewhere in the house. Maybe the system thinks I’m dead thanks to my lack of movement. Hey ho! Anyway, by that point I reckoned I knew what you needed to do to cover 10,000 steps a day, and I was quite happy to live tracker-free.

I didn’t stare at my phone so much. My health didn’t take a nosedive, and the world didn’t end.

On Valentine’s Day, however, my husband gave me a Fitbit Charge 2, the reward for staying alcohol-free so far this year. To be honest, when he hinted the other week that he’d got me a pressie for my teetotal efforts, I thought he was talking about champagne. It always makes sense to reward your giving up something with the very substance you’ve been avoiding, hmm?!

And I was grateful and touched that he’d bothered. He’d done the research, he told me happily. This tracker is the all-singing, all-dancing one! It counts your steps, how often you climb up stairs (you should climb ten flights a day for good health, apparently), checks your heart beat, auto-recognises different exercises and monitors your sleep. You can add in a food tracker and monitor your calorie intake if you want to lose weight.

For someone who tends to obsessiveness, this is good and bad news. To prevent myself repeatedly checking my phone, I downloaded the app for Fitbit onto my tablet instead.

Exercise is very good for we folks with diabetes if you are able to be active. If you have type 2, you might be able to control the condition through diet and exercise alone. If you have type 1, exercise will mean you can reduce how much insulin you need to take overall, and it can be used with diet and insulin to keep your blood sugar levels in range.

At some point, perhaps activity trackers will be prescribed for people with diabetes? In the future, the Fitbit could include blood glucose monitoring, as a story earlier this year reported that Fitbit has just invested in a company that’s developing a minimally invasive glucose tracker. Imagine having all that information available in one place.

I, for one, would love that capability, so fingers crossed.

The Sitting Rising Test

Now get up – no hands, no knees!

Have you heard of this? The sit and stand test is all about sitting down and standing up again from a cross-legged position.

Simple, huh? Not so fast… The minute you use your hands, sides of your legs, knees or elbows to help you up, you lose points. There’s a maximum score of ten (five for getting down, and five for getting up again).

Why is this important or relevant? The test measures flexibility, strength and balance. A study was carried out by the Brazilian physician, Claudio Gil Araujo. He uses the test with athletes, but also on patients. He assessed some 2,000 patients aged 51 to 80. People who scored fewer than eight points on the test were twice as likely to die within the next six years than people who got a higher score. Those who only managed three points or fewer were more than five times as likely to die within the same period, compared to people who scored more than eight points.

Each point increase in the SRT (sitting rising test) is associated with a 21 percent decrease in mortality from all causes.

So, how do you do it?

  • Stand on the floor in your bare feet with a clear space around you.
  • Without leaning on anything, lower yourself to a sitting position on the floor
  • Now, stand back up without using your hands, forearms, the sides of your legs or your knees.

Basically, you get five points for lowering yourself down without using hands, forearms, sides of legs or knees, and five points for coming up without. You also get a minus point for putting your hand on your leg. If you lose your balance, you lose half a point.

Darn it, I thought I had this test covered. Another blogger had written about it, and I realised the version I’ve been doing regularly isn’t the full bhuna. I don’t use my hands or arms, but I do use the sides of my legs to get myself up again. Sit down cross-legged and it seems impossible to get up without using some other part of the body.

There’s a video on YouTube that shows the test being done correctly (by a young whippersnapper of an athlete).

Have you done the SRT and what was your score?

 

 

Margaret Coles: Invite this Physiotherapist into your home

At  www.movingtherapy.co.uk. you can find Margaret Cole’s free educational resource to help your health and well being.

home-physio

Margaret worked as a community physiotherapist and when she retired she decided to put her knowledge and experience to good use. She produced videos covering a lot of different situations that you can face regarding your physical and mental states and has put them on the site. She also gives advice on how to lose weight.   People from all over the world have visited the site since 2011.

NHSinform Scotland and her local authority also promote the site.

 

 

Eric Barker: Meditation for the distracted

meditation.jpg

Welcome to the Barking Up The Wrong Tree weekly update for September 4th, 2016.

Neuroscience Of Meditation: How To Make Your Mind Awesome

Click here to read the post on the blog or keep scrolling to read in-email.

So is meditation just another fad that pops up from time to time like bell-bottom jeans? Nope. Research shows it really helps you be healthier, happier and even improves your relationships.

From The Mindful Brain:

The MBSR program brought the ancient practice of mindfulness to individuals with a wide range of chronic medical conditions from back pain to psoriasis. Kabat-Zinn and colleagues, including his collaborator Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, were ultimately able to demonstrate that MBSR training could help reduce subjective states of suffering and improve immune function, accelerate rates of healing, and nurture interpersonal relationships and an overall sense of well-being (Davidson et al., 2003).
And it’s not some magical mumbo-jumbo at odds with the science of psychology. In fact, it is psychology. William James, one of the fathers of modern psych, once said this…

From Thoughts Without A Thinker:

While lecturing at Harvard in the early 1900s, James suddenly stopped when he recognized a visiting Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka in his audience. “Take my chair,” he is reported to have said. “You are better equipped to lecture on psychology than I. This is the psychology everybody will be studying twenty-five years from now.”
Last week I posted about the neuroscience of mindfulness. Long story short (and grossly oversimplified): the right side of your brain sees things literally. The left side interprets the data and makes it into stories.

But Lefty screws up sometimes. His stories aren’t always accurate. As the old saying goes, “the map is not the territory.” When you listen too much to Lefty’s stories and not enough to the raw data from the right brain, you can experience a lot of negative emotions. A big chunk of mindfulness is keeping Lefty under control. (For the full story, click here.)

But where does meditation fit into all this? What does sitting cross-legged and focusing on your breath have to do with Lefty, the brain and eternal happiness?

And how the heck do you meditate properly? Maybe you’ve tried it and only ended up taking an unexpected nap, or getting horribly bored, or feeling like your brain is noisier than the front row of a death metal concert.

Let’s look at the science and cut out the magic and flowery language. We’ll hit the subject with Occam’s Chainsaw and get down to brass tacks about what meditation really is, why it works, and how to do it right.

Time to put your thinking cap on…

What The Heck Is Meditation?

A good quick way to see it from a neuroscience perspective is as “attention training.” (You know, attention. That thing none of us have anymore.)

But what the heck does attention have to do with happiness, stress relief and all the other wonderful things meditation is supposed to bring you?

Paul Dolan teaches at the London School of Economics and was a visiting scholar at Princeton where he worked with Nobel-Prize winner Daniel Kahneman. Dolan says this:

Your happiness is determined by how you allocate your attention. What you attend to drives your behavior and it determines your happiness. Attention is the glue that holds your life together… The scarcity of attentional resources means that you must consider how you can make and facilitate better decisions about what to pay attention to and in what ways.
And Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, did research showing that “a wandering mind is not a happy mind.” We want to focus on what the right side of the brain is giving us and get free from Lefty’s endless commentary.

When Lefty gets going with his ruminating, he’s much more likely to end up feeding you negative stories than positive ones. You’re happier when your attention is more focused on the concrete info your right brain is feeding you: the “here and now.” That’s all that “being in the moment” stuff you hear about.

So improving your attention is like dog obedience training for Lefty. When you can keep your attention on the right brain data and learn to disengage from Lefty’s running commentary you stress less, worry less and get less angry.

Is meditation powerful enough to overcome that often critical, cranky voice in your head? Yeah. It was even able to improve attention skills in people with ADD.

From The Mindful Brain:

At the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, we recently conducted an eight-week pilot study that demonstrated that teaching meditation to people, including adults and adolescents with genetically loaded conditions like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, could markedly reduce their level of distraction and impulsivity.
(To learn the four rituals neuroscience says will make you happy, click here.)

Okay, so meditation helps you focus on good things and let go of the bad, which can help you be happier and less stressed. Makes sense. So how do you do it right?

How To Meditate

Focus your attention on your breath going in and out. Your mind will wander. Gently return your attention to your breath. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat…

That’s it. Really. That’s all you have to do. Here’s how fancy neuroscience explains what’s going on…

From The Mindful Brain:

If in mindfulness practice our mind is filled with word-based left-sided chatter at that moment, we could propose that there is a fundamental neural competition between right (body sense) and left (word-thoughts) for the limited resources of attentional focus at that moment. Shifting within mindful awareness to a focus on the body may involve a functional shift away from linguistic conceptual facts toward the nonverbal imagery and somatic sensations of the right hemisphere.
Translation: the more you pay attention to the concrete info your right brain is giving you about your breathing, the less attention you have for Lefty’s interpretations, evaluations and stories.

You’re building yourself a knob that turns down the volume on Lefty’s criticisms and ramblings.

But the process is slow. Lefty will start talking again and you need to keep returning to the breath. Over and over and over. Sound like a waste of time? Nope. Here’s that father of modern psychology again, William James…

From The Principles of Psychology:

The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character and will… An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.
(To learn about the neuroscience of mindfulness, click here.)

Simple, right? Actually, I’m hesitant to call meditation “simple.” It is simple, as in “not complex.” Those instructions would fit on an index card with room for your grocery list.

But that doesn’t mean meditation is easy… You know why?

Lefty Fights Back

You try to focus on your breath and banish Lefty but he keeps storming back into the room banging a tympani drum and clashing cymbals together. He won’t shut up.

Even without any input except breathing he still keeps finding things to talk about. And he jumps from one idea to the next. You try to dismiss him but it’s like mental whack-a-mole.

This is where most people give up. Don’t. Your head is not broken and you’re not clinically insane. Buddhists have known about this problem for over a thousand years. They call it “monkey mind.”

From Thoughts Without A Thinker:

Like the undeveloped mind, the metaphorical monkey is always in motion, jumping from one attempt at self-satisfaction to another, from one thought to another. “Monkey mind” is something that people who begin to meditate have an immediate understanding of as they begin to tune into the restless nature of their own psyches, to the incessant and mostly unproductive chatter of their thoughts.
Lefty is like a puppy locked in the house by himself, tearing up the furniture until you come home from work and pay attention to him. But there’s actually a valuable lesson here…

Lefty’s ideas seem so important. But then he’s on to talking about something else. And that seems so important. But then that idea flits away and it’s replaced by another one. And then that idea evaporates and is replaced…

Remember, Lefty isn’t you. He’s merely part of you, doing his job. Your heart beats, and Lefty generates thoughts. But those thoughts — which seem so important in the moment — drift away if you don’t entertain them.

And when it comes to the bad thoughts you have, and the bad feelings those generate, this is crucial and wonderful. You can just let them slide away.

But you’re tempted to take Lefty’s hand and go down the rabbit hole wondering if you should stop meditating because maybe you left the stove on, or if now wouldn’t be a great time to watch TV or finally debate the meaning of life…

Don’t. Turn your attention back to the breath.

And Lefty will say things that worry you or make you sad. And he knows just what will get under your skin. After all, he’s in your head. He’ll play “Lefty’s Greatest Hits” which never fail to get you all worked up. Don’t take the bait.

Your normal reaction is to grab your phone, check Instagram, check email, turn on the TV or do anything to distract yourself.

But that’s how you got into this problem in the first place. You need to sit here where it’s all quiet and build that attention muscle. No Instagram. Return your attention to your breath. Again and again, despite Lefty’s wailing.

Now you can’t shove Lefty away. He’s like the world’s worst internet troll — but with psychic powers. If you engage him, you just make it worse. Thoughts don’t float away if you wrestle with them. It’s like that finger trap puzzle you played with as a kid. The more you struggle to get out of it, the tighter it gets.

Just gently turn your attention back to the breath. Yes: over and over. Build that muscle.

Or maybe Lefty isn’t fighting you at all. Maybe you’re just skull-crushingly bored by this whole meditation thing. But the truth is, you’re not bored…

Lefty is. He’s tricked you again. The voice saying, “God, this sucks. Let’s watch TV.”? That’s not you. That’s him.

What is it when you call something boring? Is it concrete data from the right brain? No. It’s an evaluation. That’s Lefty talking.

Writer and neuroscience PhD Sam Harris explains that boredom is just a lack of attention.

From Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion:

One of the first things one learns in practicing meditation is that nothing is intrinsically boring— indeed, boredom is simply a lack of attention.
When Lefty says he’s bored that means you need more meditation — not less. Train that attention span and shut Lefty up.

(To learn what Harvard research says will make you successful and happy, click here.)

Whether he’s banging pots and pans or trying to trick you into thinking “you” are bored, Lefty won’t shut up. How do you get him to pipe down?

The answer is quite fun. Because we’re going to get Lefty to work against himself…

Don’t Fight. Label.

Ronald Siegel, professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, writes this about the brain: “What we resist persists.” Arguing with Lefty just keeps him talking. You cannot “force” him to shut up.

So what’s the answer? Acknowledge Lefty. And, for a second, step away from focusing on the concrete and “label” what he is saying:

Lefty: “We keep meditating and we might be late for dinner. Better stop now.”

You:Worrying.” (returns to focusing on the breath)

Lefty: “I wonder if we got any new emails…”

You:Thinking.” (returns to focusing on the breath)

This uses Lefty against Lefty. When you use the left brain to put a label on its own concerns, it’s like writing something down on a to-do list. Now you can dismiss it because it’s been noted for later.

From a neuroscience perspective, it dampens Lefty’s yapping and frees you to return your attention to your breath.

Via The Upward Spiral:

…in one fMRI study, appropriately titled “Putting Feelings into Words” participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Predictably, each participant’s amygdala activated to the emotions in the picture. But when they were asked to name the emotion, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activated and reduced the emotional amygdala reactivity. In other words, consciously recognizing the emotions reduced their impact.
In fact, labeling affects the brain so powerfully it works with other people too. Labeling emotions is one of the primary tools used by FBI hostage negotiators to get bad guys to calm down.

(To learn how meditation can make you 10% happier, click here.)

Okay, so you know how to meditate and how to overcome the biggest problem people face when doing it — Lefty’s protests. But how does meditation lead to mindfulness?

Meditation Skills + Life = Mindfulness

Daniel Siegel of UCLA’s School of Medicine says that when you practice meditation consistently it actually becomes a personality trait.

You gradually start to take that attention-focusing and Lefty-labeling and apply it during your day-to-day life.

From The Mindful Brain:

Mindful awareness over time may become a way of being or a trait of the individual, not just a practice initiating a temporary state of mind with certain approaches such as meditation, yoga, or centering prayer. We would see this movement from states to traits in the form of more long-term capabilities of the individual. From the research perspective, such a transition would be seen as a shift from being effortful and in awareness to effortless and at times perhaps not initiated with awareness.
But you can accelerate this process if you actively to try to perform it. If you’re frustrated in traffic, you can focus your attention on the beautiful, sunny day outside.

When Lefty cries, “Why does this always happen to us!” you can label his statement as “frustrated.” That’ll cool down your amygdala and put your prefrontal cortex back in charge.

You can return your attention to the sunny day around you and let his complaints slide away as they always do — if you don’t turn them into a finger trap.

Lefty gets quieter and quieter. You focus more on the good things in the world around you.

And this is how you become mindful.

(To learn more about how to practice mindfulness from the top experts in the field, click here.)

Okay, newbie meditator, we’ve learned a lot. Let’s round it up and see how mindfulness can lead to the most powerful form of happiness…

Sum Up

Here’s how to meditate:

  • Get comfortable. But not so comfortable you’re gonna fall asleep. This ain’t naptime.
  • Focus on your breath. You can think “in” as your breath goes in and “out” as your breath goes out if it helps you focus.
  • Label Lefty. When Lefty brings the circus to town in your head, use a word to label his chatter and dampen it.
  • Return to the breath. Over and over. Consistency is more important than duration. Doing 2 minutes every day beats an hour once a month.

What makes us happier than almost anything else? The research is pretty clear: relationships.

But winning the war with Lefty is so internal, right? It’s all about you. (And him, I guess… But he is you… So it’s still about you.) Does that mean meditation and mindfulness are hopelessly selfish and self-absorbed?

Nope. What’s one of the biggest complaints we hear from those we love — especially in the age of smartphones? “You don’t pay enough attention to me.”

And here’s where that meditation-honed attention muscle pays off. You can give them the focus they deserve. When you don’t have to spend most of the day hearing that chatterbox in your head, you can truly listen to the people you care about.

Daniel Siegel explains that those attention skills can powerfully improve relationships with those you love by an increased ability to empathize.

From The Mindful Brain:

Our relationships with others are also improved perhaps because the ability to perceive the nonverbal emotional signals from others may be enhanced and our ability to sense the internal worlds of others may be augmented… In these ways we come to compassionately experience others’ feelings and empathize with them as we understand another person’s point of view.
Spend a little time focusing on your breath every day and you can replace Lefty’s voice with the voice of those you love.

Remember: every time you hit a share button an angel gets its wings. (Or, um, something like that.) Thank you!

 

Email Extras

Findings from around the internet…

+ What’s the best way to take truly restful breaks during the day? Click here. (Written by the very smart Christian Jarrett.)

+ How can your choice of office furniture make you smarter? Click here.

+ Which over-the-counter painkiller works the best? Click here.

+ Miss last week’s post? You definitely need to read “Lefty Part 1.” Here you go: Neuroscience Of Mindfulness: How To Make Your Mind Happy.

+ What’s the best way to motivate people at work? Click here. (Written by that great reader of research Melissa Dahl.)

+ You made it to the end of the email. (I appreciate you waiting to meditate until *after* you finished the email.) Okay, Crackerjack time. Ever hear a song or read something that just “gets you.” It says how you feel better than you could say it yourself? Oh yeah. That feeling. Well, I felt like that yesterday when I read a great comic by the enviably talented (and funny) Matthew Inman. Oh, and it’s about happiness, passion, and doing what you love. Click here.

 

Thanks for reading!
Eric
PS: If a friend forwarded this to you, you can sign up to get the weekly email yourself here.