Monday, February 29, 2016


Peace and Blessings Health Partners! 

What does it mean to be accountable for one's wellness?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines accountability as the quality or state of being accountable; especially an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions. Now, with the technical definition out of the way, to me, being accountable for our wellness starts with getting rid of all excuses! We are all aware of the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle and eating healthier food selections. Health Partners share these among each other all the time, but occasionally, we find ourselves slipping into that sedentary lifestyle or making "not so healthy" food choices. This month, we were determined to move from planning to live a healthy lifestyle to taking concrete steps towards it. To that end, we began the weekly Health Partners' challenges that are focused squarely on health and fitness. February's weekly health challenges included: H2O challenge to get 10-12 glasses of water daily, eating three different fruits and three different veggies throughout the week, consume NO junk food (no soda, no sweets, no fast food etc.), and healthy snacking in-between meals. The fitness challenges, complete with videos demonstrating the correct posture, included: 50 jumping jackssquats, bicycle crunches, and mountain climbers. Health Partners did a great job reminding each other to stay focused on the challenges via our cross-platform and social network forum (WhatsApp & private Facebook group). When it comes right down to it, each Health Partner was responsible for completing her challenges, thus making us all accountable for our own wellness. 

Health Partners' fruit & veggie challenge

Our "H20 situations"

Soon enough, we began to see that we are our own competition! If I wasn't able to complete all 50 rounds of the fitness challenge one day, say the mountain climbers for example, then my goal was to do better the next day. I found that the encouragement of my Health Partners made it that much easier. Health Partners shared strategies that they enlisted in completing the challenges. These included breaking down the fitness challenges into chunks and completing them in multiple rounds, or sharing recipes for healthier snacks to meet the healthy snacking challenge.

One additional step I took towards being accountable for my own health was to finally make use of "My Fitness Pal" app that was recommended to the group by a Health Partner. I'm not sure why I procrastinated on this for so long, but now find the app to be a true pal. It helps me track my caloric intake at the touch of a button on the smartphone, and makes it a breeze to log in the "ethnic" foods that I eat regularly consume. Visually seeing my daily caloric count, and the effect of exercise helps me appreciate the fact that diet and exercise truly do go hand-in-hand. The app is also filled with various nutrition facts and useful blog posts. For now, I'm sticking to the free version, which, surprisingly, has a ton of useful features that that help with basic analysis.

My Fitness Pal

Summary of activities
Kickboxing (2/2, 2/9, 2/16, & 2/23/2016)
Health Partners continued with the Cardio Kickboxing Group on Tuesdays to supplement our Sunday private sessions. It's great to see more and more Health Partners brave the cold, in our determination to meet our fitness goals.

Zumba (2/4, 2/11, 2/18 & 2/25/2016)
Health Partners have also kept up with Zumba on Thursdays at the community center. This helps us further supplement our Sunday workout in order to meet the recommendation to be active at least 3-days a week. Additionally, the cardio and other health benefits of Zumba are tremendous.

Walk/jog at Cabin John Regional Park (2/7/2016)

Health Partners explored Cabin John Regional Park, nicely tucked away in the city of Bethesda. What I especially enjoyed about this park is the mix of natural and hard (i.e., tarred) surface trails, which makes it great for both hiking and biking. As always, the kids, or rather, our Honorary Health Partners, are always welcome, and we had a few on this outing. They walked and jogged the trails along with us, and even helped the mommy and aunty Health Partners stretch out at the end of the trail. We ended the walk with some "sweet rewards" of healthy fruits and vegetables. I always look forward to the discussions that Health Partners have during these post-workout sessions. And the best part about it is that we still have the entire day ahead of us after bidding each other farewell at 9:30 am on a Sunday morning!

Health Partners settle in for a healthy post-walk/jog picnic

Post walk/jog stretching led by an Honorary Health Partner

Cardio & Endurance Training (2/14/2016)
Health Partners had a much needed cardio & endurance training session this month. The cardio routines continue to get more and more challenging, but we would expect nothing less from Saira. I know I have benefitted greatly from the endurance training as well. On this "leg-day" workout, we used some weights and enlisted everyday items such as chairs for another great workout session. Health Partners were amazing at those side kicks, chair hops, and chair dips routine. 

Making the Side Kicks look easy

Yoga (2/21/2016)
Health Partners thought we'd wind down a bit and do some Yoga, which we've had on our radar for quite some time. Personally, I'm no stranger to Yoga. I attend a weekly session at work with co-workers on most Wednesdays, but this session was different. Our instructor, Bahiyyah, took the time to teach us the correct poses and explained their benefits. She also taught us, or helped us better under stand the yoga lingo: Asanas, Chakras, Child-pose, Cobra, Downward-Facing Dog, Namaste, Om, Standing forward bend etc. We left the class super-relaxed and yet energized at the same time. I certainly hope Health Partners will have many more sessions like this. Here are some of my take-home from this single session:

  • Flexibility is not a necessary pre-requisite for yoga, but practice does help a ton
  • The breathing exercise is not meant to annoy (especially the Type-A personalities) but rather to teach us how to slow down from our "high-speed" lifestyle 
  • Yoga is a mental discipline where you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone, challenge your body, and trust that your body can do way more than we give it credit for
  • For those still on the fence about trying yoga, as I was many years ago, know that yoga poses are not necessarily reflections of Hindu beliefs, and neither are the meditations an imitation of Buddhist beliefs
So, there you have it, go ahead and give it a try! Bahiyyah will be showcasing her fitness instructions at the Women's Wellness Workshop on March 5th, and Health Partners will definitely be there to show our support.

Walk/jog at Fairland Recreational Park (2/28/2016)
Health Partners headed to Fairland Recreational Park in Montgomery County. Once again, the Honorary Health Partners joined us for the walk, truly helping us work towards making fitness a habit. They weren't the least bit phased by the distance or the nippy weather. Their reward came at the sight of the playground, which was fortunately at the end of the trail, allowing us to get some much appreciated workout before the kids decided it was playtime. We ended our walk on the trail with high-fiber fruits (raspberry, pears & apples) and kept hydrated with water.

The walk, the jog, the play, and the nourishment

In closing, I'd like to share the steps that I am taking to become more accountable for my wellness, and specifically my health and fitness. First, I've had to get rid of my excuses. It's too cold! It's too hot! I'm too tired! I need more sleep! I don't have the time! As a mom, the kids and what to do with them if I start working-out had been my excuse for years. I knew I had to somehow weave their interests into mine and include them in the things I did to stay active if I plan to succeed. Instead of making them an excuse, I make them part of the reason why I stay healthy and fit. Secondly, I've given up self doubt and procrastination and begun taking concrete steps that will help me reach my health and fitness goal. One that has been shared is my use of My Fitness Pal app to track my progress. Others include literally stepping out of the house to try out different fitness activities that I never thought I'd be able to do (e.g., going on a flying trapeze girls-night out). Lastly, I've learned to step out of my comfort zone, challenge myself a bit, and be willing to take my fitness goal to another level. I make it a point to not just meet, but get to know other woman engaging in some sort of health and fitness activity to see how we can work together to reach our goals. Women working to support each other can truly be a beautiful thing, because, after all, I'm in competition with none other than myself. I am not interested in competing with anyone else. My new mantra is:

I am my own competition! 
I plan to be better today than I was yesterday.

And with that, it's a wrap for February...until next month, I pray you live in peace and wish you many blessings and an abundance of good health. As always, I bid you success in striving to make health a priority and fitness a habit.

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