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The Veteran Female Educator: Wise, Healthy, Strong!


If you have been teaching a while and are over 40, you are already a superhero able to multitask and work long hours without rest, water, or food. But all that stress, the working lunches, and lack of energy at the end of the day are killers to a healthy lifestyle. Let's face it ladies, when we reach our 40s, 50s, and 60s, it becomes more difficult to manage weight and stay healthy. Changing hormone levels lead to a loss of muscle and the addition of abdominal body fat. As a result, energy levels plummet and teaching becomes more difficult.

After menopause, ovaries stop producing testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen and the adrenal glands become the major source of estrogen and progesterone production. Rising levels of cortisol (fat storing stress hormone) and lower levels of testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone are the culprits that lead to increased abdominal body fat, overall muscle loss, decreased energy, and lower performance. Testosterone in particular helps maintain fat burning muscle in both men and women, so we need this hormone as much as men do. The primary estrogen producing tissue is fat, so as we grow older the body tries to hold onto its body fat stores in order to compensate for decreasing estrogen levels. To make matters worse, added stress compounds these unfavorable hormonal changes by causing the adrenal glands to make more cortisol (and even less estrogen. So, stressful working conditions, rushed or poor food intake, and lack of exercise create the perfect environment for age-related weight gain and loss of vitality.

So, how does a veteran female educator stay healthy and strong late in her teaching career? Don't worry, the answer is nothing like what you see on TV. The key is to work smarter, not harder. And, I know you can do that because if you have made it this far in teaching, you are not just a superhero, you are also wise. In truth, it takes very little exercise (time-wise) and only a few small changes in dietary habits to lose weight when you follow a few simple rules.

Rule 1: De-stress ("See How to Enjoy Your Teaching Career" for details.) Stress (fight or flight response) reduces immunity, raises fat-storing hormones, and causes sugar/fat cravings. Avoid it at all costs! It is your enemy and must be treated as such.

Rule 2: Sleep consistently and early. Getting your "beauty rest" is a real thing. While your sleep your body stores and processes data from the previous day, cells regenerate, human growth hormone (human growth hormone) spikes, immunity improves, fat-burning hormones are activated, fat-storing hormones are down-regulated... As we grow older the levels of health-enhancing human growth hormone (youth hormone) declines. But, IF YOU ARE ASLEEP between 10 PM and 2AM levels of human growth hormone (HGH) spikes before declining the rest of the night. Late night snacking (especially sugar) or being awake prevents this process. The next day, your body compensates with increased cortisol levels, lower immunity, increased cravings, and fatigue... So, go to sleep!

Rule 3: Be Happy. Pet your dog, cat, or loved ones. Watch a comedy, go for a walk and enjoy nature...Doing so releases hormones (like oxytocin) that burn more fat while inhibiting those that encourage fat storage.

Rule 4: Strength Train and Do Cardio! Short, intense strength training exercise is vital! Hang in there. I'll explain. This type of exercise causes your body to naturally increase the production of the fat burning hormones HGH and testosterone. Intense strength training revs up your metabolism, burns body fat, and increases muscle tone. For best results, strength train 2-3 times each week, using whole body exercises. Each session can last only 20 minutes, but must be intense. HERE IS THE PROBLEM. No more than you can expect a kindergartener to do algebra on the first day of school can you expect to start a high intensity strength workout after being sedentary, especially if you are older than 40. Past 35-40 years of age bone loss increases, fat loss slows, joints grow stiff, muscles weaken, and cardiovascular strength declines. Any proper weight loss or health improvement program must follow the proper progression. You know, learn the ABC's before learning to read. Begin with restoring mobility and building aerobic endurance. This is as simple as yoga and walking 3-5 days per week. After about 4-6 weeks, it is safe to move into brief bouts of high intensity exercise that energize your metabolism. 10-30 seconds of fast walking every minute of a 30 minute walk combined with a short strength training routine consisting of 1-2 sets of 12-15 repetitions of 6-10 full body exercises (pushups, squats, pulldowns, planks, lunges...). Continue this for 4-6 weeks before moving into full on high intensity workouts that really begin to transform your body. Longer or more frequent high intensity walking, jogging, hiking, or biking coupled with strength training exercises 2-3 times each week. Perform 2 sets of 8-10 repetitions of full body exercises with little to no rest in between each set. Only take a break when you are out of breath. This type of exercise really raises fat burning youth hormones listed above. Don't forget to finish with a relaxing stretch, walk, or yoga session. This will get rid of any fat storing hormones that might be circulating after your high intensity workout. IMPORTANT! Keep your exercise sessions short, 30-60 minutes 3-6 days each week. AND, find exercises or programs you enjoy. Mountain bike, swim, play tennis, walk, dance-dance-dance, run, rollerblade, ride horses, do cross country, take an aerobics class...find some form of activity you love and do it. You must stay active and you must strength train.

Rule 5: Take Care of Yourself. Set aside time each day to pray, meditate, journal, listen to music... Eat a healthy diet. I did not say diet! Eat healthy version of the foods you love in proper propertions, and at the proper time Make it easy on you self by choosing a professionally designed nutrition plan complete with shopping list and portion guides. Don't forget to enjoy your teaching career!




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