I happened across this meme in my news feed, and as someone who sees the sun rising as I'm working out in the morning, I had to laugh. But, at the same time, it got me thinking, ya know - it's kinda true. I previously spoke of how to get, and stay, motivated to get your body moving, and I'm gonna piggyback onto that with, what I think, is the best time of day to break a sweat. And, why, do I, as a massage therapist, keep talking about exercise? Because, keeping your muscles moving is an important ingredient to optimal muscle health. Exercise, stretching, massage, nutrition, etc.. It's a whole recipe.

So, I've tried different times of day to get my workout in, and first thing in the morning is by far my F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E. Yes, it's that dramatic. Despite the fact that I love literally everything about working out, if I have all day to think about it, I can come up with a million reasons to put it off and knock out a few other things on my to-do list instead. For whatever reason, until I am actually exercising, I do not feel like exercising. From what I gather, a lot of other people feel that way, too. That's where the whole "willpower" thing comes in, no?

This is one of the reasons an early AM workout works so well. It eliminates *some* of the need for the willpower (or maybe just redirects it to the whole getting to bed early bit). I roll out of bed, put on my workout clothes (unless I'm already wearing them, because sometimes I do that, too!), grab my gym bag and drive over there. I get everything ready the night before so I have to do as little thinking as possible when I get up, and I'm barely conscious throughout the process. It's a lot like when I went skydiving. As we climbed higher and higher in altitude in that little plane, and I knew the only way I was exiting was to jump, I kept my mind as blank as possible so as to not think about what I was about to do, so I wouldn't find myself holding onto the plane doorway like a cat in a bathtub. No thinking until I'm already there! Once I've stepped into the gym, it's like jumping off the plane. No turning back now. Just gotta go along for the ride, and have a hell of a lot of fun in the process. If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong!

I know not everyone's magical hour is going to be first thing in the morning, but find that sweet spot that makes it as effortless as possible, and you will keep it up!

Got questions or need advice? You've got me all to yourself for a whole hour (or however long you book) every time you come in for a massage. ;)

From the studio of
Neelou Saleh
Licensed Massage Therapist
Licensed Massage Therapist Instructor
Kingwood, TX
For years I struggled finding a way to stay consistently active. I tried different activities at different times - softball, basketball, yoga, running, dancing, home workouts, gym workouts, martial arts, etc.. I would stick with it for awhile, then sooner or later would lose motivation, interest, ability to maintain the schedule,
insert stock excuse to not keep working out here...and would take six months or a year to find something else to try. Once I got into my thirties, the lack of consistent activity started to catch up with me, and I soon found myself with debilitating back pain.

Muscles were made to move. The amount of time that many of us spend not moving in today's society - sitting at a desk, sitting in the car, sitting in front of the TV - does a huge disservice to the health of our muscles, and most people end up paying dearly for that, sooner or later. Massage is a wonderful way to help take care of ourselves, but regardless of whether or not you get massages, if you are not getting up and moving, you are missing out on the number one most beneficial way to keep your muscles in the healthiest condition possible.

Everyone has a different level of comfort and ability, but most people can find a way to get moving that will work for them. There are a number of excuses we can easily fall back on to not exercise - the most common being "I just don't have the time." I am here to tell you, as a mother of two kiddos running a household and a business on my own, if I can find the time, so can you. I promise. I did eventually find the workout method and routine that I was able to stick with in the form of Crossfit. At 6 o'clock in the morning. And I have NEVER been a morning person. Sometimes it takes a significant lifestyle change, and you just do it.

It's been three years now, and I'm still at it. Sometimes there are disruptions. I had to take a few months off last year due to health issues, but as soon as I was physically able, I was back in the gym (even able to participate in our in-box competition, as seen in the photo above).
Earlier this year, my kids' school schedule was making it difficult to get to a Crossfit class, so I went running a few times a week to stay active and dropped into classes when I could. This past summer I didn't work out much due to traveling (but I was hiking on my travels), but now I'm back on my normal schedule. Sometimes life temporarily pauses my workout routine, but I squeeze in what I can and I jump right back in the moment the disruption passes, so that working out becomes the norm and not working out is only a minor blip. That is something I previously was never able to do, and I realized the reasons for the prolonged inactivity were lack of true interest in my latest chosen activity, trying to do something that wasn't practical for my life, and just not making workout out a big enough priority. Having finally overcome all the many obstacles that can make it difficult to stay active with regularity, here are my tips to get up and get moving, and sticking with it!

1. Keep an open mind
I always thought I should be the kind of person that loves yoga. It fits with my interests and personality, so I tried making yoga my main thing, again and again. But, I could never stick with it for more than a few months at a time. It turns out that, though I enjoy yoga, it's not really my "thing". I discovered by starting Crossfit classes that weightlifting is my thing. Weightlifting is something I always thought seemed kinda boring, but oddly enough, it turned out to be what I love and look forward to getting myself to the gym for. I enjoy the other types of exercises we do in Crossfit for the sake of a well-rounded workout, but the weightlifting aspect is by far my true love. I also thought I preferred working out solo, but low and behold, I love the social aspect of Crossfit, and it's another reason I find it easier to drag myself to the box before the sun is up. So, I didn't know what I liked nearly as much as I thought I did, and I never would have known without trying something that seemed an unlikely match for me. If you haven't found your perfect match - keep looking! It might be what you least expect. People are not very good at predicting what they will and won't like without trying it. When you truly enjoy an activity, it doesn't feel like you are having to "force" yourself to exercise just to begrudgingly be healthy.

2. Make it a priority
This is the most important piece of advice. If your physical activity is low on the priority list, anything and everything else that comes up in life will get in the way of it. You put it off one day for this, another day for that, and before you know it, you haven't exercised in six months, and your strength and stamina you worked so hard for has ridden off into the sunset, on the back of your motivation. Like I said, I had to change my entire routine to make working out work for me. Making sure I get to bed early enough to get up early enough to get that workout in means structure and meticulous time management, two things I always rebelled against, as well as early to bed and early to rise, which goes against my very nature. But, workouts

PictureClick the image for a bigger version.
Most of us don't spend nearly enough time taking care of ourselves. Self care is all about keeping yourself healthy and sane. It can be anything that contributes to your well-being and helps you avoid health issues, unhappiness, stress (#1 killer!), and all the other unpleasantness everyday life can bring. Take time every day, week, hour, whatever works for you, to do something for you.

Here is a list of ten ways to help keep you being your best self:

1. Go to bed an hour early.
Too many people are not getting enough sleep. A whopping 40% of Americans report getting fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. There is not much that is more important for our health and well-being than getting enough sleep, so do yourself a favor and get to bed early.

2. Spend twenty minutes de-cluttering.
Clutter in the house causes clutter in the mind. It's hard to think clearly when you are surrounded by mess, so spend a twenty minute focus session getting rid of that pesky pile of clutter that always builds up.

3. Soak in a hot Epsom salt bath.
Epsom salts help to relieve muscle tension and the hot tub of water will melt your stresses from the day away. Throw in some lavender essential oil if you like and play some relaxing music. Dump about two pounds of the Epsom salts into the tub and give yourself a good twenty minute soak. You are worth it.

4. Keep yourself hydrated.
About 43% of U.S. adults drink less than four cups of water a day. If you fall into that category, you are suffering from chronic dehydration. The symptoms can include bad breath, dry skin, muscle cramps, cravings for sweets, fatigue, etc.. Every single process in your body down the the cellular level requires water to operate properly, and your body is composed of approximately 60% water, so consuming enough water is extremely important. Some ways to make it easier to stay hydrated are to keep a water bottle handy throughout the day, eat lots of fruits and veggies, sip more during meals, and try a variety of (caffeine-free) teas.

5. Go outside.
It is easy to end up cooped up indoors all day. Make a point to take a walk outside for half an hour and soak up some sun. Studies have shown that being outside benefits the brain and makes us feel more alive and less stressed.

6. Pay it forward.
Helping others is an amazing way to help ourselves in a way that connects us to the greater good of all that is around us. Volunteer, do someone you know a personal favor, or commit a random act of kindness when

Most of us have known someone at one time or another who we felt tended to drag us down, rain on our parade when we are happy about something, or make us feel bad for the good fortune in our lives. In many cases, the offender does not do so intentionally, but the effect is just the same. Of course, if someone is abusive, dangerous, or particularly toxic, getting that person out of our lives is the absolutely right thing to do, including seeking help to do so if necessary.

However, I have known a number of beautiful souls who tend to be very negative, often because they suffer emotionally, but who never intend to cause anyone pain or drag them down. It is often just a side effect of being so down themselves. Sometimes, we have someone in our lives who we care about, who is good person, but who we can hardly talk to without feeling like they have inadvertently burst our bubble, yet again, for no good reason other than the depression they may be struggling with. Sometimes, we find ourselves trying to "save" someone who struggles emotionally because we can see their potential and want to help them realize it, and instead end up feeling like we are being dragged down with them. Is it better to cut these people out of our lives and get on with things? Maybe, maybe not. But, there is a way to approach how we interact with them that tends to mostly take care of the decision for us.

When you know someone who is treading in dark waters, but who isn't actually reaching out for help, first and foremost, don't try to reach down and pull them into your boat, so to speak. Trying to save another 

"Impermanence is the nature of the human condition."

There is a Zen notion I am rather fond of called wabi sabi. It can be described as a fleeting, imperfect, accidental beauty - unpretentious, simple, and intimate.

It is the weathering of a statue, the nicks of time on furniture, the scarring of old bronze, the crawling of moss on stone, and even the natural aging process of a human being.

It is that last bit, that applies so directly to the experience of being human, that I want to focus on today. Wabi sabi embraces the natural process of growth, decay, and death. It is about accepting the impermanence of everything in life, including life itself.

It may be silly, but when it comes to everyday life, remembering the beauty of wabi sabi can do wonders for relieving stress or disappointment. When your favorite shoes start showing signs of wear and don't look quite so pretty anymore. When you lose an earring. When you look in the mirror on the morning of your 30th birthday and see the first signs of crows feet around your eyes (funny how it seems to work that way, right?). You can fully mourn the loss of what was, while knowing ultimately that it doesn't matter in the big picture, and that nothing is meant to be forever. You can live your human experience to the fullest while knowing that your suffering is not because of impermanence, but because of your reaction to impermanence.

To forget the truth of impermanence is to forget the truth of life. Life is about embracing each moment as it happens, and being able to see the beauty in each of those fleeting, beautiful, perfectly imperfect moments as they are gifted to you.

From the studio of
Neelou Saleh
Licensed Massage Therapist
Kingwood, TX

At the beginning of every year many people create a list of goals for the year we call "resolutions." So many start off eating healthy, hitting the gym, putting themselves on a budget, etc.. But, we all know how well that goes. Most don't last more than three months, IF they make it that far. New Year's Resolutions are by and large, a huge failure. So, why do we keep making them, only to end up frustrated? Hmm, I don't know. Maybe we don't know what else to try for self and life improvement?

I have found over the past few years there is a much better way. Every year, I skip the resolutions and instead focus on a theme for the next year. There is something about having a theme that keeps me focused and continuing to take action throughout the year that fits within that theme, and at the end of the year I can look back and see how much I was able to accomplish.

What exactly do I mean by theme? Well, I look at what it is I want to improve in my life and choose a theme accordingly. I like to keep it broad enough to not be too strict about specifically what I am to be doing, but narrow enough to give me a sense of direction and focus.

Themes have been words such as Expansion or Growth, Self Care, Free Time, Create, Health, Independence, etc.. It is best to choose one word (or two if necessary, i.e. "Free Time") with an overarching theme for what area of yourself or your life you want to improve. You can create a plan for yourself within that theme to break down the steps of how you will make it happen if you like.

The reason I find themes to be so effective is that, throughout the year, if I find myself getting off track, I