Monday, August 31, 2015

LADIES, REJOICE: FOOTBALL IS HERE!

Well, it’s here.

Another football season is finally upon us.

This year’s NFL Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony is in our rear view mirror; the final preseason game is this week; and most fans are nearly done assembling their fantasy leagues.

I know what you may be thinking, and I can see your eyes rolling from here.

But I welcome this time of year with open arms and a bevy of pizza delivery menus on standby.

Here’s why you should, too:

Your man is home
Bars. Casinos. God-knows-what. There’s no shortage of vices your man could be dabbling in. So when you consider that he’s sitting in front of the TV with a bag of cheese puffs, it’s all good.

Less cooking
Even the man who delights in eating Thanksgiving dinner year-round won’t balk at eating pizza and wings on game day…which means no one has to slave away in front of a hot stove. Got a cell phone? Then you’ve got dinner.

Football season coincides with back-to-school
I’ve heard these stories, and I’m guessing most of them are true: They are tales of mothers who literally rejoice at the arrival of back-to-school time because when the kids schlepp off to school, we have more time for ourselves. (These stories had better be true because I’ll be devastated if, come to find, this is all an urban mommy myth.)

YOU get eye candy…and YOU get eye candy…and YOU get eye candy!!!
(Note: The caption above is best read in the likeness of Oprah à la her famous car giveaway episode.) What physical attributes do you find attractive in a man? Washboard abs? Then wide receivers will tickle your fancy. Tall, lean, and chiseled? Quarterback. Like ‘em on the meatier side? Ogle a lineman. The game of football presents a visual smorgasboard for us all.

Football gives way to a second game: Let’s Make a Deal – The Honey-Do List Edition
That wobbly banister leading to the basement needs fixing. The faucet in the kids’ bathroom has been leaking for so long, you could have fed a small nation with the money it has already cost you. And you have absolutely no intention of climbing a ladder to change the light bulb in the garage. Of course you’ll let him watch football  –  provided he performs a few key upgrades first. It’s called a two-way street, fellas.

He’s not bothering you
Manicures. A trip to the mall. Retreating in solitude to your mom cave. Think of all the glorious things you could be doing if you had time – time that instantly becomes available when your man is watching football. And not nagging you.

Less laundry
NFL football plays on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday. Here’s the deal: I’d venture to say your man and/or son(s) are wearing their favorite football jerseys on one – if not all three of those days. Okay, yes, said jersey will reek like a barnyard by the end of the week, but that’s beside the point. Look at the bright side: They’ve just shaved several pounds off the dirty clothes hamper. 

You might actually enjoy it
“I don’t understand it,” I’ve heard women say. “Football is so complicated,” is another common refrain. Football, complicated? Nah. I’ll show you complicated. Complicated is potty training your toddler with a newborn underfoot. Complicated is trying to navigate the perils of having a boss from hell while juggling equally taxing demands at home. If we can accomplish all of the above, we can comprehend the game of football. And we may actually grow to like it, too.

It’s a ready-made family-friendly party
I'm in awe of those Martha Stewart-meets-Macgyver types I see on Pinterest. I’m missing the DIY gene. But a tailgate party is easy: the team colors are pre-determined, the most pedestrian food and snacks will suffice, and the main event is on TV. So long as you can keep the male attendees from cursing like sailors at every bad play, you’re covered.

You get to cheer…for your kid(s)
So your child plays youth football. And maybe – as much as you hate to admit it – he’s horrible. Or, on the other hand, he might be the team’s MVP. It really doesn’t matter. Regardless, you’ve just been given an opportunity to root for him and boost his self-esteem in the process. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that, years down the line, he won’t remember the outcome of the season’s third away game, but he will remember the look on your face when you said that he rocked and that you are proud of him.

So are we ready for some football?

Yes, ladies. We are.

P.S. You can also find this list on USA Football. :-) #GoTeam

Sunday, August 23, 2015

YOGA FOR A BETTER BACK

Perhaps you’ve already taken a moment to read the first post on USAFootball.com about how the practice of yoga can improve a baller's game. (If you haven't, you can find it here.) 

So if you’re ready to step foot on a yoga mat, these four poses are a fantastic place to start for two reasons.

First, consider yoga a safeguard of sorts against potential injury. Because, as former Detroit Lions offensive lineman Dominic Raiola told CBS Sports regarding yoga, “Some ways your body bends on the field, you’re not supposed to bend, [so] if you’re flexible and you can move, that’s going to help.” 

And secondly, developing maximum core strength in football – and in life, really – is an integral part of staying healthy.

Here are four yoga postures to consider:

1) Opposite Arm Opposite Leg
This movement is excellent for warming up the hip socket, shoulder socket, and abs, as well as syncing the breath with the movement, which can be critical for the quick elusive moves you need on the field. Begin on your hands and knees and extend your right arm forward and left leg back on an inhale. Don’t hold your breath; breathe deeply. Try holding the pose for 30 seconds, one minute, and then two. Release the pose on an exhale. Switch sides and repeat.



2) Crescent Twist
There’s a lot happening in this pose: It strengthens the legs, stretching the quadriceps, and gives your back a fantastic stretch. The latter will tremendously help a receiver’s need to twist and torque in order to catch a less than perfect pass. This posture also works wonders for developing balance. Here’s how to move into the pose: Inhale, stand tall, roll your shoulders back, and bring your hands together at the center of your chest. On an exhale, step your right foot back, straighten your right leg, and keep the ball of your right foot firmly on the ground. Square your hips so they are parallel to the top edge of your mat. Bend your front knee to 90 degrees, aligning your knee directly over the heel of your front foot. Your front shin should be perpendicular to the floor. (If it’s too difficult to keep the ball of your right foot on your mat, lower your right knee to the floor, slide your leg back a few inches, un-tuck your back toes, and rest the top of your back foot on the floor.) Inhale as you raise your torso to an upright position, keeping your hands together at the center of your chest. On an exhale, twist your torso to the left and draw your left shoulder blade into your back. Your gaze should remain upward, above your shoulder.



3) Forearm Plank
This pose looks relatively simple, but it requires a full-body effort, particularly from your core. Practicing plank increases your abdominal and hip flexor strength like few other activities will. And strong abdominal muscles will support your back in all compromising positions on the field. Resist the urge to hold your breath in this pose as well, and breathe deeply.


4) Garland (also known as Squat or Frog pose)
When it comes to developing flexibility in your knees and pelvic region, this pose is the Holy Grail. But don’t be intimidated by this pose – and don’t worry if you are not able to squat very low initially. Regardless of your depth, you will begin reaping the benefits of this pose immediately. Here’s how to approach it: On an exhale, squat with your feet about hip’s distance apart – perhaps a tad wider if your hips are especially tight. Toes should turn out slightly. (Keep your heels on the floor if you can; otherwise, support them on a folded mat or towel.) Separate your thighs slightly wider than your torso. On an exhale, lean your torso forward, fit it snuggly between your thighs, and press your elbows against your inner knees. Bring your palms to together.

You will benefit from this.

Prepare to transform your body.


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Sunday, August 16, 2015

5 CHEAP WAYS TO LIVE HEALTHIER



GET A HOUSEPLANT. (OR SEVERAL.) 
I don't have a green thumb. Hell, I single-handedly killed a snake plant -- also known as mother-in-law's tongue -- which is supposedly able to withstand even the worst cases of neglect. (In the photo above, I'm holding our family's newest green friend, a five-dollar aloe vera plant I bought on clearance at our grocery story to replace my son's snake plant that I annihilated.) Still, I can't get enough of houseplants, and you will find one in nearly every room here at Casa Conover. Why? Well, for starters, they are integral to maintaining our family's health. Here are some of the reasons why, according to Bayer Advanced:
  • When we breathe, our body takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This opposite pattern of gas use makes plants and people natural partners. Adding plants to interior spaces can increase oxygen levels.
  • Plants release moisture vapor (roughly 97 percent of the water they take in), which increases humidity of the air around them. So if you place several plants together, you can actually increase the humidity of a room...which helps keeps respiratory distresses at bay. Studies at the Agricultural University of Norway document that using plants in interior spaces decreases the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs.
  • Adding plants to hospital rooms speeds recovery rates of surgical patients, according to researchers at Kansas State University. Compared to patients in rooms without plants, patients in rooms with plants request less pain medication, have lower heart rates and blood pressure, experience less fatigue and anxiety, and are released from the hospital sooner
For tips on how to match the right plant to the right growing conditions in your home, visit Bayer Advanced. Please take heed to the advice on that page -- or your plant's fate will be that of my son's dearly departed snake plant.




USE SULFATE-FREE SOAP
I've lived by this creed for nearly 10 years now: I abhor sodium lauryl sulfate, also known as SLS. It's an extremely common ingredient in personal care products that allows cleansing products to foam. And it's in nearly EVERYTHING. Go ahead, check the labels of the products you already own. SLS is in most body washes, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and laundry detergent. And it's also been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption. Now, to be fair, there have been countless studies on SLS, and some researchers insist that "regular" exposure to SLS (whatever that means) is not the problem; rather it's the gradual, cumulative effects of long-term, repeated exposures that pose real concern. Now, here's the thing: I'm not a scientist or a researcher, but I do consider myself a moderately informed consumer, and I know that much of what goes ON you ends up going IN you. And as one who has battled allergies and eczema her entire life, I'm not trying to give my skin -- or my family's -- one more hurdle to jump. So we only use SLS-free soaps and shampoos. My favorite options include Walgreens' Ology Moisturizing Shampoo (under five bucks), Seventh Generation's Chamomile Body Wash (two bucks at Big Lots), and fine Italian soaps that I purchase from Marshall's at a deep discount for less than four bucks for a super-large bar.



BUY A YOGA MAT
I know it comes as s shock that I -- a certified yoga instructor -- suggest you buy a yoga mat. But hear me out; my reasoning is an unconventional one. I'm not asking you to become a yogi. I'm not even asking you to establish a full-blown yoga practice. (Although, if you did, I'd be very happy about that.) But what I am asking you to do is just buy a mat. Get a cheapie one from the discount store Five Below. Or, if you can afford to spend a little more, go to TJ Maxx and spring for a twenty-dollar mat (which really retails for twice as much) and simply make an effort to unroll it a couple times a week. Do sit-ups on the mat. Or sit on your behind, bend forward, and touch your toes for a count of 20. Do something. Anything. If you do this with even a modicum of consistency, you will come to look forward to the time you spend on your mat. And your body -- and overall health -- will thank you.



VISIT YOUR LOCAL FARMERS MARKET
I've been pretty vocal about our family's love of our town's farmer's market for obvious reasons: the fruits and vegetables! But there's more. So. Much. More. Like, last week, an artist at our market was selling these painted wooden planks that resemble the American flag (pictured above); and next to her was a vendor selling pure beeswax candles, which are 100% natural, chemical-free, and have been prized since ancient times. (I bought a three-dollar one shaped like a butterfly.) Neither the candle or wooden plank flag are edible, of course. But it is my belief that being in the presence of expressions of art such as these can improve our emotional health -- and then you get to buy these goods straight from the man or woman who made them to boot. It just feels really good.



WALK ON GRASS
It's called grounding, and I wrote an entire blog post on this very topic last year. Grounding, has been said to help decrease anxiety and depression while simultaneously increasing the levels of endorphins – the chemical released by the brain that works as our own private narcotic. I actually credit grounding with helping me through a rather challenging first pregnancy with my son. The most eloquent and easily-understood description of grounding I was able to find comes from a site called MindBodyGreen.com: “Our bodies are made up of about 60 percent water, which is great for conducting electricity. The earth has a negative ionic charge. Going barefoot grounds our bodies to that charge. Negative ions have been proven to detoxify, calm, reduce inflammation, synchronize your internal clocks, hormonal cycles and physiological rhythms.” Is it hogwash? Who really knows. But, speaking from experience, I truly believe there's some truth to this stuff. And, I mean, c'mon, immersing your tootsies in plush, green grass just plain feels good.


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Saturday, August 8, 2015

WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO THIS SUMMER

My taste in music goes way back.

Here's what I'm listening to on the deck this summer while the kids get grimy in their sandbox and then splash about in their kiddie pool...

1.) Lenny Kravitz Greatest Hits 



2.) Legend: The Best Of Bob Marley And The Wailers



3.) The Best of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles



4.) Fleetwood Mac -- The Dance


5.) X Ambassadors -- Renegades (single)


6.) Enrique Iglesias -- Escape*
*As evidenced by the video clip below, our daughter Kennedy prefers  "Escapar," the Spanish version of the title track, "Escape."



7.) Joey Fehrenbach -- Delicate (Single)



8.) The Very Best of Prince



9.) Blackbird Blackbird -- It's A War (single)



10.) The Pharcyde -- Passin' Me By (Instrumental single)


And by the way, this is pretty much my playlist all year round. ;-)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

REAL LIFE vs. NFL TRAINING CAMP

Last year, I attended my first NFL training camp as a guest of Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell. Sure, this experience was old hat for The Hubs: He had been there, done that for nearly seven seasons as an offensive lineman for the Detroit Lions. 

But the afternoon was SUCH an eye-opener for yours truly, and since I was right there on the field -- literally a stone's throw away from the players -- I was there to glean whatever knowledge I could. 

And what did I learn?

That everything we should do in the real world is null and void on the football field.

Here's the difference between what we're taught to do in real life versus what happens on the field:

Rule #1
In Real Life: Share everything. 
On the Field: Share nothing. Especially your helmet, cleats, mouth guard, and, of course, your jock strap. 

Rule #2
In Real Life: Don't hit people.
On the Field: It's okay to hit people. Particularly members of the opposing team. If you encounter one of them, then, by all means, knock their block off.

Rule #3
In Real Life: Don't take things that aren't yours.
On the Field: Take things that aren't yours. It's every man for himself.

Rule #4
In Real Life: Take a nap every afternoon.
On the Field: Naps are forbidden. In football, if you snooze, you lose. 

Rule #5
In Real Life: Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
On the Field: No they're not. Only bananas and Gatorade are. (They keep you hydrated and help prevent cramps.)

Rule #6
In Real Life: When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. 
On the Field: When you go onto the field, look for the traffic and get in the thick of things. And don't expect anyone to hold your hand. This is the gridiron. Not Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

Rule #7
In Real Life: Play nice.
On the Field: No. Nice and rough is the only way to play. 

Rule #8
In Real Life: It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game.
On the Field: It's not about how you play the game. It's all about winning.

Rule #9
In Real Life: Wash your hands.
On the Field: Don't worry about washing your hands. In fact, get them dirty. It's the name of the game.

Rule #10
In Real Life: It's okay to cry sometimes.
On the Field: There's no crying in football.


The entrance of the Detroit Lions' practice facility.

FOOTBALL SEASON IS FINALLY UPON US...YAY!!!!!!!!





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