Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Tapuae meets technology

By Jess Toomey
A primary school teacher is using modern satellite technology to pinpoint marine life on a section of Taranaki’s rocky shores.
West End School teacher Warren Smart is using Geographical Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) to locate and record marine life at the Tapuae Marine Reserve near New Plymouth.
Warren, who has been teaching for 26 years, is doing this as part of a Teachers Fellowship in Primary Science for the last six months of this year.
He applied to the Royal Society of New Zealand for the fellowship early this year because he wanted to improve his science teaching.
“It’s good to be doing something different and learning new skills,” he says.
Warren is working alongside marine biologist Erin Zydervelt from the Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) and scientist Elise Smith from the Ngamotu Marine Reserve Society.
The 48-year-old is doing a quadrat study in the reserve and is using GIS and GPS to help track wildlife and plants and will be putting data on the society’s online map.
“I’m hoping to add information about what can be found at the reserve so when other people go down there, these will act as a guide for them,” he says of the technology.
He has taken photos of an orange sponge that grows on the side of rock pools and can name different types of limpets and shellfish.
Warren is also using an underwater camera to capture different types of species living in rock pools and taking video and photos of the marine reserve.
On top of this, he is updating wiki posts, which is set up for other interested teachers and he has his own blog: http://tapuaecalling.blogspot.com/.
This keeps a regular update of what he’s doing. His latest post shows him viewing soft sediment samples under a microscope at the TRC.
Jess Toomey is a WITT journalism student doing STAR

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Getting hooked on exercise

By Virginia Winder
It’s spring in New Zealand and like the lambs, we’re leaping to life.
Many of you may have started hitting the walkways and roads to slough off the winter kilos to get fit and feel good.
But how on earth do you continue that exercise kick so it becomes part of your life?
Try hitting the books and browsing sports magazines to get inspiration.
Among the dozens of promising titles in New Plymouth’s Puke Ariki library one stands out: Fighting Globesity – a practical guide to personal health and global sustainability by Phillip (son of Les and Colleen) and Jackie Mills.
“Sustainability starts with your own body,” they write. “If we can start to win the battle against obesity and inactive ageing, then many of the trillions of dollars spent on chronic illness can be diverted into more important endeavours such as saving rainforests and subsidising sustainable energy programmes.”
Over a picture of large man, are the words: “Like an overweight person, as a race we are simply consuming more than we can healthily maintain. This over-consumption is not only bad for our bodies but also bad for the world.”
Before we move on to tips on getting going, staying motivated and sustaining exercise for life, let’s have a look at some of the scary facts recorded in A Portrait of Health: Key Results from the 2006/2007 New Zealand Health Survey:
• One in four adults were obese (26.5%).
• One in five children (aged 2 to 14 years) were overweight (20.9%) and one in 12 (8.3%) were obese.
• One in seven adults (13.6%) were taking medication for high blood pressure. This equates to 425,500 adults.
• One in 12 adults (8.4%) were taking medication for high blood cholesterol.
• One in 20 adults (5.2%) had been diagnosed with ischaemic heart disease.
• One in 20 adults (5.0%) had doctor-diagnosed diabetes (excluding diabetes during pregnancy). This equates to 157,100 adults.
• Half of all adults (50.5%) met the definition of being regularly physically active. Overall, one in seven (15.0%) adults were sedentary, reporting less than 30 minutes of physical activity in the previous week.
Those statistics are people and they are putting huge pressure on the New Zealand health system. But much of the above can be remedied through healthy eating and exercise. It sounds so easy, but in our time-poor, fast-food, cheap-fizz, take-the-car society; it’s become the hardest thing many people face.
Yes, what we eat is an issue, but today we are dealing with how to get going and keep moving.
This is the tough part.
Experts say that 25% of people who start a new exercise programme quit within the first week and another 25% quit within the first six months.
And the most frequent reason for giving up is lack of time.
So, make exercise as important as your job, whether you’re a mother or a corporate boss.
But first, you need to choose a sport – and that’s anything that takes your fancy. You can run, bike, dance, swim and zumba your way to fitness, or you can decide to take up yoga, tai chi, tennis, basketball or touch rugby – the list is long.
Then you need to set a goal and here, there are two schools of thoughts.
One is to set realistic goals and the other is to dream big.
The Mills opt for the Big Hairy Audacious Goals, a term coined by Good to Great author Jim Collins.
“We believe that everyone should set major fitness goals; powerful aims that create a much more holistic impetus to exercise,” they say. “There’s a power in allowing yourself to dream, in visualising yourself at your very best. It can be incredibly inspiring and motivating. Great coaches use this technique very effectively.”
They also say you may never reach your goal, but you will get fit and have fun on the journey.
Next, work out a training schedule and set small, manageable goals that you can attain. It could be walking further, adding a hill or steps in to your routine, running faster than before, doing more press ups or increasing the daily steps on your pedometer.
Start a training diary and write down your plans and goals, then record your daily results. This will help you see how far you have come.
The magazines and books (there’s a dozen of each at my elbow) have pages and pages of advice.
Here are 20 top tips:
1. Exercise with friends, so that this becomes not just fitness time but friendship time. My sister has been in a walking/running group for more than 20 years and these women support each other in all areas of their lives.
2. Wear a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps a day. This will not only tell you how active you are, but also give you a goal to do more.
3. We are what we think. Counter your negative inner talk with positive mantras, like: “Go for it,” and “I can do it”. Or have a key word that stokes your fire, like: “Warrior,” or “power”.
4. Find a mentor to inspire you, give you advice and ongoing encouragement. Or you could employ a personal fitness trainer to get you started and keep you on track.
5. Watch a sports event live and imagine you are out there too – and you can be, will be.
6. Upwards and onwards. When you’re out walking, cycling or running, don’t just go for the flat. Hills will improve your cardio fitness, muscle power and speed, so embrace those upward hauls as your friends. Wherever possible, take stairs.
7. Imagine the rewards of getting fit. It could be weight loss, better health, taking part in or winning a race, or you could organise a reward. This could be something like a trip to Paris if you reach a weight goal or complete a marathon. Remember to celebrate the small steps on the way too.
8. Find your inner motivation. If you’re competitive, make your goal a race. If your life is out of control, think of sport as your way of regaining balance in your life. For others it might be the need to beat depression – regular workouts help your brain release those natural “feel-good” chemicals.
9. Small steps and strokes. Start your exercise programme gently so that you don’t injure yourself, or overdo it so much you hurt and can’t face the thought of doing it again. Also, if you start off swimming 40 lengths of your community pool, what are you going to do the next day – what are can you aim for? So start with 10 lengths and build up.
10. Have your gear all ready to go. If you’re going to train in the morning, have all your clothes, shoes, or togs, towel and goggles out so you just need to change and head out. You could also do this if you are exercising later in the day.
11. Make a pact. Find a friend or family member to go on this fitness journey with you. Talk about your goals, your rules for getting out there, including exercising in the rain and organise a regular time to meet up. You’re less likely to let down a friend than yourself.
13. Variety is the spice of sport. If you’re running, cycling or walking, take different routes and stride out with different people. Or mix it up. Go swimming one day, biking the next, head to the gym for a weight workout and then take a Zumba class.
14. Be inspired. Read stories about people who have gone from fat to thin, from slug to slogger, from loser to winner.
15. Work at making it a habit. Develop a routine to exercise at the same time every day and do it. For those workaholics out there, consider exercise as work and put it in your diary or timetable. Sport will increase your brain power and giving you thinking time.
16. Plan holidays that have a physical element to them. This could be a skiing, canoeing, surfing, tramping or biking holiday. Explore New Zealand and the world the natural way.
17. Move whenever you can. Walk or bike to work or into town. In fact, ditch the car for a month unless you have to travel more than 10km. Don’t scoot around your office sitting on your wheeled chair, get up and walk. Wander round the house during TV ad breaks (but don’t head to the fridge or pantry).
18. Get a dog. Not only do you have a constant companion, but you have a barking, whining, nagging reason to go for a walk or run out every single day. Who can resist those pleading “take me out” eyes?
19. Have fun. Exercise needs to be something that you enjoy and look forward to. So listen to music or an audio book when you’re out. Choose upbeat music that will get you going or a thrilling novel that will inspire you to do an extra block to find out what happens next.
20. Go public. In 2009, my son, husband and I pledged to swim in the sea every day of the year and I wrote about it in the newspaper. When strangers started asking how the swimming was going, there was no backing out. Come hell or high water we were going to do it – and we did. Now I’ve started a blog and gone extremely public about my own fitness and life-balance goals.
In the end, it’s all about keeping on keeping on, say Phillip and Jackie Mills.
Never give up. “Coax and cajole yourself through those difficult early stages,” they write. “If you fail, don’t worry; failing is part of learning to succeed. Keep trying; you’ll get there in the end. It will be worth it.”

Friday, 2 September 2011

Stress of busyness

By Virginia Winder
If you’re too busy to read this story, then this article is for you.
So stop for a moment, take 15 minutes and read about how your ultra-busyness is not sustainable.
You see, in this online, mobile technology, tweet-a-thought, text-contact, GPS world, we never switch off. Literally, we are bombarded with information, thoughts, friend requests and work expectations at every waking moment.
Not only are we running out of natural resources, many of us are running out of time. That’s down time, quiet time, family time, thinking time, home time, exercise time and time out.
If having a shower is your only peace time in your daily race, then you need to have a serious think about your life, especially if you’re working in excess of eight-hour days and also find yourself labouring away at weekends.
Yes, you’re out there, you 14-hour-a-day sloggers, who can’t stop thinking about work and whose relationships, body and mind are starting to fall apart.
Even those of you who are teetering that way, should pay attention – if you spend all your days working then you’re in danger of burnout or, as one friend found out, break down.
At dinner with friends the other night, I quipped that snapping an Achilles tendon was her body’s way of slowing her down and perhaps that was the message to be learnt.
Her reply was swift: “No, it showed me I need to speed up. I spent 10 years sitting behind a desk and now I exercise every single day.”
My friend now lives by the “use it or lose it” principle spelled out in the book by the same name by Peter Snell and Garth Gilmour – but sustainable exercise story will come later.
For now, we are looking at business, or in this case busyness, and finding out about making more time for yourself without failing in your job.
To do this I took time out and went to the library at Puke Ariki and borrowed 13 books, many of them with tantalising titles, including The 4-Hour Workweek (Timothy Ferris), The Power of Less (Leo Babauta) and The Great Office Detox – minimise stress and maximise job satisfaction (Dawna Walter).
Let’s get some advice from the experts.
Babauta kindly begins his book with a comparison between two reporters. One goes for high volume, putting out about 30 short, fairly limited articles per week. This reporter’s high work rate is noticed and earns praise from the editor.
The other decides to go for just one story, but chooses a subject that will “knock your socks off”. She brainstorms, thinks, researches, conducts a wide variety of interviews, spends time writing it, polishing her work and checking all the facts. The story is an award winner.
“The first reporter was thinking high-volume, but short-term. The second reporter focused on less, but did much more over the long term,” writes Babauta. “That’s the power of less.”
People can choose between doing a lot and opting for high impact. The latter is definitely more sustainable and can lead to long-term contributions to society, your career and your bank balance.
Babauta, a freelance writer from Guam, recommends changing habits slowly (in fact he recommends slowing down in general) and try adopting these, one a month, for a year.
1. Set your three Most Important Tasks (MITs) each morning.
2. Single-task.
3. Process your in-box to empty.
3. Check email just twice a day.
5. Exercise every day.
6. Work while disconnected, with no distractions.
7. Follow a morning routine of your own making. This could involve watching the sunrise with a cup of tea or coffee at hand, meditating, doing yoga, going for a walk, writing, choosing your MITs, reviewing goals, having a gratitude session.
8. Eat more fruit and veggies every day.
9. Keep your desk decluttered.
10. Make a short list of your four to five most important commitments, asking yourself what do you love most and what is most important to you? Say no to commitments and requests that aren’t on your short list.
11. Declutter your house for 15 minutes a day.
12. Stick to a five-sentence limit for emails.
In her book, Get a Life, Not a Job, work psychologist Paula Caligiuri offers advice that our parents told us, including eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep.
If you are working every waking moment, then it’s highly likely you are failing on these three as well. Trust me, this way of life is not sustainable and you will suffer from mental or physical burnout, whichever comes first.
Caligiuri also recommends seeking volunteer opportunities, reducing energy-sapping work-related cynicism (or get a new job) and taking a holiday. “The downtime can increase your energy, creativity and productivity,” she says of the latter.
She also doesn’t believe in time management. “You need to rethink your relationship with time. You need to fall in love with the 24 hours you have each day. Love your time. Respect your time. Protect your time.”
We all know people who do this and admire them for it. I have friends that only work four day weeks, others who have one afternoon that is entirely there’s, and many who will do absolutely no work at the weekend. Ever.
Dawna Walter deals with the greatest time waster of them all: Procrastination.
“The obvious way to conquer procrastination is to tackle the things you hate doing first thing each day and get them out of the way,” she writes. “You will release all the anxiety that may have built up about them and can then get to grips with the remainder of your day without worry.”
Easy to say, of course, especially because procrastination is often caused by fear of failure or being uncertain what to do. People can simply get paralysed by perfection, Walter says.
To get over this, get used to losing. She recommends playing a game – bowls, cards, charades or trivia – with friends or family once a week and viewing it as therapy. “There will always be someone who can play better, faster or have the luck of the draw. You will soon discover that the world doesn’t come to an end as a result of not being the best.”
That in turn, will help you overcome fear of failure and break through the procrastination barrier.
Entrepreneur Timothy Ferris lives by the 80:20 law propagated by Italian Vilfredo Pareto (1848 to 1923).
“Pareto’s Law can be summarised as follows: 80 per cent of the outputs result from 20 per cent of the inputs.”
When Ferris came across Pareto’s law, he had been working 15-hour days, seven days a week, was feeling completely overwhelmed and generally helpless. “Faced with certain burnout or giving Pareto’s ideas a trial run I opted for the latter.”
Ferris put aside an entire day to ask himself:
1. Which 20 per cent of sources are causing 80 per cent of my problems and unhappiness?
2. Which 20 per cent of sources are resulting in 80 per cent of my desired outcomes and happiness?
When he answered those questions and then acted on eliminating problem customers and focusing on what he did want, Ferris’ life changed forever for the better.
Robert Holden’s book Success Intelligence: Timeless Wisdom for a Manic Society is also a life changer.
He talks of the need to join The Space Programme.
One day a highly successful lawyer who suffered from a nervous breakdown came to see Holden, the founder of The Happiness Project. “He told me: ‘I curse the day I installed my car phone. My car was my thinking space. I got all my best ideas driving to work. It was also my place to unwind. I used to listen to Vivaldi on the freeway home. But my car phone made my car into another office and I became extremely busy and I lost my space’.”
Holden says we all need space to think and simply to be empty, so we can be filled again. He is also an advocate for less is more: Less urgent – more wise; less activity – more vision; fewer hours – more success; less effort – more imagination; less struggle – more ease; less waste – more efficiency; less stress – more peace; and less ego – more God (or spirituality).
We will finish this story on being sustainable in your work practices with Holden’s wise words on simplicity. “The decision to simplify things is a gift because it returns you to your essence and to what you most value. Greater simplicity helps to avoid excess busyness and unnecessary effort. It increases effectiveness and it welcomes grace and inspiration. It also preserves your sanity. Talk time to reflect on how you could simplify your life and work to enjoy greater success.”

This story was first published in the Taranaki Daily News on 30/8/11