October 16, 2009
An important part of my workday at the gym is listening to people do the pre-workout grumble. By people I mean me, my fellow teachers and even my boss, not to mention everyone walking into class. Grumbling is a natural response to strapping on the Velcro Easy Strides, getting in the car, driving to the club one more friggin day and getting that workout behind you. We all do it. I bet even Richard Simmons grumbles. A big part of leading a healthy lifestyle is realizing that we don’t always FEEL LIKE IT and even if we grumble as we get ourselves started, we still need to do it. Like Dr Phil says, you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it. Besides, grumblitis recedes by the time you get into your heart-rate zone.
But this also means that a big part of my day is spent trying to motivate and inspire people, as well as my boss, my fellow teachers and myself.
Some days it only takes a new playlist on my ipod to inspire me. Other days I may require the chiseled Latino nightclub DJ slash Kickboxing instructor’s class for inspiration. But on those days when my grumbling turns into catastrophizing, I rely on a deeper, more intrinsic inspiration. My inspiration is a real person. It’s a person I’ve known since before I was born and was, in fact, born with.
My inspiration is my Twin Sister. And before you start surmising that Twin Sister is some buff gym bunny with biceps like guns, let me tell you that Twin Sister has not ran, or walked, for that matter, in over thirty years. I’ll spare you the gory details but our whole family suffered a shocking change when, as high school sophomores, we caught a ride home from school one afternoon with a newly-licensed friend who thought it was fun to fly down our country roads at 60 mph in our twisty, hilly hometown road. After going airborne and rolling the car eight times, myself and stupid driver were unhurt. Twin Sister’s back was broken and her spinal cord was severed. Let me just say Twin Sister had to do a whole lifetime of growing up all before the age of sixteen.
This story so far might not be inspiring. Tragedies happen all the time. And sometimes these stories just turn out plain sad. But what Twin Sister has taught me is that it’s how you respond to tragedies that can inspire. Inspiration is what comes by watching, over these years, and now these decades how Twin Sister has not just survived, she has thrived. She went on to Ohio State University and then on to Graduate school, met and married a hunky, body-builder bouncer slash engineer who is right up there with the Latino nightclub DJ slash Kickboxing instructor. Twin Sister gave birth to my beautiful niece and nephew, who are now sixteen and eighteen years old. Twin Sister works in the ER of a hospital and swims to keep fit.
Twin Sister has shown me that strong doesn’t always means you can lift more and that good health comes in all different shapes and sizes, not just size 2. She’s taught me that patience, and by patience, I mean needing ten minutes to get into the car (which I jump in and out of twenty times a day) and sometimes waiting at the foot of the stadium while everyone else scrambles up the bleachers at her son’s football games- that kind of patience truly is a virtue.
Every day, every single day, I am inspired and humbled by what she has done with her life in the face of her devastating injury and that she keeps going, amazingly, in spite of the redirection her life took so many years ago.
So the next time you find yourself grumbling about how you don’t want to exercise, take a moment to imagine my inspirational Twin Sister. If she can get out of bed and create this amazing life, home and family then I think the rest of us can use the image of her as an inspiration to work a bit harder to get whatever it is we’d like in life, even if it makes us grumble as we get started.
This Monday is our birthday,so Happy Birthday, Twin Sister. Thanks for the inspiration. And from everyone else, for my birthday, you can all drop and gimme twenty push-ups.
October 9, 2009
This week I got some hate mail in response to my last post about adding circuit training, suggesting that it is “potentially dangerous” to add push-ups to a cardio workout unless you completely cool down prior to going to the floor. Yes, I admit that this would be potentially dangerous for my grandma or for anyone just beginning a workout routine. As my buddy Dan says, just getting out of bed is potentially dangerous. But I must point out that my class members tend to be very fit and if they don’t want to do push-ups or cannot do push-ups, guess what? They don’t. Suffering, particularly when we approach our tolerance threshold, has great value and I worry that people may turn away from certain exercises not because they are “potentially dangerous” but because that’s the path of least resistance (har-har). It’s so easy to say no thanks. But mindfully training the body in a variety of ways allows us to differentiate between our actual limits and our percieved limits.
Pushing to the occasional point of suffering challenges us to remain calm in spite of anxiety and gosh-darn-it , to get stronger even though it burns! If you’re exercising and suffering and you hear a voice in your head saying things like “I’m never gonna get stronger” or “I can’t do this any longer” or “Look at him, he’s so strong and I’m getting my tail kicked,” that’s the moment to confront yourself and question your own self-talk.
I’m not saying you should push through the pain of injury or illness or any sharp, shooting pain. And if your heart is pounding out of your chest from deconditioning or over training, listen to your body! You can’t tell yourself, “this doesn’t hurt at all, I’m feeling super!” But by noticing any negative self- talk, you have the opportunity to replace those negative thoughts with positive thoughts. For example, you can remind yourself of your goals by thinking “I want to fit into my dress for the reunion.”
You can come up with realistic counterstatements, like ” I’m doing more today than I’ve ever managed before.” or “I feel myself getting stronger.” You can use affirmations like “I can do this!” or “I’m stronger than I realize.” try using cue words like “Stay Strong” or “”Feeling Fit”.
October 9, 2009
Gravity is always pushing us earthward, so as we age it is normal to expect some rounding forward of the shoulders as we stand upright. In spite of their cardiovascular conditioning, jocks will also experience some “anterior head carriage”, as it is known in the fitness world. This means your chin is jutted forward and there’s a slight collapse of the chest. A hint that this is happening to you is that your eye gaze is on the floor in front of you as you walk normally as opposed to the horizon straight ahead. Anterior head carriage is exaggerated when you are athletic. Lots of running or biking or activities that take you forward through space, also allow gravity to have it’s way in a more apparent way.
In our 40’s and 50’s there are a few simple stretches that you can do (with a towel) when you get out of the shower each day (or am I presuming too much from you sweaty people)to keep you upright and preventing you from hinging forward like an old fogie. Tall people, this is especially important for you. Longer levers have more work to do against gravity than less tall people.If you wait until you are seventy years old to do these stretches, the spinal changes will be structural (bone) rather than muscular so likelihood of reversing this would be zilch. But if are 40 to 50 years old, try stretching. It’s not too late.
Take a towel and twist it like a rope. Hold an end in each hand and bring it overhead and behind you until it is directly behind you and you feel a stretch across the center of your chest. Straighten your wrists and take a big breath in to expand the front of the torso. Do this every day and see if you don’t feel taller.
October 2, 2009
Sometimes if I’m in a mood, I’ll make my spinners take turns doing 20 push-ups between songs. It may seem like I’m bullying them but there is method to my muscle madness. I know from my own experience that the odds of dropping down and doing push-ups or any other resistance training AFTER completing your cardio are slim. I say do your weight work prior to your cardio. Or better yet, insert some weight intervals into your cardio. After 15 minutes on the stairmaster, step off and do squats with heavy weights , do another 10 minutes of cardio, then do 20 push-ups, 10 more minutes of sweating, the some heavy weight bicep curls, etc. This is called circuit training and is a much more efficient way to burn fat, build muscle and gain bone strength. That way, it increases your calorie burn during your aerobic stint plus you rev up your metabolism so that you burn more fat the rest of the day even when your sitting on the couch with Oprah!
Here are some facts about how strength training can boost your health:
It boosts your metabolism for six to fifteen hours after your workout.
It increases your calorie and fat burning activity for 24 to 48 hours post-workout
And 24/7/365 your metabolism will be faster so you burn more fat.
Since five pounds of muscle fits into the space or two and a half pounds of fat, if you gain muscle and lose fat you will be twice as tight and slim!
If you are just doing cardio, good for you, BUT you are getting the smallest return on your time invested. Circuit training takes the relatively small amount of time that you have to exercise, and makes you burn more fat during the rest of your day and week! Would you rather invest seven hours a week, get seven hours of benefit or would you want to invest that same seven hours and get 138 hours of fat burning benefit?
October 2, 2009
Kids’ Fitness Facts
Kids-wise, if your child complains of knee pain, check their arches to be sure they are lifted. Flat feet are common during growth spurts and can strain the joints above, especially the knees and hips. Get orthotics if needed. Baby-wise, keep those toddlers out of shoes. Arches of the feet support all the other domes of the body and are not fully formed until age four or so. Shoes on babies and toddlers interfere with this natural arch formation. Who cares if people think you are a hippie.
Heavy backpacks slung over one shoulder have got to go.I weighed my son’s backpack yesterday and it weighed 21 pounds.On a 90-pound frame that would be the equivalent of my 6-foot husband hefting a 50-pound weight around all day.Wearing this weight intermittently throughout the day is worse if it is on one shoulder, especially if it is the same shoulder.This creates a muscular imbalance, which often escalates to become a muscular strain.
What to do?
My answer is WHEELIE BACKPACKS.I inheritied one myself the other day after my son REFUSED to touch it, let alone pull it through the school halls of sneering peers.I love it.A side benefit is that I feel like I’m a flight attendant briskly hurrying to catch my flight to Bali.Of course I then look down and see my functional Merrils and realize I’m at the gym and not LaGuardia but it’s an enjoyable moment nonetheless.
DO YOU HAVE A NERVOUS CHILD? Teach them this proven breathing technique that actually lowers high blood pressure within two minutes and since stress causes blood pressure to rise, it’s also a stress-buster.I call it the SIX SECOND BREATH. Research has shown (that if you say” Research has Shown” at the beginning of any sentence that it sounds more official) and also that the breathing ratio of ten breathes per minute has a profound settling effect on the central nervous system.That’s inhaling to a slow (one one thousand, two one thousand) 3 count and exhaling to a slow 3 count. Try it for two minutes yourself.
October 2, 2009
Make no bones about it, as we approach middle age(and yes, it has to be called “middle” age.Take the age you expect to live to, then cut it in half-see?)the bare-bone truth about your skeleton is that , especially in pre and post menopausal women, you can ONLY maintain or LOSE bone density. You cannot naturally regain it. Yes, I know there are some strong prescription medicines out there that reverse bone density but you’ve only got to look at the precaution/side effects label on those drugs to try a more wholisitic route if at all possible.
Do you even know if you get 1000 milligrams of calcium everyday? Most multi-vitamins do not add much calcium because it interferes with the absorption of other vitamins. That’s about 3 cups of milk or 12 cups of ice cream:)
I’ve come across way too many ladies going through reverse puberty, as I like to think of it, who take no calcium supplement and the only dairy they consume is milk in their Venti Latte (P.S. Skim milk has the same amount of calcium as whole).
The changing face of fitness is about keeping what you got! It has to be your daily priority! So before we move on to exercises that you can do at home to strengthen your bones through weight-bearing movement(Get those Nikes on), here is what you need to do.Here’s your prescription-1200 mg of calcium along with 1000 mg of D. Taking a calcium supplement with added vitamin D boosts calcium absorption and if your eyes aren’t crossing yet, look for one with Vitamin K(helps form bone protein).
Some purists may not agree but I like the Viactiv calcium chews. They are chocolate chewies that taste okay . Think mini tootsie roll for baby zoomers .20 calories each. You take 2 per day. It’s a nice little treat mid-morning and mid-afternoon. And oh, yeah, you must take them seperately since your body can ONLY ABSORB 500 mgs at a time(who knew).
Calcium fortified Orange Juice has the same amount of calcium as an equal amount of milk.It is worth the extra pennies if you are not a milk drinker because the Vitamin C in the OJ also aids absorption.
Why is this so monotonously important, you wonder?
Decreased bone density is a major cause of fractures in postmenopausal women, mostly wrist, long bones of the foot, spine and hip, with hip fractures increasing significantly later in life(this has to do with the loss of BALANCE, which is another issue. How many of you have a grandparent break something when they lose their balance and topple over,hmm?)
Resistance (or strength training) exercise can make bones stronger so that if you do fall over (hopefully my drinkers are listening)nothing will break!
Try to switch to an aerial view of your lifestyle. Are you more able to see your fitness future?If you don’t like what you see, it’s not to late! Little changes make a difference.Like my teacher, Judith Lasater says,”If you think details don’t matter, remember that one chromosome different on the end of the DNA strand and you’re a monkey.”