April 29, 2011
Oh, I loved that royal wedding this morning. I loved the colorful regalia, the royal opulence, the atmospheric curtsy to romance of times gone by. It occurred to me that it was probably the Queen’s idea of an orgasm. If cathedrals had orgasms THAT would be what it would look like. And it was good for me, too.
Kate, though she smokes and I am trying not to hold that against her, was lifted straight out of a fairy-tale. She looked quite smashingly perfect in that dress. which reminded me of the popularity of wedding shedding–losing weight for the big day.
In fitness, not only do women diet and exercise to get to an ideal weight for the big day, but also the wedding day weight is also often the benchmark that women would like to weigh AGAIN, later in life. It is the life-long number to which women want to return, weight-wise.
In a 2000 Cornell study of 273 women who were getting married within the year, 70% of respondents reported wanting to lose more than twenty pounds. But in reality, by wedding day, their average weight loss was only seven pounds.
Still, weight loss for the wedding day ranks high on women’s lists of pre-nuptial tasks.
I often recommend that people embarking on a weight-loss program pick a not-too-distant date or event, like a class reunion, a wedding anniversary or birthday so that they have something to aim for and work towards.
I wish that I could take the motivation that some female fiancee’s have for fitting into their wedding dress and apply it to later points in their life when they want to lose the weight but are not inspired to do so.
Here is my question: Why isn’t not dying of a heart attack motivation enough for staying close to your ideal weight?
Looking in the mirror and liking what you see is important,too, especially in our culture. Plus there are noticeable and immediate benefits to losing weight, like more energy, feeling wiggle room in your waistband and seeing the numbers on the scale go down—that feels great.
But there are enormous benefits, beyond not having a heart attack, or other age-related illnesses and these benefits only kick in at the end of our lifespan.
It is hard to comprehend that each little lifestyle choice we make today will have a huge impact on our life-length but it is true that over time, the difference in life-length (excepting a tsunami or a terrorist attack) can be radically longer for those who consistently choose the right food and exercise consistently and vigorously.
It is called the butterfly effect (check Wikipedia) and it applies in health and lifestyle as well.
Now if we could only get Kate to stop smoking; she’s likely get seven extra years and perhaps live to be a queen. I would love that.
April 20, 2011
Forgive me Lord, in advance for what I’m about to do. This week is Holy Week and for those of you not in the know about Jesus and his crazy life, this week marks the end of Lent, the craziest of the last forty days of Jesus’ crazy life on this planet.
Lent is the time period of precontemplative willingness to endure some form of suffering in symbolic recognition of The Man’s Walk to Glory, ending on Easter Sunday.
And as is my tendency to tie one remote day-to-day topic to the ever-present topic of fitness, I awoke last night correlating the end of Lent as the perfect time to make that fitness change, Christians and non-Christians alike.
Almost forty days ago when it began, few people jumped on the Lenten wagon.
I challenge you all to use this final phase of Lent to consider giving up one of your addictions, even if it’s just for a few days. Four is the magic number for success with any new fitness regime. Day Four is breakthrough day.
Lack of fitness can lead to many adverse symptoms including death, the final symptom. The time period of Lent is a culturally accepted way of stopping the saboteurs in your life-the ones who leave homemade cookies in the lunchroom and make your favorite fettuccini Alfredo even though they know that you are in Phase One of The Zone Diet, of which fettuccini of any kind is not a part.
The simple phrase, “I’m giving it up for Lent” stops the saboteurs short.
If Father Guido Sarducci from Saturday Night Live can give up his mentholated cigarettes for Lent then certainly we can get down to this business of abstention and sacrifice in the name of God and if not in the name of God then at least in the name of Fitness and if not for forty days then at least for four days; not that they are the same motivation but the giving up part will still help you reap the similar benefits.
If you need yet more motivation to head into four days and nights of some form of depravity, consider that the idea that restraint reaches into many other religious practices, yoga being the first to come to my mind.
The second of the eight limbs of the Ashtanga yoga path to enlightenment is the yamas which are ethical precepts that are supposed to make us better people. The yamas are called restraints because they are things you withhold or give up, ahimsa being the first and most famous yama, which means non-violence, which is where the idea of vegetarianism comes from. There’s also truth-telling meaning don’t lie and there’s non-stealing and non-greediness and the no sex yama which is a bit trickier.
If any of these are hard for you, then giving that up is a good place to start. Why? Self-awareness for starters. Giving up alcohol or coffee or swearing or procrastination (nah, let’s do this one later) or TV or junk food or texting while driving or Facebook can all be eye-opening experiences. Becoming aware of our addictions is a walk into the deeper parts of our consciousness and has the capability to wake us up.
Renunciation is a tool to facing that to which we are enslaved. It is not for the weak. It demands strength and discipline.But humans survived the ice age. Building up your ability to resist even a minor addiction will make you a survivor.
Consider enduring a time period of restraint in one small corner of your daily life. It can weaken self-absorption and self- deception, self-indulgence and over-indulgence. This builds fortitude.
The lesson of Lent for people who don’t officially observe Lent is to be willing to change, to be happy in spite of what we do not have, to become aware of our attachments, to be less of a slave to our mind and to learn patience and develop endurance.
Maybe there is some scientific basis for the healing power of restraint. All I know is that as far as fitness is concerned, restraint keeps us from giving up and helps us to continue to try to be better and to live better and then even if we aren’t actually better, we can hopefully be happy with what we’ve been given.
April 15, 2011
“If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it, even if I did not have the ability in the beginning.” Mahatma Gandhi
The hardest part of going to the gym is pulling into the parking lot. Going to the gym is a sentence people like to toss around. “I’m going to the gym right now” sounds so much better than “I’m going to get my dog’s nails clipped” and appreciably better than “I’m going to the post office.” Going to the gym is easy to say.
Getting to the gym is harder. But once you park your car, grab your gym bag and lock up, your mind will catch up with your sneakers and stop making excuses or trying to avoid the workout. It’s natural to feel some resistance but if can you chose to do it anyway, then you will be in the driver’s seat of your life. Your body is the one thing that is almost always within your control.
By focusing on getting the car parked at the gym, you take charge of a measurable element of your physical nature and therefore are less dependent on other things in life mostly outside your control. I gave up coffee a month ago and have been substituting green tea but still, when I walk into a Starbucks, I always really, really want the biggest Cappuccino on the menu. Lifestyle coaches call this emotional discomfort. But I just choose to feel this edginess and carry on anyway. I order the green tea, sigh and the moment passes.
I expect this discomfort to ease over time as well, just like the routine of gym-going can become less of a debate the more you get there. You may still be aware of emotional resistance, but you keep walking, you sigh, you get in the car and get to the parking lot.
The key point to remember is that you won’t see improvement if you wait for the discomfort to disappear before you act. Action itself is what dissipates the resistance. Start viewing your exercise regime as a part of your non-debatable routine, like combing your hair. The no brainer stuff like brushing your teeth does not have to be re-thought or re-considered every time it’s time to do it. You just need to get the tooth brush and take action-no thought required. Exercise gives you the blue print for improving your inner game.
Improving your inner game trickles outward and improves how you walk in the world. This is especially critical if your life is not quite going according to the blueprint. Once your body–which is the one concrete feedback tool that you walk this earth in-once your body feels better, your life will be better, even though at first it may be on an imperceptible level. It’s never too late to start.
A scientist once said, ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Why not start by reinventing yourself.
April 9, 2011
Recent Scene: Indoor Cycling class on Thursday morning
Event: Retro Spin Class-Bringing Back the 80’s
Attire: Headbands, Dirty Dancing style; Leg warmers ala Flashdance; Hairdos compliments of Chrissy from Three’s Company-
Do you remember The Jane Fonda Workout? I sure do, down to the very last leg lift, although I haven’t thought about it in decades. Which is why I decided to take my spinners on a trip down memory lane. That and also the fact that one of my personal priorities in my job is to nourish my sick sense of humor. Asking 50(plus) year old women to garnish a thong exceeded my goal towards that end.
We all had a few belly laughs as well as some snickers from the back row students, especially those sitting behind the re-thonged. There was No Parking On The Dance Floor. They all got with it, or else I was forced to give them a ticket. (toot-toot, beep-beep)
It was a workout but it was also a party. It was also a celebration of where we all began thirty (!!) years ago.
Jane Fonda revolutionized the way we all thought of exercise, most especially for women. Jane brought attitude to exercise. If you think about it (5! 6! 7! 8!) women pre-Jane had only exercised regularly. (zzzz…)
Even walking and jogging were the exception as opposed to the rule. No one thought to ask “Are we having fun yet?” And if someone had asked, the answer would’ve been “no.”
In honor of this fitness frontier pioneer, I give you
THE TOP TEN EXERCISES OF THE 80’s
And WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
1. STEP CLASS-Step classes are the dinosaurs of the aerobics world for one reason: the knee joint. Repetitive flexion with impack is killer on this hinge joint. The knee is not a ball joint like the ankle, shoulder and hip so it takes a lot of abuse. We all used to do pivots, reverses-God, I loved these!-flying through the air like a ballerina on crack–and this added torque. Bottom line is that Step class is like a hunky, bad boyfriend. You love it when you are doing it but the next morning you can barely stand the pain.
2. CALISTHENICS-Fire Hydrants, Pizza Lifts, Happy Boyfriend Inner Thigh Flies, etcThank you, Jackie Sorensen, the inventor of Jazzersize for bringing us the burn. These new movements were the first time we learned to isolate a body part and tone it. Now we know better methods to work specific muscles like squats and lunges and we also know that adding heavier weights get better results faster and also the sad fact that there is no such thing as spot reducing.
3. BRIDGE BUTT SQUEEZES- see #2, although these are still the most effective way to tone the pelvic floor if you keep the glutes relaxed. This will keep you from peeing when you sneeze or cough.
4. SQUAT THRUSTS-Great plyometrics -leaps, hops, jumps-but momentum +speed+full range of motion= high injury risk. Translation: great move for athletes in competitive training and for teens but an accident waiting to happen for people fifty years plus. Make that 40.
5. WINDMILLS- Envision a standing straddle, bend forward and alternate opposite hand to foot.
Technically this is called unsupported flexion with torque. You never see anyone doing this nowadays. Windmills are the free-radicals fo the exercise universe. If you are in a class and they are doing this, leave. It will increase your likelihood for low back pain and you could herniated a disk
6. BALLISTIC STRETCHING- There a re a few things that we used to do that we now know better than to do. Bloodletting is one. Ballistic- or bouncing-stretching- is another. New science has discovered that if you lengthen a muscle then bounce into that stretch it actually makes the muscle contract rather than release. So you get less of what you want, not more.
7. WARM UP STRETCHING- Don’t bother. Studies have shown repeatedly that stretching prior to your exercise does not prevent injuries or improve performance. Lots of people still like to do it so I will humor you and say go ahead. Really all you need to do is start your activity at half speed and gradually amp it up.
8. JIGGLE BELTS- Elaine Powers Toning Salons-do you remember them?-they had jiggle belts when I worked there in 1984. It turns out that there was science behind the flab-flapping. NASA scientists were researching ways to rebuild muscle and bone mass in atrophied astronauts returning to earth after extended time spent in zero-gravity. They found that vibration-if it was really fast and irregular in it’s pattern-could stimulate both bone and muscle strength. Google the Power Plate.
9. HIGH IMPACT AEROBICS- My all-time favorite exercise class of all-not Low-Impact, not Multi-Impact, not High/Low. I loved the jumping jacks, the high knee jogs, the dancer leaps, jumps and bounds and I could kick higher than my head. We did kick-lines, the Can-Can, Speed Skater Leaps. I was the highest jumper in the Elaine Powers health club chain. But the very part that I loved about it-jumping up and down on concrete floors was the very thing that was destroying the cushioning in my hips and knees. We crammed sixty years of impact into twenty. Do you remember the song “Pound, Pound, Pound”? That was our theme. Now, the former High-Impact people are now spinning. We can still get that high-intensity cardio workout without the pounding.
10. SUICIDE SPRINTS-This takes me back to high school basketball practice. If I was talking instead of dribbling-which was usually the case-I had to run suicides. Sprinting to the 1/4 court line, touching it, racing back, sprinting to half-court line, touching it, sprinting back; Sprinting to 3//4 court line, touch, race back; Sprinting to full-court line, touch, racing back. AFAP-As Fast As Possible. These movements are how young girls tear their ACL’s if they are not taught how to get their body-their center of gravity-down low (by bending their knees, ironically)as they bend over while pivoting. Don’t do these unless you have an educated coach interested in your long-term knee health.
THE 80’s PLAYLIST TO GO WITH IT
-No Parking on the Dance Floor
-Do You Wanna Funk
-Holding Out For A Hero
-Pound, Pound, Pound
-The Hustle (really the 70’s but who’s that picky)
-If I Could Read Your Mind
-Last Dance- and all of Donna Summer’s songs
-Dancing In The Street
-Disco Inferno (Burn Baby, Burn)
-What A Feeling (Flashdance)
-I Will Survive
And guess what? We have survived. It might not feel the same-Jane Fonda now has two hip replacements and one knee replacement. She is still standing though. And we can always go back and have an Old School moment. Don’t you feel the burn?
April 1, 2011
1.Get high on the Stairmaster-if exercise were in pill form everyone would be addicted. It would be the new OxyContin-call it ExerContin-but we wouldn’t need detox.
It would make you feel, not just fit and healthy but also smart and hot.
2. Tunes- The right music can convert not only exercise but most activities from a dismal form of torment to a hand-raising, heart-pulsing, feel-good-hormone inducing festival
3. Get Outdoors- Even if you are a gym rat, make outside activities a priority. It’s free, you’ll get Vitamin D, You’ll remember things, like how good it feels to be roofless.
4. Napping- Another under-rated activity. I recommend the twenty minute 3pm power nap. You can still get REM time-the most restful segment of sleeptime.
5. Lucid Dreaming-Have you heard of this? It’s a learnable skill where you realize you are dreaming and learn how to problem-solve. You can also fly and have sex with anyone you want.
6. Reading- What part of your day is spent reading things you can’t get enough of? Make a point of finding some reading material that really lights your brain up.
7. Eat Less-Having less to spend on food doesn’t mean you have to eat off the Dollar menu. It is a great reason to get more nutritional bang for your buck. I’ve been having friends over and serving meals on little plates, with big salads on the side, and no seconds. Call me frugal but they don’t hate me the next day.
8. Stress-Reduction- Low-Dough can bring on extreme stress so make stress reduction a part of your day. Meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, breath focusing, yoga, humming, self-hypnosis, singing, praying, and guided visualization will all help. Look for any activity that helps you focus on relaxing your muscles, slowing and deepening your breathing, and kicking-in your parasympathetic nervous system.
9. Dancing-Bopping around with other middle-aged folks -or your teenage daughter if you are lucky–another under-utilized free activity that usually joy-inducing or at the very least smile-inducing.
10.Do what makes you Happy-Hug the dog. Never pass up an opportunity to giggle, tell a corny joke or diso your way through step class. If what makes you happy is acting like a constipated Dick Cheney, then go ahead and do that too, but stay the heck away from me
See you on the elliptical/ at the beach/in the produce section.