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Alleviate Shoulder Tension with These 10 Healthy Movement Habits to Help You Feel Great

Alleviate Shoulder TensionAre you sick and tired of aggravating neck and shoulder pain, and ready to change your habits to help alleviate shoulder tension?

I’ve had the opportunity to help so many clients over the past 20+ years teaching Pilates who have walked thru my door complaining of neck and shoulder tension, stress, chronic pain, or rotator cuff injuries.  It’s amazing how quickly things can improve with a better understanding of posture, breathing, body alignment.  Then getting the right exercises into your weekly workout program to reinforce healthy new movement habits and alleviate shoulder tension is the ultimate way to keep the pain away.

It’s a 3-Step Process to get your brain and body in sync for better health.  We don’t know what we don’t know. It’s impossible to make corrections or improvements with our movement habits to alleviate shoulder tension if we don’t realize we need to change, or have never been shown a better way to stand, sit, breathe, or move.

Step 1: Your brain has to be able to send the right message to your muscles. Cognitively understanding what needs to happen is the first step. If you don’t even realize that there is something you’re doing with a daily habit, task, or exercise that is creating the pain, OR that there is actually something that you can do about it, how on earth can you ever fix it? Your brain is the master controller for the rest of your body.  Your body sends a message to the brain that there is pain…  The brain is then supposed to help the body fix it!  How often do you ignore the pain and just keep doing what you’re doing? (or try medicating & masking the pain with a pill – so you can ignore the problem and hope it will just go away?)

Step 2: Improve Your Body Awareness. Being able to find and feel things working differently in your own body is step 2.  It’s important to be able to notice when you’re doing things right or wrong so you have an opportunity to make adjustments for better health.  There is a level of trust that needs to be restored between your brain and body, to improve confidence that if there is a problem, you acknowledge it, and will take action to improve the situation.

Step 3: Practice Good Posture and Healthy Movement Habits.  By applying better body mechanics to every physical activity you do, you get to put your new-and-improved posture habits into practice to help re-train the right muscles to support healthy pain-free movement; reducing your risk of injury and ensuring that whatever activity you do it’s safe and effective to help you stay healthy.  This not only helps alleviate shoulder tension, but helps develop a well-balanced body to keep your whole-body healthy!

Even when we’re sitting still, doing nothing, it can be challenging to alleviate shoulder tension!  Just thinking about things that increase our stress level can effect the amount of neck and shoulder tension we’re holding onto.  Being cold and shivering will wrap your shoulders up around your ears quickly also, and you might not even realize why it’s happening.  Too much time in front of your computer, sitting in a recliner watching TV, or bending your head forward to text message on your phone all are daily life activities that may be contributing to neck and shoulder tension problems.

If you’re tired of complaining about neck and shoulder tension and ready to start paying attention to what you’re doing along with learning how to take better care of your body, there is something you can do about it.  Yes, getting a massage might help you enjoy some temporary relief, but for lasting results it’s time to take control of your body and be pro-active to improve how you stand, sit, and MOVE.

Here are 10 healthy movement habits you can start incorporating into your daily routine to help alleviate shoulder tension.

Posted by administrator in Functional Movement, Shoulder Pain.

Shoulder Tension, Stress, and Shivering: How Winter Weather Affects Your Health

Shoulder  Tension, Stress, & Shivering

Have you ever thought about relationship being cold has on the amount of shoulder tension and neck stress you’re holding onto in your body?

If you’re in a colder climate do you seem to feel worse in the Winter, and not-so-bad in warmer months?  Are you one who usually blames the stress of the Holidays for your neck and shoulder pain?  Lack of sunshine might not be the only reason your body is feeling more tight and achy than usual.

This year it has seemed quite a bit chillier here in Kansas, and maybe that’s why I’ve noticed how the winter weather is effecting shoulder tension. It seems a lot of my clients are catching on to the connection too.  The body’s natural reflex response when cold is to shiver.  These little micro, muscle contractions are designed to create heat and energy to keep us warm, maintain our internal body temperature.  These micro, muscle contractsion are a great reminder that hypothermia might be where we’re headed if we don’t do something soon to warm up. However, in the process, we end up creating lots of internal shoulder tension we might not be taking the time to clear out of our system.

Think about it; If you just sit in your chair reading this and “pretend” your cold, how does your body react?  Do you slouch more, trying to curl up in a fetal position?  Did you draw your shoulders up and forward around your ears?  Did you head drop even farther forward off your neck?  Did you slump into the pelvis and collapse the ribs and back?  Did you start shivering a bit while you were “pretending” to be cold?

Here’s the thing… If this is what happens when you’re “pretending” for only a minute, how long are you hanging out in this awkward poor posture position throughout the day? Or, for days on end? But what if we hang on to this awkward, poor posture position throughout the cold winter months? Aren’t we just reinforcing bad body alignment and creating chronic neck pain and shoulder tension?

Awareness is the first step in taming winter neck and shoulder tension.  Pay attention to your posture, because there’s a very good change that YOUR posture habits are creating the problem!

Is it possible to just never be cold so you don’t shiver? Probably not. But knowing that the posture you put yourself in while shivering is wreaking havoc on your health, means that taking the time to bundle up to stay warm when you’re outside is important, and taking a little extra time to “undo” the effects of shivering will do your body worlds of good to help keep your neck and shoulders happy and stress-free through the winter while we await warmer months.

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Have you taken my quick Posture Quiz?  Improve body awareness for better posture to help get those shoulders down away from your ears.  For more low center support (and fitness for whole-body health) get a copy of the e-book The Pulse-Power Daily Dozen – 10 minute Workout.  The Pulse-Power Daily Dozen exercises are easy-to-learn, and great for a warm-up, cool-down, or as a stand-alone quick whole-body conditioning program to deepen your mind-body connection and help you get more from your core to help keep your shoulders away from your ears to reduce shoulder tension.

Posted by administrator in Functional Movement, Posture Improvement.

Heart Health and the Benefits of Pilates to Improve Your Quality of Life

Heart Health and Pilates to Improve Your LifeHeart Health is More than just Cardio.

Yes, the heart is a muscle and it’s important to do activities that get our blood pumping.  To keep our heart strong and work on improving heart health with exercise it’s important to do at least 20-60 minutes of aerobic activity (walking, running, biking, swimming, rowing, elliptical, hiking, skating, dancing…) Any activity you enjoy that gets your body in its optimal target heart rate zone for aerobic activity, at least 3-5 days a week.

You’ve got lots of options to improve hearth health.   And there are good reasons to do Pilates, because a vigorous Pilates workout IS improving heart health. (In more ways than just strengthening the heart muscle and improving blood flow.)

Yes, it’s true that Pilates is not considered an aerobic activity.  But here are ten good reasons why doing Pilates regularly IS important for your Cardiovascular activities to help improve heart health.

10 Ways Pilates Can Help Improve Heart Health and Enhance Your Quality of Life

  1. Pilates helps develop better posture. With better posture and good body alignment, there will be less wear and tear on your body while you’re “pounding the pavement” and getting your cardio workouts done.
  2. Pilates helps improve body awareness to find and use the right muscles to move. (Regardless of the activity, overusing the wrong muscles ultimately will lead to injury. And most cardio training activities involve repetitive movements.)
  3. Pilates posterior-lateral breathing improves breath control. Pilates breathing helps you get more nourishing oxygen INTO your body, and more waste out.  Better breathing habits makes it easier to enjoy cardio training plus you will get better benefits from your efforts.
  4. Pilates helps improve balanced muscle development to avoid injuries. If you’ve ever had an injury or accident, or have dealt with chronic to foot, knee, hip, back, shoulder, or neck pain problems, getting your body in balance matters to stay healthy!
  5. Pilates connects mind, body, and movement to help boost confidence, and learn to trust AND listen to how your body feels. By paying closer attention to what you’re doing when you move, how you move, what you’re using to move, and how you feel, it becomes easier to adjust, and pace your workouts to stay safe, healthy, and injury-free.
  6. Pilates is a system to MOVE well for better health. Pilates isn’t just a bunch of exercises done on a mat or machines for a “workout.”  Your ultimate goal is to take what you learn with Pilates out the door into your daily life activities, and other fitness workouts.
  7. Pilates takes stress OFF the joints while helping you get an effective whole-body workout.
  8. Pilates combines strength and flexibility into each and every exercise.
  9. Pilates improves core support. Which is much more involved than just working your abs.  Effective use of your core helps stabilize the pelvis, improves gait, strengthens the back, takes the stress off hips, knees, and feet, helps shoulder mechanics, and supports healthy movement habits.
  10. Pilates helps lift your Spirits, reduces mental stress, and improves your life! So many people during cardio workouts put on their headphones and jam, watch TV on the treadmill, and completely tune-out what they’re doing with their body during cardio.  Pilates helps improve your focus to pay attention to what’s going on INSIDE the body during your workouts, so you can take good care of yourself!  Do this enough, and regardless of external stimulus, you will always make smart choices to stay safe and healthy.

On a historical note:  Joseph Pilates did incorporate jogging, jumping jacks, and more vigorous calisthenic exercises into his workouts – take a peek at some of the old historical films, and you’ll see how much he believed being outdoors to breathe in fresh air and move was a part of his philosophy for better health.

Then there is the jump-board option on the Reformer… Although 20-60 minutes on the jump-board (in my opinion) does not fall into the 3-5, up to 10 rep philosophy of working the Pilates system for a whole-body workout in an hour.  But it can be a great lower-impact option to work some intervals into your Pilates workouts.

Whatever you choose to do… Take time to take care of YOU!  Get your weekly cardio workouts in, do Pilates, get regular health check-ups with your Physician.  Your heart health matters – physically, mentally, and emotionally.  We’ve only got one ticker, and it doesn’t get a break, the beat must go on. Enjoy better health with a healthy heart.

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Interested in adding Pilates to your weekly workout routine?  Want to try something fun and new to challenge your cardio workouts?  Contact me for details to get started at Bodhi Body Pilates – A Centerworks Studio with our Pilates programs and Coreglide Cardio+ class.

Posted by administrator in Exercise and Fitness, Pilates.

My Sprained Ankle Accident – And What I plan to Do to Improve My Foot Fitness

A Sprained Ankle Doesn’t Have to Become a Chronic Foot Pain Problem

Sprained Ankle and Injury RecoveryCan’t remember the last time I had a sprained ankle… It’s been 30 years or more.  My silly sprained ankle accident happened a week ago Saturday.  I stepped in a low spot in a parking lot and turned my ankle.  Really wrenched it!  My foot turned completely sideways and all my weight went on it.  I quickly righted myself, and limped for a few steps, then proceeded with my day, kind of amazed that nothing “popped” seemed to crack, or hurt very badly.  If it had been anybody else, (who doesn’t focus on foot fitness,) I’m guessing they would have been carted off to the emergency room with way more than a sprained ankle, probably a fractured foot, or lots of torn tendons and ligaments.

Is my foot 100% back to normal, not quite.  I overstretched things a lot! And I’m counting myself very lucky, it should have been so much worse than just a sprained ankle.  I’m still treating it gingerly to heal fully.  BUT zero swelling, zero bruising, and when I went to the chiropractor today, I have full movement, the joint is open, and he was amazed when I told him what I’d done.  My foot and ankle are only a little sore, with a tiny bit of inflammation which is so much less than I expected based on my stupid parking lot mishap. (Silly things happen to the best of us.)

Why am I sharing this?  Because preventative medicine isn’t just pills and potions.  There are so many things we can do to ensure good health.  It starts with learning how to listen to the body and take care of our daily needs.  Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and daily exercise can go a long way to preventing illness and injury for a happy, healthy, and active life.  I was tired, I’d had a long workout, and wasn’t really looking at where I put my foot down when my accident happened. So know I’m dealing with the repercussions of my little mishap.

It’s important to listen to our bodies when something is not quite right, to allow the healing time necessary to keep injuries from turning into chronic pain problems if you really want to stay healthy.  This seems especially challenging when we’ve got foot pain problems, because we need our feet to take us where we want/need to go.  If you limp around on a sprained ankle, and do you really think it’s going to get better quickly?

A holistic approach to good health means one should pay attention to everything they do as our choices affect our outcomes.   “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” was Benjamin Franklin’s famous saying which holds true here too.  It’s easier to stay healthy, than to get your good health back.  Making wise choices with everything you do will help maintain your good health.

My question for you to consider today…

(I’m assuming that you’re already making lots of great efforts to improve your wellness) If you’re making great health choices for the rest of your body… What are you doing for your feet? 

Good health starts from the ground up!  If you want to fine-tune your fitness, improve your posture for better body alignment and keep all your muscles working well, please don’t forget about your feet!

What do I know saved me from a serious foot injury last week and has me dealing with just a sprained ankle?  The foot fitness exercises I do and teach!  Especially what’s listed below:

  • The Terrific Toe series exercises, and Standing foot exercises from the Fantastic Feet book
  • The Super-Ankle Foot Fit Board exercises
  • My lateral skate training, and Coreglide board classes at Bodhi Body Pilates
  • My weekly Pilates workouts with focused foot exercises including Footwork, the Stomach Massage series, and Running on the Reformer.

I’m so very grateful to be walking this week! But trust me, I’m not walking for a workout, or doing much in a full-weight bearing position. Giving my foot a little rest-break to recover, then planning to double up on my foot-care routine to ensure it’s a very long time (hopefully never) before something like this happens again!

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To take good care of your feet, and be sure you’ve got the resources you need to stretch, and strengthen your ankles, arches, and toes – I recommend you get a Runfit Kit.  The Runfit Kit contains all my favorite foot-fitness exercise tools and toys to help keep your feet in tip-top shape for better health. (Running is not a requirement, to get benefits from the foot-care resources in this helpful foot-care kit!)

If you already have a copy of the book Fantastic Feet, and have been doing your exercises, you can purchase the rest of the foot-care resources separately in the Foot Fitness section of the Centerworks store.

Posted by administrator in Alleviating Pain & Chronic Health Problems, Foot Care & Foot Fitness.

Get The Best Pilates Exercises Into Your Workouts To Maximize the Whole-Body Health Benefits of the Pilates System

Are you interested in getting the best Pilates exercises in your weekly workout routine to maximize the whole-body health benefits from your efforts?  Check out my myth-busting training tips to be sure you’re working everything from your head to your toes to harness the true power of the Pilates System.

On a pretty regular basis I have clients ask me what the best Pilates exercises are they can use to fix a problem area, spot-tone, or solve a nagging ache or pain.  And occasionally there can be one specific exercise that works to help head them in the right direction to get results. But more often there’s not one exercise that will ever be the BE ALL, END ALL, only thing you need to do to improve your health.  That’s like wanting to take that “magic pill” to lose weight, or expecting surgery to take you from incapacitated to better than new.  It just doesn’t work that way!

Recently, I had an old friend call me who’s got a back pain problem.  He’d tried physical therapy (before he knew exactly what was wrong…) then pain meds, and then finally went to the doctor.  Definitely a backwards order to address the issue, but at least he finally knows what’s wrong, and can start working on a real solution.  His doctor recommended Pilates, and told him he needed “rock hard Abs” and Pilates would help with that.  His PT gave him an exercise sheet with a couple of Pilates Mat exercises.  Then he remembered that he had a friend that teaches Pilates, so he called to get some insights on how to proceed.  Not sure he loved my answer…  Since I couldn’t recommend that he just pull a couple exercises out of the Matwork series to solve his back pain problems, but that I needed to see and work with him to help get the best Pilates exercises into his program, and that Matwork probably wouldn’t be what I would start with for his particular back issues. (And in my opinion, “rock hard Abs” aren’t the full solution either!)

Then, while I was at the doctor’s office chatting with a gal in the lab, she found out I taught Pilates and her comment was, “Pilates is really hard, I’ve done a class or two at the gym, I’m not very good at it.”  So I asked, “Have you ever had a lesson with the Pilates equipment?”  And her response; “There’s Pilates equipment?

Why yes, Pilates is a SYSTEM, which includes a series of Matwork or floorwork exercises and specialized spring-tensioned equipment.  To get the best benefits from Pilates, it’s ideal that you work the system, incorporating both the Matwork and Pilates exercises on the Reformer, Cadillac, Chairs, and Barrels into your workouts.

This reminds me that even though Pilates has been around since the 1920’s, and has gained huge popularity in the past 20 years, there are still lots of people who really know nothing about the health benefits of the Pilates system.  As Pilates professionals, we’ve still got a little bit of myth-busting to do to help people get the best Pilates exercises in to their weekly workout routine.  Ready?  Here we go…

My Myth-Busting Training Tips To Help You Get the Best Pilates Exercises into Your Workouts

Posted by administrator in Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips.

Overcome the Fear of Failure & Strive for Success

Overcome fear of failureDon’t let the fear of failure sabotage your success

Are you ready to stop making excuses?  Is it time to get out of your own way and overcome the fear of failure to achieve success?  Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Or exhausted by the energy you’re wasting that doesn’t seem to be moving you in the right direction? Don’t lose hope, try applying these 6 simple strategies to overcome the fear of failure and strive for success.

Trust me… I’m right there with you on so many levels.  It’s funny how life keeps giving us the opportunity to improve and break through the barriers that have been holding us back.  I actually planned to write this 6 months ago, even made my outline, and somehow, it’s just today that I’m finally getting around to doing it.  Hmmm, guess this just shows that I’m human too!  And points out yet again that the topic of FEAR, and fear of failure is a biggie for me.

As I’m sharing my thoughts with you, I’m soaking in the success principles right along with you. Even though somewhere deep inside, we probably know exactly what we need to do to reach our goals, fear can sometimes block our progress.   Once we realize it’s happening, we’ve got a choice, let it stop us, or face our fears and do it anyway. 

Today, I’m in the zone of facing my fears, I hope you’ll join me and lets have a breakthrough on our journey to wellness success.

As I’m writing this I’m googling Thomas Edison. Seriously, if you need a swift kick in the butt, start reading some of Edison’s quotes!  Clearly to Edison, failure wasn’t failure, instead it was one step closer to a solution that worked.  It took Thomas Edison 10,000 tries to invent the light bulb.  Have you made 10,000 (or more) whole-hearted efforts to reach one of your goals?  And his comments when asked about the struggle to do it, “I never failed once.  It just happened to be a 2000 step process. I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  While I might be mashing a few quotes together, I’m hoping you get it.  Here’s another thought from Edison, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”  And how about this little gem, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

OK now, are you gaining a few insights into why (in the past), you haven’t quite achieved success?  Whether it’s on the health and fitness front, diet and nutrition, or life goals; did you try once or twice and give up?  Or just think about doing something but not take action?  We need to learn how to look at every possible roadblock as an opportunity to create a new way to move forward.  Just because the first thing we did, didn’t work as “planned” doesn’t mean there isn’t another way.  This happens to me all the time when my husband is helping me with a tech issue on my computer.  His way of navigating and mine are very different!  Granted some of his click paths are quicker, but mine work just as well.  Here’s the point, it doesn’t matter what path you take, as long as you’re clicking along.

Scenarios, Strategies, and Solutions.  I have a dear friend, Mike Rayburn, who is an amazing musician and motivational speaker.  He asks the question “What IF?” to his audiences.  And it’s a great question!  What IF you were healthier?  How would it look?  How would you feel?  What would you be able to do that you can’t do right now?  You can ask the question “What IF” and put anything that’s meaningful for your brain to explore, to look at scenarios, strategies, and solutions.

I like to think positively, but if you spun this question around and asked, “What if I had a major heart attack?” (Or experienced a serious injury, or accident.) What would my life be like?  How would it impact me physically, emotionally, financially?  How would it affect my family, my ability to work, play, and enjoy a healthy and active life?  This might not be a “What if” question for you, you may have already experienced something that landed you in a crappy-life scenario.  If so, how is it, and do you want to stay there?

You may discover that looking at things from a negative perspective and visualizing the possible not-so-pretty scenarios will motivate you to find better strategies and solutions to overcome the fear of failure and keep striving for success.

Open your brain to the possibility that you can always work to improve your life and circumstances.

Share your fears and develop a support system to help lift you up so you’re not “facing your fears” alone.  Of course we have to know who to blurt out this very sensitive personal information to, but even when we inadvertently express our fears to the wrong people, there is personal power in stating that we’re working thru a challenge, because it supports our brain power to work, think, and act differently. 

A year or two ago, I had the chance to spend a weekend at Banning Mills where they have the world’s longest zip line course.  Let me just express that I was not thrilled to go on this adventure.  I have an extreme fear of heights and lots of personal reasons to prefer keeping my feet on the ground instead of dangling from a little metal hook and steel cable 20-200+ feet in the air!  But I showed up, I suited up, and I survived.

Was it the best day of my life – not really, but I did it.  Yes there were brief moments of fun, and a whole lot of moments of sheer terror.  While everybody else was laughing, chatting and zipping along, I was white-knuckled, gritting my teeth, taking lots of deep breaths, and 100% focused on every step I took between tree branches.  It might have been the longest day of my life.  Would I do it again?  Maybe…

The friends we went with were daredevil/adrenaline rush junkies.  When I commented that because of my life-long battle with depression and suicidal thoughts I could see no good reason to put myself at risk for actually “killing myself” because I work too hard on a daily basis to stay present and enjoy life.  My comment was an eye-opener for both of us.  I never really put into words why I don’t like high-speed, crazy, or dangerous activities so I got a better understanding of the choices I make with sports and recreational activities that are fun and meaningful to me. And my daredevil friends, who never gave a thought to why everybody wouldn’t want to be just like them, got to look at the world from a different perspective.  I got respect and admiration for showing up and playing, and that meant the world to me in emotional support for my moment of overcoming my little fear of heights and high-speed terror.  I believe that there is more support and assistance available to us than we probably realize.  Speak up and find out who is in your corner to help you get thru the sticky spots in life.

The power of positive thinking can go a very long way to helping us break thru barriers, overcome the fear of failure, and reach our goals.

Finish this sentence as many different ways as you can, with a positive word:

“I am _____________________.”

I am strong, I am thin, I am healthy, I am fit, I am capable, I am smart, I am creative, I am resourceful, I am beautiful, I am worthy…  What positive thoughts and words can you feed your brain to boost belief in yourself and your ability to take action to strive for success. 

Here’s a thought to spur you on — from the father of positive thinking, Norman Vincent Peale:

 “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” 

What do you want or need to change, to overcome your fears?

It’s time to take ACTION!  “Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence.  Inaction is not only the result, but the cause of fear.  Perhaps the action you take will be successful: perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow.  But any action is better than no action at all.”  — Norman Vincent Peale.

To Summarize these 6 Simple Strategies to Overcome the Fear of Failure and Strive for Success

  1. Don’t let fear get in the way of looking for the next possible solution. Keep in mind the brilliant thoughts from Thomas Edison about failing your way to success! It’s important to keep failing forward until we achieve success.
  2. Remember that every roadblock is an opportunity to create a new way to move forward.
  3. “What IF?” Use your brain power to analyze scenarios, strategies, and solutions.
  4. Share your fears and develop a support system to help carry you forward.
  5. There is POWER in positive thinking! “Change your thoughts, and change your world.”  Norman Vincent Peale.
  6. Take ACTION. Action will build your confidence, and ensure that you are moving forward to overcome your fears and achieve success!

Posted by administrator in Motivation, Inspiration & Goal Setting.

Top 5 At-Home Pilates Training Tools

At-Home Pilates Training ToolsHow to Have FUN with your Fitness Program and Make the Most of Your At-Home Workouts with Pilates Training Tools

I have a client, Donna, who has probably purchased at least 5 foam rollers!  She wanted one to use at home in-between her studio workouts.  But the funny thing is, every time her kids and grand-kids come over to visit, everybody is fighting for time on her foam roller.  The kids think it’s something fun to play with; the adults realize the value in the tool for posture, core support, and better health. Because Donna has shown them some of the exercises that she uses it for, her at-home Pilates training tools have aren’t just for a workout but are also fun!  Because she cares about the health of her family, Donna always ends up sending them home with her Foam Roller, buying another one from me the next time she’s in the studio.  Maybe this trend will slow down one day, but in the meantime, she’s sharing the love and passing on the “joy of toys” with her family for health improvement at home.

Every fitness training tool and toy you purchase is an investment in your health.

It’s important to make smart buying decisions.  Ask yourself the following three questions before purchasing anything.

  1. Do I believe in the value the product offers to help me improve me health?
  2. Do I like and trust the seller?
  3. And most importantly – Will I actually USE the products? Because there is no sense in spending your money on anything if you’re not going to actually use it!

With that said, we have lots of parts and pieces to organize to keep strong, fit, and flexible.  We focus on cardiovascular conditioning – walking, running, cycling, rowing, stair climbing, swimming, elliptical machines…  You can do strength training with weights, balls, kettle-bells, or bands.  There are at-home video programs like P90X, Body Beast, Beachbody, and a million others… All of these are training tools and resources.  If you are a Yogi, chances are you’ve got a good mat, a strap, a couple of Yoga blocks, and probably a bolster and blanket at home to assist you with your practice.  Most of my Pilates clients have at least a few training toys at home.  And while they might not use them all every day, they’re in a good rotation to be able to supplement their workouts, and take care of what they feel their body needs on a day-to-day basis.  It’s empowering to be independent and self-sufficient, even if it’s only for a quick 15-20 minutes of “home-work” a couple of times a week.

Here are the top five at-home Pilates training tools I find my clients purchase, and use regularly for their Pilates workouts.

Top 5 Pilates Training Tools to Use at Home

  1. A nice thick Mat
  2. A Pilates Magic Circle (link includes my Magic Circle Mat Audio workout)
  3. A FULL Foam Roller (although not a classical Pilates prop.)
  4. A Fitness Ball (again not a classical Pilates toy, but very useful for at-home workouts)
  5. The Pilates Arc Barrel Combo (aka Spine Corrector) which includes a copy of my book A Barrel of Fun.

Whether you do Pilates in a studio or just at-home, these at-home Pilates training tools can help you have FUN with your fitness workouts.  And if you’re having FUN, there’s a really good chance your workouts will be longer and more frequent, which are important key factors to enjoy wellness success.

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Note: If you are 5’6” or taller, you might prefer the lightweight Pilates Arc available from Balanced Body.  I get nothing from this product endorsement. (They don’t allow me to resell their product online.) Shorter people can use this barrel too, so please note it’s an option! But you’re going to want a copy of my Barrel of Fun book too with easy-to-follow exercises to help you maximize the use of your Pilates Arc barrel, so please order these products separately if it’s more appropriate for you!

Posted by administrator in Exercise and Fitness, Pilates.

3 Secrets to Wellness Success

Wellness success secrets from centerworks.com

Have you been on the roller-coaster ride of health improvement wins and fails;on your journey to wellness success?  Do you notice that when what you’re doing works, your excitement, motivation, and results are amazing.  And sometimes when it’s not going as well as you’d like, you find yourself screaming (on the inside) as you hit another loop-de-loop, and realize that you’re frightened more than focused; perhaps spiraling into self-sabotage, and may to not be setting yourself up with the best strategy for the wellness success results you really want?

Let’s discuss this in a little more detail, because I believe there are a LOT of different strategies out there that do work to help you reach your health and wellness goals.  But there are also a lot of crazy, life-style unfriendly options that will never help you achieve the optimal good health you desire.

Being clear on what you want and making smart choices in how to get to your goals, is the difference between your next failure and achieving wellness success.

I believe there are “3 Secrets to Wellness Success.”  When all three of these key action steps are put in place, it becomes much easier to gain momentum and get results.   I’m going to use “exercise” as my example to explain this, but please note it can be ANY health-related goal and you can swap the words out and fill in the blanks.  Whether it’s exercise, weight-loss, weight gain, improving sleep, lowering your stress level with meditation, controlling blood sugar levels, training for a marathon, competing in a triathlon, improving your golf game, or even a daily-life goal of climbing up the stairs without knee pain, or fear of falling!  YOUR health goals are personal… and your ability to achieve wellness success hinges on your clarity of what your goals really are, and why they are important to you.  Then we add in the 3 Secrets to Wellness Success, and start moving in the right direction.

3 Secrets to Wellness Success

  1. M.O.V.E.

I came up with the acronym M.O.V.E. when I was doing a radio interview with Chris Robrahn for the “Spirit of Fitness” program.  I’ve been a featured guest for several shows over the past 3 seasons.  You can listen to past Spirit of Fitness shows here.  New programs are aired each Tuesday on the Church Broadcast Entity.

What does M.O.V.E. mean?  

 Muscles Only Value Exercise.  That’s right, the only way to improve strength or flexibility of muscle tissue is to MOVE it!  We can talk all we want about improving our health and fitness, but until we take ACTION, and get MOVING, we’re not going to see improvements that lead us to wellness success.

And just so we’re clear, in my opinion, it’s not about ripped abs, bigger biceps, or being able to get your nose to your knees. Maybe when you’re in your teens and 20’s that what you want, but ultimately wellness success is about better health, optimal function, and living in a pain-free body that has the strength and stamina to do what you want, when you want, without question or risk of injury.

  1. Pain Does NOT Equal Gain

I know phrases like “Suck it up Buttercup,” “Go for the burn,”  and “No pain, no gain,” are catch phrases we’ve been told for years.  But come on, how about a little common sense… PAIN is the only way that your body can tell you that there is something wrong.  Your muscles, bones, and organs, don’t have vocal cords, or lips, they can’t speak to you directly.  The only way to protect yourself, from hurting yourself, is to learn to listen, and respect what your body is trying to tell you.

And here’s another thought or two on this topic.  If you always over-ride the pain signals your body gives you, and brag about what a high pain tolerance you have, congratulations… your body doesn’t trust you anymore.  It knows that when something hurts and it tries to let you know, that you’re going to ignore it (until you can’t…) and at that point it’s a big fat major problem – like surgery, or the end of an athletic career, or the inability to work, or you’re no longer able to participate in activities you used to enjoy because you CAN’T… and things will never be the same again.  How’s it going to work out for you to push for pain?  Have you already experienced this?

Lastly, in Pilates we work to make the last repetition of every exercise the very best one, to leave our muscles with the memory of how to function correctly for whatever the task or movement pattern might be.  IF you’re going for the burn and then keep pushing, there’s a 100% chance that the correct muscles are too fatigued to function and some other muscle group that shouldn’t be involved has taken over.  You’re now training your brain and body to use the wrong muscles to do the work.  Since it’s the last thing it did, your brain will remember how do to it wrong instead of right.  What do you suppose this does to your potential risk of injury?  Yep, you’ve just increased exponentially, the risk that sooner or later you’re going to get hurt!

Learn to work and play in a Pain-free zone!  Sure it’s okay to feel some fatigue and to push your limits and strive to lift more weight; walk or run longer distances, or faster; try new exercises and activities.  Just be sure that you’re tuning-in to what your body is telling you and learn the difference between pain and work, to stay healthy while you continue moving forward towards your wellness success goals.

  1. The RIGHT Exercises will Give You the Right Results

Let me reinforce this third secret to wellness success…  The RIGHT exercises will give you the right results.  Now there is one additional caveat here.  The right exercises have to be done correctly!  And sometimes that’s no small task.  If you want to improve at a sport, you’re going to have to participate in that sport.  But chances are, there are other cross-training exercises that could be added to your weekly workout program to help you improve your skill level and get results faster.  You might be advised to seek the help of an expert to guide you in selecting the right exercises and understanding what you need to focus on to do them well.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had new clients come into the studio after being released from PT. I always ask them to bring in the exercise sheets from Physical Therapy so I can see what they’ve been doing and what has been recommended for their recovery.  Usually patients get released from PT when their insurance money runs out or they stop making progress (and they’re told, “This is as good as it’s going to get!”).  Most of the time, the exercises are good but the client’s execution isn’t helping them maximize the benefits.  By adding a little more thought from a Pilates perspective to posture, breathing, body alignment, form, function, and muscle firing patterns, new levels of progress continue to unfold.  I believe that “as good as it’s going to get” can be a never-ending continuous progression to excel and improve if you’re willing to do the work and have the right exercises in your training plan.  If you’re comfortable where you’re at, you can continue doing what you’re doing to maintain your health.

If you are not getting the results you want, the exercises / action you’re taking is not congruent with the goals you have for wellness success.  Take a closer look at your goals.  Seek help and get a fresh perspective from an expert that can best guide you to shift your thinking to better align your actions and exercises with your goals to achieve wellness success.

We’re focusing here on Wellness Success, but these three secrets to success can be applied to anything and everything you want to accomplish in life.  Whether it’s a healthy body, healthy relationships, or a healthy business.  Take action and M.O.V.E in the right direction.  Keep in mind that pain does not have to be a part of the equation – learn to listen to and respect your body.  Use your intuition to help guide you to make great decisions that are congruent with your goals.  Seek help when needed from an expert in whatever field is appropriate to assist you (Physician, Chiropractor, Massage Therapist, Kinesiologist, Pilates Teacher, Physical Therapist, Personal Trainer, Nutritionist, Sports Coach…).  Remember, the right exercises and actions done correctly to the best of your abilities will always help you maximize results for wellness success.

Go forth and conquer your goals; keep these 3 Secrets to Wellness Success in mind, and apply them!

Posted by administrator in Health.

Food as Fuel: Breaking the Diet Cycle for a Healthy LIFE

Breaking the diet cycleAre you on the diet roller-coaster? Sadly, more than one in three Americans adults over 20 is obese, and nearly 70% are overweight or obese.  And if this is the example we’re setting for our children, they are in worse shape than we are!  The “diet” and weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar revenue generator; but are people getting thinner and healthier, or sicker and fatter?  It’s time to find better solutions to begin breaking the diet cycle for a healthy life!

I’ve battled body image and had food challenges my whole life, and I don’t think I’m special.  Sadly, I’m pretty sure that I’m a typical American female, who has bought into what people have said to me about my weight, and what TV and magazines promote to be “beauty” standards.

I’ve spent most of my 50 years on this planet wishing I looked different and weighed less.  And I know that I have spent more of my life thinking about dying than actually living!  I share this with you because I know I’m not alone.  There are a million options out there for companies willing to take your money and help you get your “diet” on track.  A lot of them work and some are just snake oil, but ultimately you have to do the work!  It begins with what you’re thinking about and HOW you honor your relationship with food.

You can’t put water in the gas tank of your car and expect it to run.  Why do we think putting all sorts of artificial everything into our body is going to fuel our cells and keep our body running optimally?

FOOD IS FUEL.

What you eat matters.  How much you eat matters.  And here’s a hint… you will NEVER be able to exercise off the huge amount of excessive calories consumed in the typical American diet.  When almost every meal is eaten out, and calorie consumption per meal is what you should be eating per day, there is only one direction your body weight is going to go, and that’s UP – at an alarming rate!  If processed, junk food is your passion, your body is actually STARVING.  When no actual nutrients are going in, you’ve got no fuel – lots of calories, but nothing that your cells can actually use to keep all systems functioning properly.  It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense.

Whether you’re a meat eater; vegetarian; or vegan, healthy whole-foods matter.  But your body may be so toxic from poor choices, that it might take a while to flush the crap, (literally) out of your system before better nutrition can start re-building a healthy body.  And if you don’t really have a good connection with your body, you might not even realize that some of the foods you’re eating are killing you!

A friend of mine posted a comment on Facebook about being bullied for gluten intolerance.  She has great insights.  “You know when you make fun of someone who is gluten intolerant, it’s like making fun of someone with Cancer…  We slowly die inside if we eat it.  The side effects are terrible.  We bleed inside ourselves.  It’s no joke… Please keep your judgements to yourself…  Unless you have seen what it can do, be quiet please.”  Ruby R.

Aside from the emotional impact of having somebody make fun of the foods you can/cannot eat.  It’s not just gluten intolerance that’s an issue these days.  Look how many people have food allergies and food sensitivities.  Diabetes is running rampant and so many inflammatory issues have food as a contributing factor, yet doctors don’t always see the connection.

When diagnosed with Optic Neuritis, I was blind in one eye and on super-high dose steroids; desperately trying to regain my eyesight.  I asked the Rheumatologist I was referred to about food and nutrition; I wanted to know what I could eat that might help me regain my health and sight.  She laughed at me and said, “Nothing that you eat will make any difference.”  This was the advice from a specialist that deals with inflammatory diseases!  (I was quick to find a new doctor and like-minded experts who knew more about nutrition that could better guide me to figuring out what foods were contributing to my inflammation issues, and what foods actually helped reduce inflammation.)  But if this the advice you get, and you BELIEVE it!  You will continue to eat foods that might be contributing to your demise, regardless of the health issues you’re facing.

Our body is a delicate eco-system.  If anything is out of balance, everything is out of balance.  We can compromise for a while, but sooner or later something will break, wear down, or stop functioning correctly.  Food as Fuel is a critical component to maintaining a healthy body.

Ask yourself this question:  Do you Eat to Live, or Live to Eat?

Is your body a Temple fueled by good nutrition, or are you a human garbage disposal?  It sounds crass, but it’s the reality of the situation:  whether the foods you eat are fueling your good health or causing you to feel sick, listless, and causing you to gain weight rather than maintain a healthy weight.

Getting your body on track with a FOOD as FUEL Lifestyle isn’t going to happen overnight.  But it’s not going to happen at all if you’re on the “diet” rollercoaster. Breaking the diet cycle is hard work, but isn’t your body worth it?

Consider using the following strategies to help shift your relationship with food for a healthy life and break the diet cycle:

  • Seek help from nutrition experts, or find a wellness support program to get you started
  • Consider food allergy testing
  • Eat only when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty
  • Start writing down what you eat (time of day, portion sizes, calories)
  • Shop around the edges of the grocery store where you can buy fresh ingredients rather than processed, pre-packaged foods
  • Buy Organic, whole-foods whenever possible
  • Spend more time preparing your own meals, rather than eating out
  • It might benefit you to count calories or track points
  • Weigh yourself regularly (not to feel bad about yourself, but to use as a reference guide and tool to track your progress, or ensure you are maintaining your healthy “ideal” weight.)

Most importantly remember, food is your friend.  Food is designed to keep your engine running for an active life.  Make good choices, be more aware of what you’re thinking, AND eating to develop a healthy relationship with Food as Fuel so you can start breaking the diet cycle for a healthy life.

*****

One of the ways I’m making a difference in my life, with healthier choices to consume less sugar, and feed my body nutrients that it knows how to use is with Fuxion functional health beverages. (zero refined sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, no preservatives, no artificial colors, no artificial flavorings, no GMO’s.)  If you’re interested in learning about the Nutraceutical, Weight Management, Athletic Performance, and Anti-Aging lines of products,  and trying these great health products, check out this video, and contact me to learn more.

Posted by administrator in Food and Nutrition.

Improve Your Mind-Body Connection

Improve your Mind-Body Connection10 Tips to Tune-In to What Your Body is Telling You by Improving Your Mind-Body Connection

It’s crazy all the ways we’ve conditioned our bodies to over-ride our mind-body connection.  Too many people these days don’t listen to what their body is telling them and act accordingly.  Sadly, we’ve been told that we need to “push thru the pain,” or “go for the burn” to get benefits from exercise.  When we’re tired, we reach for a high-caffeinated beverage or sugar-filled snack to boost our energy instead of catching a quick cat-nap or planning to get to bed earlier for a better nights rest.  Who do you know that has to start their day with coffee, and end it with a sleeping pill?  It’s not normal that this is what we need to function!  And food… our portion sizes are out of control and the fast-food, pre-packaged, processed foods being consumed are too high calorie and low nutrient to give us the fuel we need for a healthy body.  We’re starving for nutrients and eating more and more “empty calories,” and the population as a whole is getting fatter, sicker, and dying at a much younger age.

But it doesn’t have to be this way!  Making a change to tune in to what your body is telling you starts with YOU.  Honor yourself.  Be brave.  Learn to listen to that small, inner voice inside you.  Improve supportive conversations with yourself.  Trust that what you feel, or sense that your body needs, IS what it needs – and provide it without doubt or question.

To really live in a healthy body we can’t zone out, but instead need to zero-in on DOING what supports our health.  Improving our mind-body connection is the first step in actually noticing what we’re doing good, bad, or otherwise.

Years ago I had a Pilates client Dr. Dave, (not his real name) who would show up for his weekly private sessions like it was the movie Groundhog Day.  We had been working diligently together for a long time, but every session he was clueless about what to do, how to support himself and find the right muscles, or even what the exercises were that he had been doing over and over again in his weekly workouts.  I like to think I’m very patient with my clients.  It’s ok if you don’t “get it” right away; I’m going to hang in there with you and support the process of learning new skills and figuring out what you need to improve your health.  But one day with Dr. Dave I lost it and blurted out, “You realize that Pilates is about developing the mind-body connection?  Ultimately, that means you should be able to remember what you’re doing, know your exercises by name, the breath patterns, repetitions, equipment set-up, and be able to make corrections to your technique when you notice that it could be improved. All without me telling you what you need to fix, right?” 

And at that moment the sea parted…and we both had a revelation.  His reply to me, “I’ve always exercised to tune-out, and get away from having to think.”  And believe me, his form and body mechanics clearly demonstrated this fact!  But Dr. Dave now clearly grasped the importance of needing to pay attention to what he was doing to really improve his health during exercise and not get hurt.  He “got” how important developing the mind-body connection was.  AS a result, our training sessions shifted from a Groundhog Day experience, to really making strides for improving his mind-body connection and progressing his exercise program.  In my mind, it was a miracle!  For him it was life-changing because he finally started getting real benefits from his exercise program.

  • Sometimes we’re just not aware of what we’re doing, and having a helpful mentor or teacher help point things out to raise our conscious awareness level can make the difference.
  • Sometimes we are aware, and make the choice to ignore, over-riding what might have been the best choice for our body.
  • And sometimes “baggage” from past traumas can be in the way, blocking our ability to tune in.

I had another client, Becky, (not her real name, either) who was a sweetheart.  But as much as we worked on developing her core support, she could never “feel” that she was using her abdominal muscles.  I’d have my hand on her belly, telling her “that’s great, your abs are working.”  But Becky just couldn’t seem to make the connection to feel what was going on.  Then one day, as she was lying on the Cadillac, she paused and said, “If it seems like I’m a little distracted…I’m still working on integrating my multiple personalities.”  And then she proceeded to tell me a very small part of her story. Learning what she’d gone thru and the coping mechanism she developed to survive, explained to me why it was such a challenge to “feel” anything in her center!  Of course it was going to be a challenge, she had chosen to disassociate from her body, and that was her primary defense mechanism.

But you know what, she continued to show up for Pilates, and it was a great asset in her healing process. Together we worked on searching for her center, strengthening her center, and gaining confidence in feeling it support her.

There is a lot of power in improving your mind-body connection.  Whether the trauma you’ve experienced was emotional or physical (car accident, sports injury, falling out of a tree as a kid), compensation patterns accumulate until we take conscious steps to change habits and shift both our thinking and our actions.

When I’m stressed, I like to eat!  When I’m emotionally drained, stressed, and upset, I like to eat specific foods…  (Chocolate: Oreo cookies, Little Debbies, Twix/Reeses. Cheese: Mac and Cheese, Cheese Curls, Cheese Curds, Cheesecake, Chips, French Fries and Cheese…).  How do I know this?  Because one day I went to the grocery store in a really bad mood, and the only things I put in my cart were “comfort foods.”  As I was checking out, I realized what I had done.  So I purchased everything anyway, took it home, ate a few bites – and ceremoniously threw everything in the trash.  When I crave these foods, I now know that I have two choices:  1. Deal with the issue that is stressing me out, or  2. Avoid the issue and cram my guts with crap that will make me feel worse instead of better.

Are you aware of the habits you have that might not be serving your good health?  How often do you tune-in to what your body is telling you, and harness the power of using your mind-body connection?  It’s not always easy, but it is possible to develop your skill set in learning to listen to your body.

My first Pilates Mentor, Romana Kryzanowska, had a great phrase about this.  It’s all about using the 5 Parts of the Mind.  I believe this applies to exercise, eating, and everything we do in life!

Your INTELLIGENCE,
Guided by Your WILL,
Fueled by Your IMAGINATION,
Assisted by Your MEMORY,
And Enhanced by Your ESP (or INTUITION)

 These 5 Parts of the Mind are what we need to be using to develop our Mind-Body Connection!

Still Reading this and wondering, where the heck are my 10 Tips to Tune-In and Improve Your Mind-Body Connection?  Here we go:

  1. Use your INTELLIGENCE – Your brain is the “master computer” to guide your every thought, movement, and action.
  2. Let your WILLPOWER guide you to make good choices. (Won’t-Power will never get you results!)
  3. IMAGINE what it feels like or looks like to achieve successful results.
  4. REMEMBER what works and do it over and over to reinforce positive results.
  5. LISTEN to your Inner Voice – INTUITION is a powerful force.
  6. Be PRESENT – Be in the moment, and stay in your body to notice what it needs.
  7. HONOR yourself – You are Worthy.
  8. Be BRAVE – What you need is what you need. Stick Up for Yourself!
  9. It’s OK to Talk to Yourself! Improve supportive, loving, communication, and conversations.
  10. TRUST that what you feel or sense IS what you need – and provide it without doubt or question.

With Pilates, the goal is to make the last repetition of each exercise the best one possible; leaving your muscles with the memory of how to work well for optimal form and function.  I’d like to encourage you to take this philosophy and apply it to your exercise program and your LIFE.  Make today, and every day, better than the last by paying attention to what your body needs and improving your mind-body connection.

Posted by administrator in Mind-Body Health.

 

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