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Fitness Frequency Gets Results for Better Health

Fitness FrequencyBy ramping up your fitness frequency you can start enjoying the benefits of better whole-body health.

Why should you care about fitness frequency?  As Americans we spend waaaaay to much time sitting on our rumps, slumping with poor posture. This not only affects our strength, flexibility, and physical ability to move, but sitting  – at work, commuting in the car, watching tv, and staring at your computer screen or other digital gadgets – is wearing the body out at a rate that might be affecting your lifespan too!

In a U.S News & World Report article, James Levine, an endocrinologist and researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, addresses this idea of a lack of fitness frequency.  And, while this article was written in 2012, I’m afraid conditions may be worse now than they were 5 years ago.  Are we moving more, taking better care of our health? Or, are we struggling, battling diseases and chronic health challenges caused by inactivity and poor lifestyle choices?

“The human being is designed to move,” says Levine, “you need to move your body. If you stop your body, idle it—which sitting is—it crumbles on every level.” What can result is an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease,says Levine.

Studies show that the average American sits for about eight hours a day. “Sitting is like a disease,” says Edward Phillips, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. “The goal is to avoid prolonged sitting and to add any kind of physical activity to your day.” Any movement you can do, even something as simple as tapping your feet, is a start, says Phillips.

From my perspective as a Pilates expert and functional movement specialist who spends a lot of my time with clients who are challenged with pain and chronic posture-related wear & tear injuries from lack of use and repetitive mis-use, we need fitness frequency executed with the best possible breathing, body alignment, and proper muscle firing patterns or we’re putting more stress on the body and increasing the risk of injury from our workouts.  

There must be a good balance between fitness frequency, intensity, and healthy movement habits to enjoy the best possible health benefits from your efforts.

If you don’t realize that every time you do a squat, you’re rolling out on your feet, or twisting your hips to use one leg a little more than the other… and you do this over and over again (with or without weights for extra resistance) sooner or later your ankles, knee, hips, or back are going to bail out causing pain and potential injury.  But, taking the time to focus on your form and learn how to find and use the right muscles from your feet, through your hips, core, and all the way up to your head, you can do lots of squats to stay fit and injury-free!  This is just one example of using an exercise to benefit your health.

If what you’re doing hurts…it’s probably not something you should continue.  But that doesn’t mean that there is NOTHING you can do safely to keep moving!  You just might not know what you can do; or how to do it correctly. This is when seeking expert advice can make a huge difference in the results you’re getting with your fitness program to be confident that you CAN do more, and more often without risk of getting hurt.

It’s not all about having 6-pack abs, or a body-builder physique…  If you want that, you’re going to really have to work for it.  Fitness frequency, to me, means moving well on a daily basis to keep my body feeling good, staying strong, fit, and flexible so that I can enjoy sports and activities. This also allows me to do what I want, when I want, because my body will let me!  It’s learning to take what I’m doing with my muscles and movements in my fitness workouts and applying them to all my daily life activities. So, when I sit, I’m sitting taller; when I climb stairs, I’m using my glutes and hamstrings more than my knees; when I carry laundry and groceries, I’m using my core; as I’m driving, I can be confident that my shoulders are relaxed instead of wrapped around my ears.  I can easily bend down and pick something up, standing back up without throwing my back out!  My feet don’t hurt so I can walk, jump, and jog.  I practice fitness frequency so that as I continue to age, I’m not getting old – feeling old or forced to acting old because I’ve gotten lazy, or let the little aches and pains I had incapacitate me.

Yes, rest when you’re injured.  Continue to do things that hurt? You will stay hurt!  You might need a mental adjustment to help shift your focus and find things you can do that don’t hurt.  Even if it’s not your “favorite” activity, it’s allowing you to move safely. In the end it’s going to be a good choice to help you up your fitness frequency and improve your whole-body health.

We will never be able to out-exercise our diet!  And if you are sitting in a chair for 8 hours a day at work, then go home and watch tv for another 2-4 hours, sit for 1.5-3 hours a day for meals, and lie down to sleep for 7-8 hours a night, you’ve spent roughly 18.5 – 23 of the last 24 hours not moving!  Even a 1-hour workout daily can’t completely offset this lack of physical movement. Get up and get moving!

What can you do to up your fitness frequency?

  1. Plan more moments of movement into your daily routine.
    • Stand up, walk, squat, lunge, stretch your arms, legs, and torso, bend in all directions – forward, backwards, twist, and side bend.
    • Start your day with 10-15 minutes of exercise.
  2. Take the stairs whenever possible.
  3. Park your car farther away and walk. When you get home, take a quick 10-15 min walk around the block before you go inside. Walk slow, walk fast, walk, walk, walk…
  4. Set an alarm to get up out of your chair at work and do at least 2-3 minutes of simple standing stretching and movement exercises every hour.
  5. Be conscious of your posture habits. Be sure they are good posture habits!
  6. Find a variety of physical activities and sports you enjoy. Do something daily to improve your cardio, strength, and flexibility! (keep in mind how many hours you’re not moving… be sure you’ve got lots of minutes build into your daily routine to be moving too!)

Unfortunately, younger and younger people are dealing with health issues that used to only challenge an older population.  A big part of this is how much we’re NOT moving.  Get inspired, get off your duff, and plan more minutes of fitness into your every day and weekly wellness routine.  Move it or lose it!  Use more minutes of movement to amp up your fitness frequency, improve your longevity, and help make a positively impact on your whole-body health. 

Posted by administrator in Exercise and Fitness.

Work vs. Force: Optimizing your Efforts for Health Improvement and Exercise

Stop Struggling to Get Benefits from Your Workouts and Reduce the Risk of Injury by Paying Attention to Work vs. Force.  work vs. force

What are Your Movement Habits?

Are you able to efficiently maximize the benefits from your exercise program, or do you tend to force your way through, pushing hard to get it done, whatever the exercise might be? When we exercise it’s called a “workout” because there is effort involved in doing the work necessary to improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility.  But how well are you really working out?

Maybe you’re not sure what the difference between work and force is and how it might be affecting your ability to get the health improvement benefits you want from your efforts. I believe the work vs. force dilemma is something relevant for people at all ability levels on the spectrum of health.  If you’re highly fit, strong, and flexible your ability to “push” is greater. Along with this push comes a much higher risk of injury.  It can be easier to override signals the brain sends out – be cautious, rest, don’t push as hard – because you ARE an athlete. You expect your body to do what you tell it to, when you tell it to, because you are always striving to do more.

At the other end of the spectrum are people like me who, for whatever reason, have chronic health challenges, fatigue, inflammation, and injuries that take longer to heal. These folks may have the tendency to sit back and do nothing, waiting until their body feels better.  But this isn’t always the best health improvement strategy either.

Regardless of whether you’re a super-fit athlete, someone who is struggling with chronic health challenges, or somewhere in-between, having a better understanding of work vs. force to connect mind, body, and movements during your workouts can help you harness the energy you need to stay safe, pace yourself appropriately, and ensure that you’re using the right amount of muscle to do the work, without forcing the body past the point of no return leading to injury.

Have you ever done the “push” test with a friend?  Find a buddy and stand facing each other. Place your palms together in front of your chest like a push-up.  Gradually, one of you starts pushing – when this happens, what does the other person automatically do?  Push back, right?  The one who pushes the hardest will force the other person off-balance.  If there is equal force, you will both just stand there pushing hand to hand, going nowhere.  And what if nobody pushes?

When doing a sit-up, do you throw your arms forward to get up and yank on your head with your hands? Or, are you using the muscle work of your abdominals and core to sit up? Do you find  your arms and shoulders to doing most of the work?  Either way, you’re going to get up. However, the question is which of these options is actually working to improve your technique and get the right muscles working to improve core strength.

Imagine you are doing a standing bicep curl exercise. If you lean back with your body to “swing the bar up,” are you working the bicep muscles, strengthening the arms, or are you using momentum (and your lower back) to do the movement?  You’re either working the biceps, or you’re forcing a bar up that’s too heavy for you to lift correctly with the right muscles. Which of these is going to maximize health benefits?

Using the correct muscles to work is important as you move. If you aren’t able to move using the right muscles, how many of the wrong ones will your body recruit to “force” the body to complete the task?  Doing this over and over again, will cause your brain to start to believe “The muscles I’m using right now and the way I’m doing this exercises is the correct way to do it.  Always do it this way.”  Suddenly you’ve created a habit, or movement pattern, that will have you repeatedly reinforcing bad habits.  The body might be able to do it this way for a while, but sooner or later the repetitive wear and tear will take its toll and an injury will occur.

As you work you should actually become more conscious of your movement habits, posture, breathing, body alignment, and how to do the work correctly.  This means your workouts become a continuous improvement program.  The last rep you do should always be your best one.  And if you’re too fatigued to do a good one STOP before you recruit muscles that don’t need to be involved!

A part of why I love Pilates is because the Pilates Method brilliantly helps train the mind-body-movement connection, improves posture and body alignment, can help retrain and rebalance muscle habits, and focuses on low reps so that the last one IS always the best one.  I also believe it’s easier to learn how to “work” with the resistance of a spring.  And of course, with time, everything you can learn through Pilates can transfer to every other sport, physical activity, and exercise you do.

My husband, Ford, is a cyclist;  a consistent work vs. force example.  When you ride a bike, you can either mash down on the pedals (forcing them to turn) or you can “spin” them by using a balance of quads and hamstrings to both push down and pull up on the pedals – creating a work vs. force movement.

When the group of guys my husband rides with meets, they start by deciding as a group what kind of ride they’re going to do that day.  Some days it’s long and fast;  other days they decide on long and slower; other days shorter; or, because they had a hard ride the day or two before, they might do a “recovery” ride.

If you’re really in-tune with your body, there will be days where you can push harder and do more, and days where you need to coast – keep moving, but do less, do lighter, go slower.  This group of cyclists has identified the need to vary their workouts to give themselves the recovery they need to correctly move, or rest, those muscle groups. They understand that you have to put forth effort that is in line with the energy you have to expend rather than forcing the body to do more than it’s capable of that day.  Tomorrow, check-in with your body and perhaps it will be refreshed and ready to work harder.

Regardless of the type of workouts you do, keep in mind the thought of work vs. force.  Remember the saying, “You can’t force a square peg into a round hole!”  Forcing your way through an exercise will not improve your health.  Forcing your body to do a long, hard workout, when it needs an easier “recovery” day won’t help either.

Work efficiently, work effectively, and work smart to optimize your efforts for health improvement during all your fitness workouts.

Posted by administrator in Exercise and Fitness.

Osteoporosis and Exercise: Keeping Your Bones Healthy – Exercise Safety Considerations and Resources

Osteoporosis and ExerciseI have posted several blogs about Osteoporosis and exercise, and seemingly this is a topic that I get questions and comments from readers quite frequently.  Over the years, I have had numerous clients with osteoporosis, and we’ve adjusted their Pilates workout programs to keep them safe based on their Dexa-scan results.  I’m also reaching the age, where I need to be a little more careful with my own bone-density issues.

But with this said, I don’t necessarily consider myself an “osteoporosis expert.”  So when I get specific questions about personal health issues, or osteoporosis and exercise, especially from readers all over the globe who cannot come into the studio and work with me personally, it’s nice to be able to refer people to a professional I trust to help answer questions.

Sherry Betz, PT, GCS, CEEAA, PMA®-CPT is a leader in the field of exercise, Pilates, and osteoporosis.  Her company, Thera Pilates® offers Physical Therapy and Osteoporosis Programs.

American Bone Health is a non-profit organization that provides education, resources, and tools to help you understand bone disease and bone health.

Here’s a helpful Poster from American Bone Health for improving your bone-healthy habits during everyday activities.  Regardless of whether you have osteoporosis or not, these tips and exercises can benefit your whole-body health! 

Posted by administrator in Exercise and Fitness, Osteoporosis.

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.

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.

6 Fitness MYTHS & the Fitness Truth: Keep Your Workouts on Track

Fitness MythsHow often do you think you understand exactly what you need to do to improve your health… and then discover that you’ve been given some slightly incorrect information?

These fitness myths are just that, misinformation that’s been spread across the globe, that in some cases might do you more harm then good for maintaining your health.

Check out these 6 mind-over-matter fitness myths and learn the fitness truth to help keep your workouts on track. Discover why you might not be getting the results you want from your health and fitness program.  Change your Thoughts, Improve your Actions, and Celebrate your Wellness Success! 

FITNESS MYTH 1:

Pilates and Yoga aren’t really “workouts” that can improve muscle strength like lifting weights. 

FITNESS TRUTH:
Both Pilates and Yoga are whole-body workouts that involve a combination of both strength and flexibility.  While it’s true that you probably won’t build muscle “bulk” with these workouts, you can develop wonderful amounts of strength, with length.  These workouts focus on whole body function which means rather than just targeting the larger muscle groups like you do in the weight room (chest, back, shoulders, biceps & triceps),the smaller muscle groups that are deeper and closer to the bones work diligently to support and stabilize healthy movement.  Because of this, as you gain strength with Pilates and Yoga, your muscles will appear stronger, longer, and leaner.  The added benefit of Pilates training is the fact that springs are involved.  Spring resistance acts in the same fashion as your muscles, to contract and release.  This added resistance makes Pilates training an even more effective strength training workout.

 FITNESS MYTH 2:

The only way to get benefits from your workout is to “feel-the-pain” or “go-for-the-burn.”

FITNESS TRUTH:
PAIN is the body’s way of telling us there is a problem that we need to pay attention to.  Ignoring it can quickly lead to injury.

By the time your muscles are “feeling-the-burn,” chances are the muscles you thought you were strengthening are too fatigued to fire.  The result: you will develop compensation patterns and begin using other muscles that really shouldn’t be involved.  The brain remembers the last thing we do. So, if you’re using the wrong muscles, the brain will remember and recruit them first next time you go to do that exercise.  The result over time becomes bad body mechanics, over-developed bad movement habits, increased wear and tear on the body, and a much higher risk of injury.

FITNESS MYTH 3:

An aerobic workout will boost your metabolism for hours after you stop working out.

FITNESS TRUTH:
True!  But the calorie burn is only about 20 extra calories a day.  If you think you deserve to eat more for dinner after a hard workout because you “earned” it… chances are you’re going to consume way more calories than you burned for your workout and end up gaining weight instead of losing.

FITNESS MYTH 4:

Doing a million crunches or sit-ups will get you 6-pack Abs.

FITNESS TRUTH:
Lots of time doing sit ups, crunches, or other ab machine exercises might get you more muscle in your mid-section, help alleviate back pain, and improve posture. But if you want to see a sexy 6-pack, and not look like you’ve been drinking them, you’re going to have to reduce your overall percentage of body fat.

FITNESS MYTH 5:

Target-Training to Spot REDUCE will get results every time!

FITNESS TRUTH:
We can’t pick and choose where we want to lose body fat, or target only one piece of our body to change our shape/size.  ONE specific exercise will never give you that “whole new body!” The ads promote: get miraculously thin thighs, develop buns of steel, get ripped abs by next weekend…  It just doesn’t work this way unless you opt for liposuction.

Cross training with a variety of exercises and activities that work the whole-body for BALANCED muscle development, eating a healthy diet, and adopting an active lifestyle are the best ways to enjoy living in the best body possible.

FITNESS MYTH 6:

If you aren’t sore the next day, your workout wasn’t hard enough.

FITNESS TRUTH:
Muscle soreness is inflammation and the body’s chemical response to that inflammation.  Measure progress toward your goal instead of soreness to know you’ve had a good workout.  Some Olympic athletes haven’t felt soreness in years! Judge your workout by your workout and, keep in mind, you don’t have to have soreness to gain muscle size or strength.

I hope you’ve gotten some new insights to help you improve your health.  It might be nice if some of this was true, but these 6 fitness myths need to be put to rest.  Focus on what you CAN do, and what IS possible, and you’ll get the results you want from your wellness program.  Take good care of your body; it’s the only one you’ve got.

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Posted by administrator in Exercise and Fitness.

Pilates Strategies to Eliminate Boring Workouts

Eliminate Boring WorkoutsAre you dreading boring workouts?

There are so many things to pay attention to for healthy movement habits that there’s no way we should ever have boring workouts!

Do you realize that there are 206 bones in the human skeleton?  (Actually 270 at birth and, as some fuse together, we’re left with 206 bones as adults and amazingly one-quarter of these are in the feet!) We have 640 skeletal muscles, and almost everyone is one part of a pair of identical bilateral muscles found on both sides, which equals 320 pairs of muscles to support our structure and help us move through life.

Now let’s talk senses… do you know how many senses you actually have?  Most of us are taught that we have 5 different senses:  sight, hearing, tough, taste, and smell.  But did you know that many neurologists identify nine or more, and some believe we may have as many as 21 different senses.

The sense of touch combines several “somatic” senses including the perception of pressure, heat, and pain.  Then we have “interoceptive senses” which help us analyze information from inside our body, including balance (body alignment), needs (like hunger or thirst), and proprioception (being aware of the position of our body parts in relation to space.)  All our senses are designed to keep track of everything that is right or wrong with our bodies.

Let’s face it we have a lot of moving parts and pieces to organize and keep in alignment for good posture and healthy movement habits.  Your mind-body connection, and being able to sense what is going on, inside and outside your body is VITAL for preserving your good health.

Why is all this important?  Well, LOOK at how many parts and pieces you have to PLAY with!  How can you possibly get bored with 640 different muscles to work and stretch, plus a set of lungs and your heart to strengthen, joints to keep mobile, and a brain to train.   Add paying attention or “sensing” what is happening with your body, to your body, how you feel when you use your body, or when you tweak and exercise, what else is affected by the change…how do you think paying some amount of attention to all of this might affect your boring workouts?

It can be MIND Blowing, what focusing attention on the little details of what you’re doing can actually do to help you maximize results from your health and fitness program.  When you’re actually paying attention to what your body is doing, it’s honestly quite difficult to be bored.

Which is why I love Pilates!  With Pilates, the goal is to always make the last repetition your best one!  Which means you learn to leave your muscles with good memory, or the sense of how to do the movement correctly – to the best of your ability.  By sensing your fatigue level, and knowing when you stop (before you’re too tired to finish on the best rep ever), the body learns how to pace your workouts, sense the difference between effort/work, and overwork/pain which can lead to injury.  With the right muscles doing the work, the body is learning how to move well, which long-term means improvements in strength and flexibility, less wear-and-tear, and a greatly reduced risk of injury.  In addition, Pilates exercises are done lying down, seated, standing, kneeling, side lying, prone, right-side up, and upside down, so the body has to learn how to use the right muscles regardless of where the body is in space.

I’m going out on a limb here and want to say it’s impossible to be bored during a Pilates workout.  (If you’re with a good teacher who is focused on keeping YOU focused, and challenging you with the right exercises and cues to fine-tune your form.)  But this Pilates philosophy for mind, body, and movement isn’t just for Pilates, it can be applied to everything you do!  Pay attention, and actively participate.  Engage your brain and body on every exercise you do.  When you make this connection, you will never trudge through any more boring workouts.  In effect, by zeroing in on what you’re sensing during both exercise and daily life, you can learn to “TRUST” yourself.  And trust is a very powerful ally to keep you on track for making healthy decisions in life.

Here are my suggested 6 Pilates Strategies to Stop Boring Workouts:

  1. Focus on your Breath Patterns for every exercise.
  2. Pay attention to improving your Posture and Body Alignment.
  3. Sense what you Feel when you work & release your muscles, and how it affects your movement. Can you feel the opposing pairs of muscles working in harmony?  Are the right muscles doing the work?  Is there any unnecessary tension held anywhere? Are the right and left sides of your body putting forth and equal amount of effort?
  4. Strive to make the Last Repetition of every exercise the BEST Rep.
  5. Stay Focused on what your body is doing to move well! Minimize distractions, and concentrate.
  6. If you really don’t enjoy the activity you’re doing, switch gears, find something else to do. You have lots of options, make a better choice.

Put your brain and body to work during every workout and I promise you will never have to worry about boring workouts again!

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Pilates Arc Barrel & Centerworks Barrel of Fun Training Guide

Add a little fun to your fitness program with the Pilates Arc Barrel and “Barrel of Fun” training guide from Centerworks.com.

Posted by administrator in Exercise and Fitness.

Tips to Design Your Personalized Fitness Plan

Personalized Fitness Plan9 Important Questions to Help You Get Started Designing Your Personalized Fitness Plan

For wellness success, each of us need to design our own unique personalized fitness plan.  Our plan for weekly workouts needs to be Realistic, Do-Able, Lifestyle-friendly, and ultimately something that we can create, modify, and stick with for a lifetime of good health.

If you are trying to figure out how to make this happen or are struggling to stay consistent with your exercise program, here are 9 important questions to ask yourself in order to design your Personalized Fitness Plan.

9 Tips to Design Your Personalized Fitness Plan:

  1. What time of the day works best for you to exercise?  Morning/Afternoon/Evening
  2. How many days per week would you ideally like to be exercising?
  3. How many days per week is it realistic for you to be exercising?
  4. How long a time-slot can you commit to for your workouts?
    (10 min x 3, 20-30 min, 30-45 min, 1 hour, 90 minutes,  2 or more hours)
  5. What types of activities do you LOVE doing?
    (Create a list of health and fitness activities you LOVE)
  6. Aside from your “workouts” what other recreational activities do you want to incorporate into your week with friends and family? And how often do you want to participate in these activities?
  7. How many hours of sleep do you need to wake up rested and refreshed?
  8. What’s the best strategy for you to make healthy food choices?
  9. What activities help you wind-down, relax, and de-stress?  (Meditation, reading, taking a bath, drawing…it can be anything.)  Do you know what helps you, and are these things incorporated into your day/week?

Use the answers to these nine important questions as a springboard to design your personalized fitness plan, and be confident that you’re creating a lifestyle-friendly action plan you can easily put in place and stick with to reach your wellness goals.

Posted by administrator in Exercise and Fitness.

Bladder Control and Exercise: The Benefits of a Strong Pelvic Floor

Bladder Control and Exercise, Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) is Not OK!Bladder Control and Exercise: Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) is Not OK!  (For Women, or Men)

Do you have a bladder control problem?  If you pee when you workout… Don’t just go and buy adult diapers, you need to read this!

An article about women, exercise, and urinary leakage just popped up on my Facebook page.  And as a woman, an athlete most of my life, and a mind-body mentor who is in the business of helping BOTH men and women improve functional fitness, and improve healthy movement habits, I felt compelled to comment on this.

Here’s the thing…  If you pee during your workouts, you’re not using the muscles of your pelvic floor correctly.  And these muscles don’t just affect bladder control during exercise.  The pelvic floor is the basement of the spine.  It’s the anchor point for you to be able to lift the rest of your torso UP off your hips.  In a nutshell, if your pelvic floor isn’t working correctly, you will NEVER have good postural support.  This can create, not only urinary incontinence issues, but can also be a huge contributing factor to chronic hip pain, lower back pain, upper back and shoulder pain, and even neck pain.

Correct pelvic floor support is also a stabilizing force in the center for the pelvis, to get both the legs and lumbo-pelvic complex working correctly for gait.  (Which means, having a healthy stride to walk and run, hinges on good pelvic floor, and core support!)  Your pelvic floor (along with some deep low ab support) is a part of what helps lift your pelvis UP off your legs so you can get the ball of the leg bone to swing freely in the hip socket.  And then there’s all sorts of other movement, in multiple-directions, that needs to happen with the hip bones for a truly healthy stride.

This means that learning and doing the RIGHT exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, (on a regular basis) YOU can potentially CORRECT the leakage problem.  How’s that sound?  Bladder control based on YOUR muscles doing the job they were designed to do.

Would you rather invest in adult diapers for the rest of your natural life, or discover how you, can strengthen your own muscles to stay healthy? (Let’s keep you out of diapers for as long as possible.  Doesn’t that sound like a good choice?)

Because there is a ton of bad information out there, and sadly, many fitness professionals are still telling telling people to do Kegel exercises to improve bladder control…

As a public service announcement Please Note:

A KEGEL is NOT going to help you improve what needs to be working correctly at the bottom of your crotch to support bladder control, posture, alignment, and functional firing patterns for movement and exercise.  Practicing Kegels might help improve your sex life, but otherwise, ladies, there is no good reason to practice sucking your vaginal muscles up inside your center, or for you men, pretending you just jumped into a cold swimming pool and your testicles are trying to hide up inside. (Men, if you’re reading this, the reality of the situation is urinary incontinence and poor pelvic floor use is every bit an issue for you too.)

And AUUUUGH  even worse, NEVER stop peeing in the middle of your stream, to practice strengthening your pelvic floor.  Best way to end up with a bladder infection!  Pee full stream from start to finish into the toilet people.  Practice pelvic floor strengthening exercises any other time of the day. 

When you know and understand what you’re doing for proper pelvic floor contractions, this muscle support should be used throughout your day, and on every single fitness exercise you do!  It will be easy to accomplish sometimes, and very difficult on other exercises.  But not learning how to use your pelvic floor muscles correctly is a crime, because it’s not that difficult to learn, and practice will help these muscles get stronger to better support bladder control, posture, and gait. 

Remember, the right balance of strength and flexibility with every muscle group = good health and a body that functions normally, in all situations.

Recently, I started seeing a Physical Therapist for my own personal pelvic issues.  And while my post-menopausal pelvic floor issues were not related to bladder control and SUI, I can say with confidence that in my opinion, every women over 40, (or if you’ve had children, perhaps after each pregnancy,) would be well-served to see a PT that specializes in this area.  Issues down in our “nether region” are not something that we spend a lot of time talking about with friends, family, or our physician.  And whether its pelvic pain, urinary incontinence, or something else… these issues are NOT “normal.”  You shouldn’t have to just grin and bear it, believing that you’re just getting older and there is nothing you can do to fix it.  I complained for almost 10 years to my OB/GYN before he finally suggested I try Physical Therapy! TEN YEARS!!!  Nobody in their right mind should wait that long to address a chronic problem.  Speak up, and be the squeaky wheel until somebody takes you seriously enough, you’ve tried multiple solutions, and you’ve gotten the positive results you’re after.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!  (Please don’t lose hope, or stop trying to improve your health, until after you’ve taken your last dying breath!) 

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles!  For each and every part of our body we are challenged with dominant and weaker muscle groups, and when things are out of balance – injuries result.  With every muscle we’re faced with a “use it or lose it” dilemma.  So if you don’t even know it exists, much less how to use it properly, doesn’t it make sense that it’s going to get weaker?

The first real sign you’re going to notice for a weak pelvic floor just might be when you start leaking!  Before then, why even bother with it.  Well if you don’t have bladder control problems yet, how about being PRO-ACTIVE to find and keep the right muscles working in the basement to support your body and your bladder.  Reduce your risk for hip and back injuries, SI joint issues, and urinary incontinence by strengthening your weak or imbalanced pelvic floor muscles.  It’s never too late to learn a new trick!  You just need somebody to teach you the secret of strengthening your Pelvic Floor for better bladder control.

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Discover the Secret to Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor… Check out my eCourse: How to Effectively Engage the Pelvic Floor to Help Strengthen the Core

How to Effectively Engage the Pelvic Floor to Help Strengthen the Core

And here’s a link to the article by Katherine Martinko that inspired this post:
Women, you’re not supposed to leak while exercising! Ignore what CrossFit says

 

Posted by administrator in Exercise and Fitness, Functional Movement, Health, Links to Interesting Articles, Sports & Athletics.

Pilates Exercise Progressions: Use Handstands To Develop Strong Arms & Shoulders

handstandThe upper body strength benefits of incorporating handstands into your weekly workouts are huge.  In daily life we don’t typically spend much time upside down on our hands.  But, being upside-down is great for developing balance, body awareness and control, and improving arm and shoulder strength.  Plus being in a handstand position has some great benefits for a healthy spine.  In a handstand, you’re countering the effects of gravity to lengthening the spine in a completely different way!

Posted by Aliesa George in Exercise and Fitness, Pilates, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips, Strength Training.