Great Fit Tips to Help You Keep Moving

Don’t wait to feel great. It’s already the end of January, and those New Year’s resolutions might be a distant memory. The resolve to exercise more may have sounded like a great idea during the over-indulgence of the holidays, but now reality has set in.

The cold weather and short, dark days make it hard to stay motivated, and the let down from the holidays makes it even more challenging. Who feels like leaving the house to work out? Here’s the good news–you don’t have to leave the house to stay on track with an exercise program. Here are a few great fit tips that you can easily do at home to help keep you fit and healthy.

1). Get on the ball.

If you don’t have one yet, get a large exercise ball. If you do have one, start using it. Just sitting and bouncing on the ball is a great way to improve your posture, balance, stimulate circulation and strengthen your low back and abdominal muscles. Just a few minutes a day on the ball can make a huge improvement in your strength and flexibility.

2).  Why weight? 

A resistance program will shape and tone your muscles. Invest in a set of light weights to use while sitting on your ball to strengthen the muscles of your arms, chest, upper back, and shoulders. You can use your weights in sitting and/or standing, but sitting on the ball challenges your balance, posture, and strengthens your core muscles even more.

3). Clean up your act.

While doing household chores, slow down and really focus on the quality of your movements as you work. The simple act of cleaning the house then turns into an opportunity to improve your gait, balance, strength, flexibility, posture, body awareness and body mechanics. It’s almost like a moving meditation practice.

4). Shake it up.

Nothing kills your enthusiasm for exercise like boredom. Now is the time to try that dance, yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi class you have been always meaning to try. Any of those will help balance your energy as well as your body. As an added benefit, you will learn movement patterns that you can easily practice at home to keep you fit and healthy.

5). The more the merrier.

Recruit a friend so you can encourage and support each other to stay focused on your goals to get fit and stay fit. It also helps to stick with a program if you have someone to be accountable to, and it makes working out a social experience as well as a physical one.

These are just a few suggestions. Just a few minutes of exercise each and every day can have a huge, positive impact on your strength, flexibility, overall health and fitness. Small, simple changes that you can implement at home can easily be incorporated into your daily routine. Use your imagination to see if you can find a way to design a program for yourself that is fun, playful, and interesting. That is the key to success, not just during the dark days of winter, but all year long as well. The possibilities are endless!

 

Sleep Your Way to Better Health

Ahhh, sleep. Nothing rejuvenates your body, mind, and spirit like a good night’s sleep. But for many of us, sleep can be an elusive dream, so to speak. Even worse, a lot of people wake up in the morning with pain because they “slept wrong.” Yikes!

Because I truly appreciate the value of a good night’s sleep, I don’t believe that there is a “wrong” way to sleep. However, here are a few tips that can help you wake up to a pain-free morning. After all, I want you to be able to face the day feeling fit, fabulous, and ready for anything.

1) If you sleep on your back.

Use a pillow under your knees to support your low back in a neutral position. Play with different sizes until you find the one that is the most comfortable for you. Be sure that the pillow you use under your head is the correct size to support your head in a comfortable position.

  2) If you sleep on your side.

Place a large pillow between your knees. This eliminates the strain on your low back and hips by putting your lumbar spine (low back) and pelvis in a neutral position. You may want to support your legs all the way to your ankles. Put another pillow in front of your chest and let your arm rest on top of it. This takes stress off of your shoulders and puts your cervical spine (neck) in a neutral position. Again, make sure that the pillow for your head is properly supporting you in a comfortable position.

3) If you sleep on your stomach.

Body pillows are great for stomach sleepers. Place the pillow in front of you so you can position yourself over the pillow as if you were lying completely on your front. You have the sense of being on your stomach, but your spine is being supported in a more neutral position. This eliminates the strain and pressure to your low back caused by excessive extension as well as neck strain from lying on your stomach for prolonged periods of time.

I recommend using traditional pillows that you already have in your home. You can spend a lot of money on special therapeutic pillows and be disappointed in the results. Since you already have pillows, put them to good use and save your money.

Don’t worry if you position your pillows and wake up to find them on the floor or thrown across the room. It takes a while to get used to the pillows, and we all move around and re-position ourselves a lot during the night. Your body will become accustomed to the pillows and you will subconsciously readjust them in your sleep as you move.

Wishing you good nights, good sleep, and good health!

Self-Confidence Is the Best Self-Defense

Self-confidence plays a critical role in self-defense. How we stand, walk, and carry ourselves communicates to the world how we feel about ourselves. People pay more attention to our body language than we think they do. And they respond to what they see, and what they think they can get away with.

This really hit home when I was teaching one of my self-defense classes for women. There were several grown women and two petite teenagers in the class. The girls were sisters, and they were adorable. One was very chatty and outgoing, and the other one was extremely quiet and reserved. They were accompanied by their grandmother, who had decided they should all take the class together.

It usually takes some time for women to feel comfortable in a self-defense class, and this group was no exception. However, eventually they began to get into the spirit of the class. They even started to have fun with it, which is always one of my goals.

The quiet teenager hung back and silently watched the rest of us play with a few techniques and walk through several different scenarios. I thought she was just shy, so I made an effort to engage with her and make her part of the group. After a few moments I said, “Now let’s pretend that someone is picking on you at school.” She shot a look at her grandmother. The room got very quiet. Finally her grandmother said, “That’s exactly what’s happening, and why I brought her here.”

Ahh, that explained her demeanor and her body language. I wished I could go to school with her the next day and protect her from her tormentor. But that wasn’t practical. Instead, I continued teaching from a slightly different perspective. And I made sure this girl was front and center.

Pretty soon, something remarkable happened. She began standing taller (all five feet of her), and started looking me in the eye. She paid closer attention to what we were doing and got a lot more talkative, although not nearly as loquacious as her sister. Eventually I slid up beside her and whispered, “You’re getting it now, aren’t you?”

I wish you could have seen the look she gave me. She had a gleam in her eye and a knowing smile on her beautiful face. As a matter of fact, she actually glowed with a wisdom well beyond her years. She nodded her head and replied, “Oh, yeah. I get it.” I could see her self-confidence increase as the class continued. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

Two weeks later I received an email from her grandmother. She informed me her granddaughter told her that one self-defense class changed her life forever. She wasn’t being picked on any longer and was enjoying going to school again. Or at least, as much as any teenager can enjoy school.

I would love to know how the final confrontation went down. I would have given anything to see how she stood her ground. Most of all, I would have loved to see how her tormentor responded. Especially since I know it was done in a non-violent manner. Sometimes all you have to do is walk tall, look people in the eye, and stand your ground. After all, the best offense is a good defense. And self-confidence is the best self-defense.  Wouldn’t you agree?

Be Careful What You Tell Yourself

Be careful what you tell yourself. Words are very powerful, and what you believe it what you become.

Several years ago my husband and I were traveling to Atlanta to visit his family. We were on the train from the concourse to baggage claim and I was practicing a technique I learned in martial arts. I stood with my eyes closed, my knees bent, and without holding onto anything, I practiced finding my balance while I sensed the movement of the train.

As I was getting into a meditative state, I heard a loud voice say, “I have to sit down, because I’m an old lady! When you’re an old lady, you can sit down, too.” I opened my eyes and saw a woman squeezing into the last available seat and talking to a little girl standing near her. I closed my eyes and went back to my musings and practice while the woman continued her litany about being an old lady.

When we got off the train and moved toward the escalators, I automatically went to the stairs while the woman continued, “I have to take the escalator because I’m a old lady!” “Good grief,” I wondered, “How old is this lady anyway?” I turned around to look at her and almost fell the rest of the way down the stairs. She had to have been at least ten years younger than I was at the time! What kind of message was she sending to herself, as well as to that little girl?

Getting older is inevitable–being old is a choice. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking, as well as the detrimental effects of negative self-talk. Be very careful what you tell yourself, because what you hear (even from yourself), is what you believe. And what you believe is what you become. And I believe that all of us are beautiful. I also believe that we can be healthy, active, vibrant and fit, and every age and in every stage of life. Believe it!

More Fit Tips For a Healthy New Year

Here we are, already in the second week of the New Year. Hopefully, you’re still on track with your resolution to get fit and healthy, exercise more, or eat healthier. However, it’s easy to lose our motivation once we return to our daily routine after the holidays. The pressure of work and family obligations, combined with the cold, dark days sometimes get in the way of our good intentions. You might even be tempted to give up. But before you get discouraged or throw in the towel, keep these tips in mind to help you stay on track.

1). Visualize success.

Imagine yourself achieving your goals. Close your eyes and see yourself as the fit and healthy person you want to be. If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. The practice of visualization is a powerful tool to help you accomplish your goals, and even go beyond what you thought was possible. Professional athletes and performing artists have used the power of visualization for years to improve their performance on the field and on the stage. They continue to practice it, because it works for them. Just imagine (so to speak), what it can do for you!

2). Stay positive.

Remember to give yourself positive messages. What we tell ourselves is what we believe, and what we believe is what we achieve. Our brain and our nervous system is always receiving and processing the messages it hears. Words are incredibly powerful; use them for the power of good. All of us fall on our face every now and then. Remember, there is no such thing as failure, just opportunities to learn and grow.

It is also important to surround yourself with positive people. Negative people can bring you down and even sabotage your efforts.

3). Recruit a friend.

Partner up with a friend with the same goals that you have. By doing so, you can help and encourage each other, as well as share your progress. You can also buoy each other up when the going gets tough. You can hold each other accountable in accomplishing your goals. Besides, it’s a lot more fun to travel the path of health and fitness with someone else.

Wishing you all the best in health and fitness!

Memories, and Ghosts of Christmas Past

Memories are the best part of Christmas celebrations. And making those memories are even better. For most of us, Christmas has come and gone. But not for me, it hasn’t. My decorations are still up, along with my tree. My tree is the only one that lights up the neighborhood at night, and my neighbors are probably wondering why I haven’t given it up yet. However, I cling to my decorations as much as I cling to my memories, and the ghosts of Christmas past.

I was born into a family that was lucky enough to celebrate Christmas twice in two weeks. My mother’s parents were from Eastern Europe, and were Serbian Orthodox. That’s a tribe (so to speak) that celebrates Christmas on January 7th instead of December 25th. As a child, it was a little confusing, no matter how many times my mother explained to me and my sisters. But it didn’t matter. What did matter was that we got a bonus Christmas.

And that second Christmas was almost more magical than the first one. Santa Claus came on December 25th, but on January 7th, we got something better than Santa. We got a special holiday with our cousins. And our grandfather.

My grandfather was the one person who loved Orthodox Christmas even more than we kids did. To make it even more special, it was the birthday of his first grandchild, my oldest sister. And something she lorded over the rest of us for at least forty years. My grandfather would make a fuss over her, and then the rest of us, as he presided over the huge family meal.

Speaking of the family meal, every year the women outdid themselves, and I can only imagine the amount of work and preparation that went into it. But I can guess–they didn’t seem to enjoy the day quite as much as my grandfather did. Along with all of the food, there was always a single tall candle in the middle of the table that remained lit for the entire day. And next to it was a bottle of good whiskey.

The bottle sat there, untouched, next to the candle until the meal was finished and the trays of cookies were laid out. Then, with great ceremony, my grandfather would pour a shot of whiskey for each of the men. (He wasn’t  discriminating–the women just didn’t drink shots of whiskey back then). That would signal the official end of the meal, but not the end of the celebration. The party went on forever!

When my grandfather was gone, my Uncle presided over the table for the next twenty-five years. After he passed, my Aunt took over. The tradition still continues to this day, in that house in Western Pennsylvania, with a few changes along the way. For one, the women have no problem imbibing in the traditional shot of whiskey.

Today, I will celebrate Christmas in my heart, and remember all of the wonderful lessons I learned from my grandfather. First, it’s important to stick with tradition. It’s also important to sing at the top of your lungs, no matter where you are or who is listening. Play practical jokes on people and laugh at them. Laugh even harder when the joke’s on you. A sense of humor keeps you young at heart. Also, never underestimate the value of a shot of good whiskey, especially when you’re sharing with friends and family. And speaking of family, that’s the most important lesson of all. Stay together, love each other, laugh, cry, fight with each other, and always remember that they have your back.

Today I will pour myself a shot of whiskey, raise a toast to my grandfather, and thank him for the memories, and the ghosts of Christmas past. What a gift he gave us, and what wonderful lessons of love he left for us. I would end by saying Merry Christmas, but I’ll stick with tradition….Hristos se Rodi!