Sharing ninja secrets: Shhhhhh……

As a card carrying ninja, I sure know a lot of ninja secrets. I spent many long, hard hours of training for 14 years in a smelly martial arts dojo with a lot of sweaty men to learn these secrets. I also spent a tremendous amount of time, money, and effort along the way as well. But, every minute and every penny was well worth it and well spent.

It is my heartfelt desire to share some of these secrets with you without violating the code of the Super Secret Society of Ninjas, so here are just a few simple tips that will help you stand, walk, and move like a ninja to help keep you safe every time you step out into the world.

After all, our body language communicates to the world what kind of day we’re having, and even how we feel about ourselves. And people pay attention to it more than you think they do. It makes an immediate (and lasting) first impression. So, we want to make a great impression each and every time we meet someone. Whether it is at a party, a business event, a networking group, or a stranger on the street.

Especially a stranger on the street. Because we don’t want to look like an easy target if he happens to be one of the bad guys. Here are a few simple tips:

1). Stand up straight with your head up. Yes, this means putting your cell phone away.

2). Look people in the eye, including strangers. Especially strangers! No, it’s not rude.

3). Have your hands free at all times, just in case you need them to sweep a flying object or an unwanted and uninvited hand out of the way. Yes, it does happen.

4). Stand with your knees slightly relaxed and one foot slightly in front of the other, just in case you need to make a fast exit.

5). Speaking of exits, always know where the closest exits are every single time you enter a building or enclosed area. Exits aren’t just important in airplanes.

Most of all, stand, walk, and move with confidence. Because that is the way of the ninja!

Flexibility….For Life!

Do you ever feel like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz? Like you are so stiff and inflexible that you were left out in the cold, damp forest for so long that you can’t move your joints and you’re screaming for your oil can? Or, have you ever tried stretching your tight muscles only to feel even worse afterwards? It’s not just you. There is a physiological reason for it, and it is basically quite simple.

Before I get all geeky about physiology, let me assure you that losing flexibility is NOT a “normal” part of the “aging process.” Who came up with that idea, anyway? If you find out, let me know. I’d like to smack ’em upside the head for spreading stuff like that! The truth is, that we do not have to lose flexibility as we get older. Even more good news is that we have our own internal oil can, which lubricates and nourishes our joints to keep them healthy and mobile during the entire course of our lifetime.

So, how do we access this internal oil can? By gently moving and mobilizing our joints in the full range of motion that they were made to do to help us perform at our best. I’ll use the hip joint as an example. It is a lovely joint that is made to move in a circular manner called circumduction. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to use it as a hinge joint, moving only forward and backward. Sitting, walking, climbing stairs are an example. As a result, the soft tissue that supports that magnificent joint gets tighter and tighter. Oww. So, we stretch.

One of the functions of the soft tissue is to protect the joint. It is rich with nerve endings that talk to the brain and let it know how things are going. When we try and stretch, those nerve endings send signals to the brain that say STOP!! You’re going to damage the joint. The brain replies by saying OK, and tightens up the soft tissue even more to protect the joint. Ooops.

Instead of stretching, try gently mobilizing your hip joint in its socket with gentle, circular movements. Do not force it, just let it relax into the movement. Remember that less is more. really listen to your body and the signals it is sending you. It does take some extra time, and you do have to slow yourself down. But, in the end, it sure is worth it.

For more ideas, check out my podcast    “If  you can’t bend your knees, you can’t do squat.”

Trick-or-Treat and Ninja Tips

I love Halloween. I always have and I always will. But, the world has changed a lot since I was a kid. Maybe it’s just the ninja in me, or being a grown up that makes me more aware of the potential dangers around us, especially when we are in a festive mood and celebrating a holiday.

Here’s wishing you and your family a very fun filled and Happy Halloween, as well as a few ninja safety tips to keep in mind. I know you already know them and practice them, but just putting it out there does make me feel better.

1). Carry a sturdy and high powered flashlight. Not only will this help light your way, you can shine it in the eyes of any undesirable goblin that comes your way. This will temporarily blind them, giving you the chance to get away.

2). Leave the masks at home. No matter how adorable, scary, irresistible, and tempting they may be, they limit your visual field. They are also very distracting to the wearer, and a distracted person makes for an easy target.

3). Make sure you go through your child’s stash of candy at the end of the night of tick-or-treating. I am not suggesting that any of the homes they visit would engage in nefarious activities or hand out candy or other treats that have been tampered with, but you never know where those treats were before they entered your little goblin’s Halloween bag. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Besides, you might use it as an excuse to help yourself to a few treats as well.

Halloween is about having fun and making memories. It’s also about being safe and practicing good safety practices and establishing patterns that will teach your children well and that they can use during their entire lifetime. Boo!

Who Needs A Gym?

Are you one of those people (like me) who absolutely hate the thought of going to a gym but does want to be fit and healthy? The key is to keep moving, and find activities that you absolutely love to do. I personally enjoy taking classes because I enjoy the social interaction, the camaraderie, and having someone that I need to be accountable to. After all, if I were left to my own devices I would sit on the couch all day eating bon bons and wonder why my butt was so big.

However, there are so many things to choose from for physical activity. Notice I said “physical activity” rather than “exercise.” I did that on purpose, because I am a physical therapist who hates exercise and thinks that chocolate is food. Fortunately, I love to move.

Movement is life, and our bodies were made and meant to move. Keeping that in mind, you may want to experiment in a variety of different classes or movement modalities that appeal to you. A few examples are Pilates, Tai Chi, yoga, dance, and/or Feldenkrais, just to name a few. The beauty of studying any of these methods is that they are portable, meaning that you can learn the basic movement techniques and practice them in the privacy of your own home every single day.

However, don’t think that you have to do each and every movement pattern that you learn. Again, I am avoiding the “e” word to take away the pressure. Just do the ones that you enjoy or feel good to you. Just doing them for 5-15 minutes a day will do wonders to strengthen, tone, and condition your entire body. It can be even more effective than going to the gym 3 times a week, because the effects are cumulative.

If you make a habit of setting aside a few minutes every day to simply move, you might be surprised how good you feel. Keep moving, be healthy, and don’t be afraid to enjoy a bit of chocolate every now and again.

Strong Is Sexy: At Every Age

Muscles are a must, because a strong body is a healthy body, and an attractive one as well. There is nothing more appealing than the look of sleek, toned muscles, in every stage of life. But, more important than how a strong body looks, is how a strong body feels.

Strength feels healthy, confident, resilient, and youthful. Besides, it also makes your clothes fit better. Strength is imperative for healthy function, but strong muscles also help us in many other ways as well.

Strong muscles increase our metabolism, help us burn calories, and help us maintain a healthy weight. Notice, I said a “healthy” weight, not some unrealistic or abnormally low weight. Fitness isn’t a size or a number. It’s not about the way you look, but the way you feel. And, strong feels as sexy as hell. That, in itself, is enough to make you want to pick up some weights and get started.

Strong muscles also lead to strong bones. By putting a healthy stress on our muscles to strengthen them, we are also putting a healthy stress on our bones at the same time. When we stress our bones (emphasis is on in a healthy way), we strengthen them. Without getting too nerd-y on you, it’s a physiological phenomena called Wolf’s Law. We can even change the shape of our bones as we strengthen them. How cool is that?

But, what if you hate the thought of weight training? What if you’re like me, and the thought of going to a gym makes you break out in hives? Never fear, you can always strengthen, shape, and tone your entire body in the privacy of your own home. Do I have your attention? Great! Make sure you check in next time for some quick fit tips for strength training at home. Because strong IS sexy, at every age!

 

Breaking Up With My BFF

Breaking up with someone is always awkward, and uncomfortable. But I had the McDaddy of uncomfortable breakups when I had to break up with my BFF of 30 years.

Because, how do you tell someone that you have been best and dearest friends with for 30 years that you haven’t liked them for the past 15 and have been trying to figure out how to break up with them for the past 10? Like I said, it was awkward. So awkward and uncomfortable that I actually had to seek professional help.

My friend and I met in ballet class 30 years earlier and established an unlikely friendship. She was quiet, reserved, shy, and highly intelligent. I was loquacious, demonstrative, outgoing, and just smart enough to get by. For some reason we got along famously.

However, over the years what had begun as a wonderful friendship based on mutual support, respect, and caring somehow turned into one that was demanding, controlling, and manipulative. Our social interactions left me feeling drained, depleted, and even angry. Her arrogant condescension set my teeth on edge. When I tried to limit our “girl time” she became hostile and belligerent. I couldn’t even imagine how she would react if I tried to break up with her.

I slowly tried to interrupt our habitual patterns  by setting clear boundaries and re-establish new patterns in our relationship. After all, we had been friends a long time, and I wanted to salvage our friendship if at all possible. Besides, we had shared our deepest secrets, so we both knew where all the bodies were buried, so to speak. Sadly, it didn’t work out that way.

If you’d like to hear more details right from the horse’s mouth (mine), you can check out my podcast on the subject on The Ladies Chit Chat Club.

The Debut Of The FemiNinja

Well, the results are in. After spending most of my summer deeply immersed in a podcasting contest, I finally got the news. I am thrilled and delighted to be one of four winners, and my new show, The FemiNinja has officially launched last week.  Eee-ha! I think that’s pretty good, considering that the reason I entered the contest was simply to have the opportunity to (maybe) meet the woman who was running the contest (someday).

Well, not only did I get my wish, I got a whole lot more than I had bargained for at the same time. As one of the podcasters, I am responsible for providing 2 episodes a week full of bad-ass content on a variety of different topics. The FemiNinja is about personal empowerment, strength, grace, confidence, health, fitness, standing your ground, finding your voice, living large and loving life. Because living well and looking good is the way of The FemiNinaj!.

I wanted to say that living well and looking good is the best revenge, but not everyone got the message. However, a few people did, and I’m thinking those are the ones with their our amazing stories and bad-ass content to share. I’m hoping to get some of them on my show for interviews.

My first official show was the story about how I broke up with my BFF of 30 years. Yeah. It was really awkward, but it just had to be done for my own health and well-being.

Like I said, I certainly got a whole lot more than I bargained for! So far I have talked to her on the phone several times, met her in person, been to her house, and had lunch with her and the rest of the team of The Ladies Chit Chat Club. 

Perhaps I need to set my sights a little higher in the future.

You’re Only Too Old If You Think You Are

When I was in college I began taking ballet classes. Everyone laughed at me, because I was “too old” to start dancing. Ballet was for children or aspiring professionals, not adults who were stuck with the freshman fifteen. I ignored the naysayers and went to ballet class anyway. Funny, everyone stopped laughing when they saw the results.

After enjoying a rewarding career as a respiratory therapist, I decided to go back to school and pursue a career in physical therapy. Once again the naysayers came out in full force. The application process is too long and arduous. The competition is too fierce. I wasn’t smart enough. And my personal favorite—I was too old.

And yet again, I ignored the naysayers and went through the grueling application process. I graduated from Colorado University with my Master’s Degree in physical therapy just three months shy of my 40th birthday. Apparently I wasn’t too old.

A few years later, at the tender young age of 47, I began studying an ancient Japanese martial art. Guess what my friends told me? Yep, you’re right! I was too old. but by now, they also included the phrase “and too frail.” Oh, really? Ten years later I became my teacher’s first female black belt. In the entire 20 year history of the school, no woman had ever received such a high rank. Hmm. Not only was I not too old, I wasn’t too frail, either.

Then, at the age of 58, I decided to listen to everyone’s sage advice and start engaging in more age-appropriate activities. But, I think I’ll save that juicy little tidbit for another day. The main point I wanted to make is that you’re only too old if you think you are. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Does it?

No You Can’t–Or Yes You Can

Have you ever wanted to try something new, or do something different and exciting, and were told, “No, you can’t?” Perhaps it was pursuing a dream, achieving a goal, or changing a career, and were told, “No, you can’t?”

I was born and raised in a small steel town in Western Pennsylvania, which is why I live in Denver. Nah….I’m just joking. More or less. My hometown was a great place to grow up, especially when I was a kid. We were all living the American Dream, and it was wonderful.

However, I wanted more out of life than what my town had to offer. I always wondered what it would be like to get out on my own, see the world, and make a life for myself away from the safety net of family and everything that was familiar to me.

During my senior year in college I decided to do just that. When I announced my plans to move to Denver, my friends and family were shocked. I was bombarded by well-meaning (but misguided) people who told me “No, you can’t.” Denver was too far away. It was too dangerous. I wasn’t smart enough, or strong enough to make it on my own. The list went on and on.

However, the most persuasive argument came from a guy I was dating, who told patiently explained, “You can’t go to Denver, because you have to get married. And since you have to marry someone, it might as well be me.” That convinced me. Two days after I graduated college I was halfway to Denver before the ink on my diploma even had a chance to dry. So much for “No, you can’t.”

The point is, there will always be people who will try to hold you back, keep you from pursuing your dreams, or simply tell you, “No, you can’t.” It’s your job to smile, nod your head, walk away, and do whatever it is you want to do. Because you can.

Excessive Apology Disorder

When I realized how often I was saying the words “I’m sorry” to everyone for everything, I became acutely aware of how many people apologize excessively when they don’t have to. I even came up with a name for it, which I dubbed Excessive Apology Disorder. Thank you–I thought it was pretty good myself.

When we have EAD, it allows for a close cousin to come creeping in, which is the chronic and nagging voice of self-doubt. Think about it. Every time we take responsibility for something that isn’t our fault, we relinquish a little bit of our personal power. We literally hand it over to another person, typically the one we are apologizing to. When we make excessive apologizing a habit, (like I did), we are constantly chipping away at our self-confidence and self-worth. Even worse, we eventually open the door to guilt and shame. Yikes!

When my Sensei called my EAD to my attention, I was mortified how much I apologized for no reason. I was stunned how much negative energy I was allowing to take over my life. Once I  stopped saying “I’m sorry” to everyone for everything, I felt my power and my self-confidence begin to improve. I found my voice again, learned how to stand my ground, and discovered how to set clear boundaries. It was a beautiful thing to behold!

Besides, if you are constantly saying “I’m sorry,” you diminish the impact of a sincere apology when the situation calls for it. So, notice how often you say you’re sorry. And pay attention if it really was warranted. Don’t say you’re sorry out of habit, or because you think the other person expects it. After all, most of the time you don’t have anything to apologize for, and everything is not your fault.