Tips to Keep Fit for Healthy Holidays

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and it’s just a few days away. However, Thanksgiving can certainly wreak havoc on your attempts to stay fit and healthy. It’s also a preview of what’s to come. The over-indulgence (and self-indulgence) of the holidays is right around the corner. But don’t worry–it really is possible to enjoy the festivities of the season without completely sabotaging your health and fitness. Since Thanksgiving weekend kicks the holiday season into high gear, here are a few easy and and practical fit tips to help you stay on track. 

Tips to keep moving.

As we say in the Feldenkrais community, movement is life! Having said that, it is crucial that you keep moving. If you are the one who is responsible for preparing the entire Thanksgiving feast, you can manage to burn off a few calories even while you’re cooking and cleaning. If you aren’t the head chef, you might have a bit more flexibility in your schedule for the day. However, please remember to include the person who is putting your special day together. Not only can they use a hand, they can also use a break. Here are a few suggestions to keep moving.     

    *Dance in the kitchen.

No, I’m not kidding. Even if you enjoy spending time in the kitchen, standing for long periods of time is exhausting. What’s worse is that you can end up with back pain, hip and leg pain, a stiff neck, and sore shoulders. The solution? Put on some music while you’re cooking, cleaning, and setting the table. Boogie around the kitchen and dining room as much as you can. You’ll burn some calories, and as an added bonus, the movement will gently lubricate your joints and keep your muscles from getting stiff. You might not think it matters, but trust me, it does. And your body will thank you in return. Even small amounts of movement each and every day has a cumulative effect. It can make a huge difference on your health and fitness during the holidays and the rest of the year as well. 

    *Walk it off.    

Walking is fantastic exercise, and it’s also what I consider low maintenance. Which means, you don’t have to invest a lot of extra time to engage in a brisk walk to burn off some extra calories as well as excess stress at the same time. After all, it doesn’t matter if you are preparing a holiday meal for two people or twenty, it is still very stressful and a tremendous amount of work. Besides, if you’re expecting a guest or family member that doesn’t always behave during holiday get-togethers, that little endorphin burst will come in handy later in the day. Just in case you need it.

    *Play around.

Gather your family and/or guests together for a game of flag football, leaf gathering extravaganza, or a brisk run around the obstacle course at a local park before dinner if the weather permits. Or, you can always play in the snow if Suzie Snowflake pays a visit to your area, or stay inside for a game of ping pong or Twister if the weather is really bad. Playing ninja games is always one of my personal favorites with all of that hiding, disappearing, and running up walls, so to speak. Just use your imagination and see what you can come up with that everyone can enjoy. You could also try and plan it for after dinner, but I personally prefer the opportunity to slip into a gentle tryptophan and chardonnay induced coma. Yes, indeed, we all have our traditions to uphold.

These are just a few examples to help you keep moving through the holidays. Use your imagination and see what other tips you can come up with and please do not hesitate to share them with me and my readers. Most of all, if you do over-indulge a bit, don’t beat yourself up over it. After all, Thanksgiving is a holiday, and a time to count our blessings and to be grateful for all of our gifts, both great and small. And I am sincerely grateful to each and every one of you for being part of my life. You give me blessings above and beyond that which you could ever know. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Diary of Seven Days of Positivity: Part II

My diary of seven days of positivity certainly started with a bang. It was so good that I didn’t think anything else could quite live up to that fabulous day. I was wrong, as I discovered over the next two days.  

Dear Diary, Day Two:

The second day started off with another beautiful golden Colorado morning. It was Saturday, and I had the day off. After years of working Saturdays, I decided that I need to take weekends off. What a treat! Since I had the entire morning free, I baked banana bread from scratch. After all, is there any other kind? As the heavenly fragrance filled the kitchen, I got dinner ready in the crockpot. I do love my kitchen and love do to cook, when I have the time.

I also love going to pole class, and that was next on my agenda for my Saturday off. However, pole is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and that’s saying a lot. But, one thing I’ve noticed about pole class–the energy is always positive and uplifting, and we all encourage each other and celebrate each others’ progress throughout the entire class. Maybe that’s the real reason why I love it so much. Honestly, I believe that pole dancers must be the happiest people on earth. I guess when you have the ability to defy gravity, it gives you a different perspective on life, especially when you’re hanging upside down. 

My day ended with a fabulous finish with a long walk in the park with one of my dearest friends. Even though we’re close friends, we live so far apart that we rarely get to see each other. However, on this beautiful afternoon she just happened to be in my part of town, and we were able to enjoy some excellent girlfriend time. I drove home feeling warm and fuzzy, and it wasn’t just from hot flashes. This practice of positivity was pretty powerful and pervasive. 

Dear Diary, Day Three:

The next day I had to do the grocery shopping, which is not my favorite thing. I have a fantasy that all the groceries I need for the week will magically appear in my kitchen. So far that hasn’t worked out for me, so off I went to the store. When I walked to my car after doing my shopping, I was approached by a man asking me for money. He said he was hungry. I told him I didn’t have any cash on me (which was true). He smiled and thanked me anyway. He started to walk away when I had a head smacking moment. “Wait a minute,” I called after him. “I have bananas. Do you like bananas?”

His smile got bigger as he turned back toward me. “Yes, I like bananas,” he replied. I handed him 3 bananas with a curtsy, and he graciously bowed in return. As he bowed, I remembered I had a sandwich in my bags as well, which I bought to share with my husband for lunch. I dug it out of my bag and handed it over to him with a flourish. He accepted it with a twinkle in his eye. He had such a kind and gentle spirit, and I smiled to myself the entire way home. I was grateful that groceries didn’t magically appear in my kitchen.     

I could go on, and on, and on. Actually, Day Four was even better with an opportunity to laugh at myself. But you get the point. When it seems like you’re drowning in an ocean of bad news and negativity, it really isn’t that hard to turn it around. Just change your perspective a bit, and focus on what really matters. When you do that, life sure is a lot more fun, and the negative influences just fade into the background. 

Please feel free to share your own positive experiences….my readers and I would love to hear from you! After all, we can all benefit from positive stories. Don’t you agree? 

Life is Good: A Practice of Positivity

Life is good, and so are people. At least, most of them are, most of the time. But the past few weeks have been pretty brutal. As the election season went into overdrive, I was overwhelmed with the negativity associated with it. People just didn’t seem happy, and they weren’t being very nice to each other. As a matter of fact, some of them were downright nasty. The tsunami of negativity swirling around me threatened to sweep me away, never to be heard from again.   

Everywhere I went, people were either trying to draw me into a political conversation, or making snide remarks about both candidates and what they stood for. My attempts to change the subject didn’t work. So, when someone pressed me for my “honest” and candid opinion, I gave it. I was rewarded with verbal attacks on me and my character. Once it even earned me a glass of wine thrown at my face. Fortunately, I was able to get out of the line of fire in time, thanks to my outstanding ninja skills. But it sure was a waste of good wine as well as a wake up call. Perhaps when someone asked me for my honest opinion, they honestly didn’t want it unless it mirrored theirs.    

Time for a change.

It was time for me to come up with a new strategy. After all, one of the many things I learned in my Feldenkrais training is that there is always more than one option. Obviously my first two didn’t work, so I had to come up with another tactic, and I did. The next time someone tried to pull me into a political conversation, I simply nodded my head, kept my mouth shut, and tried to look intelligent as I followed their monologue. It appeared that I was intently following their conversation and carefully considering every word. But in reality I was mentally writing my grocery list for the following week. This technique worked so well that I progressed to creating a menu for the week, too. As a result, I came up with some fabulous new recipes to try.

As an additional distraction, I decided to make a practice of every positive encounter I experienced over the course of the next seven days. And what a revealing and uplifting practice it was! It reinforced my affirmation that life, indeed, is good. And so are people. At least most of them are, most of the time. Here is just a sample from the first day in my seven day diary of positivity.           

Day One and a life well-lived. 

I started the day with a fantastic session with two of my favorite clients. Awww, who am I kidding, all of my clients are special, and really terrific. After work I decided to treat myself to a manicure, and what a treat it was! I was fortunate to sit next to a delightful lady and had a wonderful conversation. She was 91 years young, and full of life, energy, and vitality. My kind of woman! She was a widow, and her husband had been a survivor of Pearl Harbor.

Once she started talking she just couldn’t stop. She shared many stories of her husband, her family, and their life together as well as his struggles from dealing with his experience in Pearl Harbor. It was fascinating, and the more stories she told me, the more questions I asked. to hear. 

What impressed me the most was her attitude. Although she and her family experienced a lot of difficult times, she never lost her positive outlook and happy disposition. I know that happiness is a choice, and so is positivity. Once my new found friend’s nails were dry, she bade me farewell and hopped into her snappy little sports car to drive home. I still smile when I think of her, and the affirmation that life, indeed, is good. And so are people. Sometimes we just need a little reminder. 

And to think, all of this positive energy flowed from just the first day, and there is still more yet to come. Until then, please share some of your positive stories with me and my readers. It’s always great to hear good news!      

 

Halloween, Feldenkrais, and the Magical Movement of the Skeleton

Halloween has to be one of my favorite holidays. I loved it as a kid, and I still love it to this day. There is something special about the decorations, the costumes, and the sheer spookiness of Halloween. And of course there’s the candy corn. At Halloween you can be anyone you want to be. You can even be yourself if you like.

Another thing I love about Halloween are all of the skeletons hanging around, so to speak. As a physical therapist I’m used to looking at the skeleton in a variety of different ways. But I fell in love with the skeleton during my Feldenkrais training. Because there is something magical about the skeleton.

Our skeleton is the very core of our being, and it is responsible for holding our structure together. It’s just like the foundation of a house or a building. Without a sound foundation, the structure will begin to collapse upon itself. Unfortunately, my husband and I experienced that for ourselves when water in our basement damaged the foundation. It was a very expensive  and impressive lesson to learn.

Our bodies are very similar to structure of a building. However, they are far more beautiful, both in design and function. That’s where Feldenkrais comes in to play. In Feldenkrais, we focus on moving from our bones and our skeleton, rather than pushing from our muscles. Our skeletal structure supports us, our bones move us, and our nervous system is the computer which functions as the control center. Our muscles simply contract and relax as a result of the messages they receive from the very sophisticated, highly developed and extremely intelligent nervous system.

I know, it’s a different way of approaching movement, and it may be contrary to your current belief system about the science of movement. However, once you learn to move from the skeleton instead of pushing through your muscles, you experience how movement becomes easy, elegant and effortless. The truth is, when you move from your skeleton, magic happens!

This Halloween, put out the decorations, put on the costumes, consume the candy corn, and take a few minutes to celebrate and honor your skeleton. After all, it supports you every single day of the year. And it truly is a remarkable structure. Most of all, have a safe, healthy, and Happy Halloween. Boo.

 

Sixty Days Of Cheryl: Reasons to Celebrate

Turning sixty is not the end of the world. As a matter of fact, I believe it’s just the beginning, and certainly something to celebrate. And I ought to know, based on personal experience.

Not that I’ve ever turned sixty before. But when I turned fifty, magic happened. Full disclosure–my thirties weren’t so great. My forties were a nightmare. I wasn’t sure I would even make it to fifty. But the closer I got to fifty, the more I began to look forward to it. If nothing else, at least it would signify the end of the decade from hell.

I was so excited about turning fifty that my girlfriends threw me a party, complete with a red tiara. This was an idea borrowed from the Red Hat Society. You know, the group of women who mark their fiftieth birthday by wearing a red hat and becoming a member of the special secret club that wears red hats and purple dresses in public.  

But I didn’t want a red hat. I wanted a freaking tiara. I felt like I earned it after all I had been through. My dear friends actually found red tiaras online. They bought one for me and three other girls who were already over fifty. We had a fabulous party, complete with a crowning ceremony, where the over-fifty ladies placed a red tiara on my head.

I decided to further ring in the big Five-O by celebrating “Fifty Days of Cheryl.” I began on the day of my red tiara party, and spent just a few minutes every day honoring myself in some small way. It started out great, until I got the stomach flu on the tenth day of Cheryl. Always the optimist, I figured I would just drop that one day and pick it up again on the following one. Unfortunately, it took me a week to recover and I dropped the remaining forty days. However, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for turning fifty.

My fifties were the best decade of my life. Of course, some bad things happened. I lost both my parents, almost lost my business, and had to break up with my BFF. But I managed to walk through it all with the kind of strength, grace, and confidence that belies a person of lesser years. On the other had, I accomplished a lot in those ten years, and learned a lot as well.

I think that’s a pretty good track record, and the thought of turning sixty made me deliriously happy. I revisited my tradition from my previous decade, and started celebrating “Sixty Days of Cheryl.” So far it’s going quite well. So well that I think I’ll continue it through the rest of the year, even if I get the stomach flu along the way. Because if my fifties were fabulous, my sixties are going to be sensational! 

There are several life lesson’s in this story. First of all, it’s important to choose your friends wisely. Friends that stand beside you during the rough times and celebrate your successes during the good times are worth their weight in gold. Next, remember to do something each day to honor yourself and appreciate everything you have accomplished along the way. Also, don’t let a little thing like the stomach flu make you lose your focus. It too will pass, and life will be good again. And, make sure you put a tiara on your head at least once in your life–it makes you feel like the princess (or prince) that you are. Most of all–live well, look good, be healthy, and happy!   

 

Fit Tips to Step Up Your Walking Program

October is a great time to step up your walking program. The fantastic bright blue October skies, crisp air, and incredible colors make it an ideal month to get outdoors and get moving. Here are a few tips to keep you moving through October and beyond.
 

1). Invest in hiking poles or walking sticks.

No, it’s not cheating, it’s smart. There are many great benefits from using hiking poles or walking sticks, regardless of whether you are enjoying a hike on a mountain trail or a long loop around your favorite city park. Here are just a few of the benefits.

    a). Posture.
         Using hiking poles (or walking sticks) put you in better postural alignment. They help keep you in a more upright position with your chest up and your shoulders back. So, as you are working on your fitness and communing with nature, you are also reinforcing good posture.
     b). Spine health.
          Hiking or walking with the poles simulates a “normal” gait pattern with the use of your arms opposite your legs. This movement results in healthy rotation of your chest and pelvis, which is essential for a strong, flexible, and healthy spine.
     c). Balance.
          Not standing balance, but a balanced workout. The poles give you an upper body as well as a lower body work out. Also, since the poles put you in better postural alignment, the forces of gravity are going through your legs in a more harmonious way, working the back of your legs as well as the front. You work your gluts (butt muscles) as well as your hamstrings, resulting in stronger legs, a more shapely bottom, and significantly less stress and strain on your knees at the same time. Score!
     d). Distance.
          The poles help you go the distance, giving you a longer workout as well as a more balanced one so you can go deeper into the woods or further on your trail to continue to enjoy the glorious colors that October provides.
     e). Self-preservation.
          The little ninja in me can’t help from including this little tidbit. Having two poles with you can provide a handy dandy makeshift weapon when you’re walking in the woods. You never know when you might run into the unexpected four legged (or two legged) threat. As we say in my martial arts class, everything’s a weapon. Besides, if you have one, chances are you won’t need it.
 

2). Change your socks.

I don’t mean change your socks like your Mom used to tell you to change your underwear, I mean invest in a really great pair of socks. Usually our shoes get all the attention, but we forget about our socks. They’re more important than you might think, and they are worth their weight in gold. Besides, they can spare you unnecessary pain and problems down the road, so to speak. Or the trail.
     a). Comfort.
           A good pair of socks will decrease unnecessary friction, preventing painful rubbing and blisters so you can keep moving. Besides, a well-made pair of socks feel fantastic on your feet.
     b). Health.
          Socks made specifically for hiking and walking will wick away moisture to help keep your feet fit and healthy.
    

3). Stretch it out.

Walking and hiking is fabulous exercise, but can tighten the muscles of your legs and hips. Gentle stretching is essential to keeping your legs and hips flexible and your joints mobile and happy. Keep yourself flexible with the following stretches.
     a). Legs.
          Place your hands against a wall or door. Put one leg forward and one back, gently press your hips forward to stretch your calves. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat.
          Sit on the edge of a bed or couch with one foot on the floor and the other leg resting on the bed or couch. Straighten the knee of the supported leg, sit as tall as you can, and slightly lean forward from your pelvis (not your back) to stretch your hamstrings. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat.
     b). Hips.
          Lie on the floor, bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Bring your left ankle to rest on your right leg just above your knee to stretch the muscles of your left hip. Place your hands under your right thigh to bring your right leg off of the floor to increase the stretch. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat.
I have a few additional tips to help keep your feet flexible as well, but I think I’ll save that for another day. You already have enough to think about, and you might be itching to get out on your daily walk.
Please feel free to share any of your helpful fit tips with me and my followers. I’d love to hear from you! Happy trails!  
  

Blog Tour!

My Virtual Blog Tour starts on Monday, Oct 3!

Monday I begin an 8-stop virtual book blog tour. I’ll be “visiting” 8 book review blogs from all over the United States and Canada! Below is a list of the blogs I’ll be visiting. The bloggers will post reviews, interviews and excerpts of the book. Please check out the tour by clicking on the links below. You can also join us on my Facebook page for the blog stop of the day.

Monday 10/3/2016 Urban Book Review 

Tuesday 10/4/2016 Beck Valley Books

Wednesday 10/5/2016 3 Partners in Shopping

Thursday 10/6/2016 Book Reviews and Giveaways

Friday 10/7/2016 Jbarrett5 Book Reviews

Monday 10/10/2016 JaM Book Blog

Tuesday 10/11/2016 Library of Clean Reads

Wednesday 10/12/2016 Buy The Book Marketing

Follow along as I “travel” around the country and Canada, and please continue to share your comments. It’s an honor to have you along on my tour!   

 

More About Your Core: Strength and Awareness

I have a few more thoughts about core strength that I want to share with you, especially since my previous two posts were on the subject. I can’t include all of the salient points regarding core strength in one post, but I can leave you with more to think about regarding one of my favorite (and often misunderstood) topics. Here’s a brief recap and a few new points as well. 

First of all….

Strong core muscles help to eliminate and prevent back pain and injuries. However, they are only effective if you are doing them correctly. Otherwise, not only are you wasting your time, you can cause serious injury to your low back and neck. Even worse, you can develop a strong muscle that pooches out rather than in. Of course, from someone who has suffered miserably from low back pain, neck pain, incapacitating headaches, and an abdominal wall that was so tight the fibers threatened to snap, I would prefer dealing with a pooch-y belly. But, that’s just me.

The good news….

You can effectively strengthen your core without the torment of conventional crunches or sit-ups. All you have to do is learn how to isolate and activate the abdominal muscle (your transverse abdominis) that is primarily responsible for strengthening your core. So, core awareness is just as important as core strength, and the ability to isolate and activate the proper abdominal muscles is a key component to achieving both.

Less is more….

As you are learning how activate your transverse abdominis, remember that the process is more complex than merely strengthening your abdominal muscles. It’s about fine-tuning your abdominals rather than mindlessly grinding out exercises that are supposed to “help” you. When you are trying to isolate and engage your transverse abdominis, keep in mind that less is more. Here are a few check points to consider:

  1. You shouldn’t have any tension in your low back, hips, or pelvis.
  2. Keep your jaw relaxed and your face and eyes soft.
  3. The only area where you should feel tension is deep in your lower abdominals.   

More about your core….

Core strength and awareness isn’t limited to the strength of your muscles. It also refers to your strength of character, your convictions, your personal values, and your belief system. Core strength and awareness is also a representation of your spirit, which determines who you are as a person, and how you move through life. And when you move from your core, both literally and figuratively, you can move through all stages of life with strength, grace, and confidence. It’s a beautiful thing, don’t you agree?

Core Strength: The Controversy Continues

You wouldn’t think that there would possibly be a controversy about core strength, because core strength is always good. Or is it? But after posting my last article regarding core strength, I found a fascinating article pointing out the pros and cons of core strength, especially on how it relates to back pain. The author made several excellent points. I highlighted just a few which captured my attention, which I would like to elaborate on for further consideration.

1).Our spines were designed to move.

Amen to that, brothers and sisters! Our spines are made to move: forward, backward, side to side and in rotation. Yes, even in rotation. Some practitioners refer to rotation as ‘twisting,” which makes me cringe in horror, since it conjures up an image of someone wringing out a wet dishrag. Hmmm, not exactly a model for a healthy spine. Twisting involves a compression of our spine, causing strain, stress, and injury. Rotation occurs with a lengthening of the spine which is so important for a healthy, flexible spine.

2). Years of core strength exercises could make back pain worse.

Can I hear a hallelujah! From my own personal experience, I can certainly attest to that! After years of ballet and Pilates, I had an iron cast core, with abdominal muscles that you could bounce a quarter off of, and butt muscles that were so fired up I could crack walnuts with them. Hmmm, not exactly something that would look good on a resumé, but I sure was proud of myself. Unfortunately, it wasn’t functional, and movement has to go somewhere. The movement in my spine and hips was so restricted that my SI joint had to take the brunt of everything I did. Oooops. The result was an insidious onset of low back pain that rendered me incapacitated and a chronic pain patient for two and a half long, miserable years.

3). Core stability exercises are easy to teach.

Interesting. Since the article focuses specifically on the fitness industry, I would have to agree that yes, it’s easy to teach core exercises. As a matter of fact, it’s easy to teach any exercise. However, it is far more challenging to teach someone how to move properly during an exercise or movement pattern. It takes a sophisticated level of training, education, and skill to help people move with thoughtful attention. Otherwise, you can end up like I did, desperately seeking help from incapacitating back pain. In my own defense, I have to say I wasn’t a physical therapist or a Feldenkrais practitioner at the time, so I hadn’t a clue how to help myself. However, when I look back on it, it’s incredible how many of the “experts” were still trying to strengthen a core that was already so pathologically tight my muscle fibers felt like piano wire.

4). Relaxing your muscles around your trunk when you have back pain is a more helpful.

Right on! Actually, relaxing your muscles is always helpful, even if you don’t have back pain. Any unnecessary muscle tension can restrict the movement of our joints, limit the flow of blood to our muscles, cause our nerve fibers to get over-excited (and not in a good way), and eventually lead to pain and dysfunction. Muscles must be able to relax as well as contract. The ability to soften and relax a muscle is just as important as the ability to strengthen a muscle. It’s about fine-tuning our entire musculo-skeletal system, and finding the dynamic tension and balance between the muscles, skeleton and nervous system.

When it all comes together, magic happens. We can move more easily and effortlessly as we also build strength, flexibility, and balance. It’s a beautiful thing, this human body of ours, don’t you agree?      

 

Core Strength and The Magical Muscle

Core strength.. We have all heard the term. After all, it has become quite the buzz word in the fitness world, especially in the Pilates and yoga communities, just to name a few. But what exactly is core strength, and how do we get it?

In traditional exercise and fitness routines, crunches and sit-ups have been the gold standard for core strength. So has the image of the “six-pack” or washboard abs. However, I am here to tell you that the gold standard is tarnished. So please allow me to shed some light (and hope) on the subject of core strength.

Core strength refers to developing the abdominal muscles that stabilize our pelvis and support our low back. The benefits of core strength include a healthy spine, decreased incidence of low back pain, and protects us from back injuries. But even better, a strong core gives us a flatter tummy and a trimmer waistline. Hmmmm, then why haven’t you been able to accomplish all of this with those crunches and sit-ups you’ve been grinding out over the years? Because you haven’t been targeting the right muscle.

The muscle that gets activated during a crunch is called the rectus abdominis. The fibers of this muscle go up and down the length of your torso from the bottom of your rib cage to your pubic bone. It’s a great muscle for bending your spine forward, but does not help give you the core strength that protects your back. In reality, doing crunches can actually injure your back and your neck if you’re not careful. Even worse, you can develop a strong muscle that protrudes out instead of in. Yikes!

The muscle you want to focus on is called the transverse abdominis. Like the rectus abdominis, this muscle runs along the entire length of your torso. However, the fibers of this muscle go from side to side instead of up and down along the length of your torso. When this muscle contracts, it flattens your tummy, lengthens your spine, stabilizes your pelvis, and strengthens your back. The muscle also wraps around your torso to connect to the muscles of your low back to give you a trimmer waistline. You got to love this muscle!

Here’s a simple (but not necessarily easy) exercise to find this magical muscleSit on the edge of a firm chair with your feet on the floor. Bring your attention to your lower belly. Notice how the belly pouches out a bit as you inhale, and comes in slightly as you exhale. Breathe in and out a few times until you feel the movement. Then, the next time you breathe out, gently but firmly pull your belly up and in toward the front of your spine.

You should feel a flattening and tightening of your lower abdominals as well as a lengthening of your spine. Feel yourself getting taller as you do a few repetitions. The contraction is not a shortening or “bearing down” movement; it is up and in, without rounding or arching your back. The rest of you should stay relatively relaxed, so you truly are isolating your transverse abdominis.

You can practice this exercise several times a day, just a few repetitions at a time, anytime you find yourself sitting at work, at home, in traffic, etc. In a short amount of time you will discover that your tummy is flatter and your abdominal muscles are stronger. Your posture will be better. It’s not magic, but it certainly feels like it. Because when you have core strength, you will be able to do things you never believed possible. Because when you have core strength, the sky’s the limit!