Effortless posture……finding your spine.

Good posture is effortless. No, this isn’t a typo; it’s the truth. And the key to effortless posture is to find a way to let your spine support you. Our spines are designed with natural curves that support us during all weight bearing activities. Unfortunately, sometimes our ideas about finding “good posture” causes us to try and change the natural curves of our spines. The result? Abnormal alignment, muscle imbalances, joint pain, and joint dysfunction.

So, how can we find the natural curves of our spine? By learning how to find the natural curves of our spines so that the force of gravity goes through our spine and our bones in a way that supports our skeleton and doesn’t strain our neck, back, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. This simple movement exploration is an example of the movement lessons from my book, “Forever Fit and Flexible: Feeling Fabulous at Fifty and Beyond.” It’s important to move slowly, carefully, and with a spirit of interest and curiosity. In the “Forever Fit and Flexible Program,” there is no right or wrong, good or bad; just opportunities to learn.

1). Sit on the edge of a firm chair with your feet flat on the floor. Bring your attention to your sit bones (located under each buttock and called the ischials). Notice how your sit bones contact the chair. Notice the shape of your spine. Don’t change it, fix it, or make a judgment about it. Simply take a moment to sense the shape of your spine from the base of your pelvis to the top of your head.

2). Very, very slowly and gently begin to rock your pelvis forward and backward on the chair. You are moving from your pelvis, not your chest. Notice how you rock more forward on your sit bones, and then more backward on your sit bones. Do this several times, slowly, carefully, and with a sense of curiosity. Notice how the pressure of your sit bones change against your chair. Pause and rest.

3). Once again begin rocking your pelvis forward and backward. Slowly. Gently. Notice how you get shorter on the front of yourself and longer on the back of yourself as you rock backward on your sit bones. Notice how that changes when you go forward on your sit bones. Several times, slowly, gently. Notice how you breathe as you do this. Pause and rest.

4). Once again begin rocking your pelvis and notice when your sit bones pass through a spot where you feel like you can sit easily and comfortably. If you can sit without any effort your spine is supporting you. You have found effortless posture in sitting.

5). Slowly come to standing, and notice what it feels like to be in a standing position. Notice the shape of your spine. Walk around and notice the carriage of your head, the movement of your shoulders and the movement of your pelvis as you walk.

This simple but powerful movement exploration can help you find a renewed sense of ease, grace, youthfulness and elegance in your posture as well as all of your functional and recreational activities. Keep moving, be healthy!

Fit Tips to Help You Keep Moving

During the past six months we have all been stuck at home during the worst pandemic the world had experienced in over 100 years. But, while we were sheltering in place to stay safe, most of us got little to no exercise. And even though the restrictions are being lifted, a lot of us are squeamish about going back to the gym or the yoga studio just yet.

But here’s the good news–you don’t have to leave the house to stay on track with an exercise program. All you have to do is keep moving! Here are a few  fit tips that you can easily do at home to help keep you fit, healthy, and back on track.

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!

 

Plan Ahead For Healthy Holidays

I love the holidays, especially the food, the parties, and the fun. But, unfortunately it can wreak havoc on our health and fitness. Many of us strive to get back into shape, lose weight, get fit, healthy and back on track with (ack!) New Year’s Resolutions.

However, once the holidays are over, the New Year’s Resolutions that sounded like such a good idea during the whirlwind of the holidays are now staring us right in the face. And the high goals we set for ourselves seem unattainable. Usually because they are. So we give up after two weeks, feeling guilty and frustrated. What a way to start the new year!

But I have another thought–since we plan for the holidays, why not plan ahead for healthy holidays at the same time? That way, you can practice a bit of moderation while still having a good time. Then you can sail through the holiday season with your health and fitness intact as well as your self-respect. Here are a few ideas to help you get started, but feel free to tweak it a bit, or create your own plan. Use your imagination, turn it into a game or a challenge. Recruit a friend or family member to help you stay on track, and turn it into a fun challenge to see who can come up with the most ideas. Here are just a few of my own.

Create a calendar

Create a calendar for November and December. I prefer a print calendar rather than one on your phone or computer. Write down every event or party that you will be attending so you know ahead of time what’s coming up. It also helps you not to become overwhelmed with holiday activities.

Guard your schedule like a jealous lover

Now that you have a calendar, keep a close eye on your schedule to make sure you aren’t over-extending yourself. You don’t have to accept every invitation, or attend every party or event. Prioritize the events that are the most important to you, and skip the rest. It will be so much better for your health and well-being in the long run, which brings me to another point.

Schedule time for yourself

While you are planning your calendar and your schedule, remember to schedule time for yourself, and write it down. Whether it’s going to your favorite exercise class, taking a walk around your neighborhood, sitting down with a good book, listening to music, meditating, playing with the dog….you get the idea. It will keep you balanced, grounded, and energized.

Be mindful of your movements

It’s important to keep moving, especially when we’re busy entertaining or preparing feasts for our friends and family. Even just a few minutes of sitting and bouncing on an exercise ball, taking a quick walk around the block, or even putting on music and dancing in your kitchen as you work will do wonders for your circulation, your metabolism, your immune system, and your body, mind, and spirit.

Snack before going out

As a final suggestion, have a light, healthy snack before going out to a party or a big dinner. It will keep you from over-indulging and help keep you on track as you enjoy all of the wonderful treats that the season has to offer.

Most of all, be gentle with yourself. If you do over-indulge, don’t beat yourself up. This is such a lovely time of year, and we want to enjoy all of the many blessings that it brings. So, plan ahead, have a wonderful time, and look forward to starting 2020 with your health, fitness, and sanity intact. Here’s to your health!

Winter Is Coming

Oh boy. Winter is coming, and yesterday’s snow storm is a harsh reminder that the cold weather, short days, and long, dark nights are right around the corner. Which makes it tough to stay motivated and on top of our game–the fitness game, that is. After all, who feels like leaving the house to work out at the gym or go to your favorite exercise class of choice? And don’t even get me started about going to an indoor pool for a swim. Brrrrrrrr! 

So, what’s a person to do? 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 simple solutions and ideas to help keep you fit and healthy, no matter what the weather.

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!

 

Episode 6: Who Needs A Gym?

Keeping fit and healthy is an important component of the spirit of the ninja. Think about it–how could you possibly defend yourself or your loved ones if you were in poor physical shape? You couldn’t, which is why you need to follow some sort of fitness routine.

But, what do you do if you’re like me, and hate going to the gym? Believe me, in my younger years I tried. Really I did. I even tried running a long time ago. But I quickly discovered that I was allergic to running and the mere thought of going to a gym made me break out in hives.

Fortunately I discovered other ways to keep in some sort of shape, including dance, Pilates, and martial arts classes. All, by the way, are highly effective but also incredibly expensive to pursue on a regular basis. But, they share many basic principles and have a lot in common, which is something I was able to figure out and share with hundreds of my clients along the way stay in tip-top shape so they can fight the good fight.

In this episode I share some surprisingly simple tips to help you get fit and stay fit in every stage of life, without spending hours at a gym. Because it’s not what you do during those few hours a week at the gym. It’s what you do during the rest of the time that really counts. And here are just a few ideas.

Time to Get On the Ball

When I was in grade school, our teachers used to tell us to “get on the ball!” It was a metaphor for get to work, stop slacking, quit fooling around (and having fun). Basically, time to get serious and grow up. Sheesh! What a bunch of kill joys!

But I sure wished that they meant it, literally. Because getting on the ball is a fantastic (and inexpensive) addition to any fitness program, or just simply to have some fun. In fact, it’s so much fun that you don’t feel like your doing any exercise at all. And, you can do it every day, all in the privacy of your own home. Just sitting on the ball for a few minutes each day can:

1). Improve posture, balance, core strength, and flexibility.

2). Increase blood flow, lymphatic flow, and environmental awareness.

3). Improve cognition, attention, and creativity.

4). Relieve stress, anxiety, and fatigue.

5). Make you feel like a kid again. (That one just happens to be my personal favorite).

Start by simply sitting on the ball. Once you are comfortable, you can add gentle rocking back and forth, and side to side. Start doing gentle bounces. You can even do an aerobic workout on the ball. Put on some music and go to town bouncing around. Or course, keeping safety in mind at all times. I even like doing light weights for my arms while sitting on the ball, because it gives me more bang for my buck. What can I say–I like multitasking.

If you are new to using an exercise ball (also called fit ball, Swiss ball, physio ball, Pilates ball), you might want to check in with a physical therapist to make sure you get the correct size and you know how to use it correctly and safely. But most of all, remember that exercise doesn’t have to be tedious. It can be fun and uplifting. It can even make you feel like a kid again. Without the nagging teachers.

Ancient Ninja Secret for Your New Year

Here we are, in the last week of January. Maybe you started the new month (and the new year), with high expectations of working out, going to the gym, or eating healthy. How’s that working out so far?

A lot of us make those New Year’s Resolutions and end up falling flat on our face. Fantastic. One more thing we can feel guilty about. But, I have a better idea. Instead of feeling guilty or giving up completely, I am going to share an ancient ninja secret with you. But, please don’t report me to the Society of Ninja Secrets. They might not like it, and might take away my hard-earned official secret ninja card.

So, here it is–keep moving! Literally, just move. Move your body in every single direction, including forward, backward, side to side, and diagonally. There are many reasons why this is important.

1). First of all, if you can move in any directions or any moment in time, it will keep you safe in an oftentimes unsafe world. When you can adapt to any unexpected change in your environment, it can even save your life.

2). Next, the simple act of moving your body improves your circulation, lymphatic flow, cognition, awareness, balance, flexibility, and cognition.  Moving your body keeps you from getting stuck, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, if you are stuck in any way, movement stimulates brain function, gets the creative juices flowing, and helps improve your problem-solving abilities. You can find solutions to problems that you’ve never thought of when you were sitting on the couch waiting for the spring thaw.

3). Finally, ditch the judgment and the self-doubt. Just find new and creative ways to move and explore your environment, just like you did when you were a kid. There is no right or wrong, just opportunities to learn. and that is a nifty little ninja secret that is my late January gift to you. Besides, it’s so good for your health!

Simple Steps to a Happy New Year

Here we are at the beginning of another New Year. I find it hard to believe it’s 2019. Where did the time go? Along with the excitement of a shiny New Year comes the resolve of self-improvement through (ack) New Year’s Resolutions.

I personally dislike New Year’s Resolutions because I believe they set us up for failure. And disappointment. Statistics reveal that most people give up in less than 2 weeks! That’s a terrible way to start a New Year, by feeling like you’ve already failed. I have another idea.

Each and every day is a new start, and an opportunity for self-reflection and self-improvement. Or not. After all, life is full of hits and unexpected challenges that can undermine even our best intentions and throw us off track.

It’s important to remember that we are all works in progress. Part of our life journey is how to be kind to ourselves and not to beat ourselves up. Trust me, there are plenty of people out there who will do it for us.

I shudder when I see the sign at the local gym that I drive by every day which blasts in red letters “New Year….New You!” As if to imply that there is something wrong with the current version of you. It’s almost a form of subliminal body shaming. I don’t like that. Besides, I think you’re perfect just the way you are.

But, if you do want to make changes over the next year, take it one day at a time. Start small, and start slowly. Over the next few months I will offer simple tips and steps you can follow to help you achieve your goals, no matter what they are. You can pick and chose which ones make sense to you, and ignore the ones that don’t.

Most of all, never give up on your goals. Or your dreams. Not just once a year, but every single day. I’m your biggest fan, and I believe in you. Happy New Year!

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!

 

Spring Into Fun Fit Tips

Spring has sprung. However, with the crazy weather we have all been experiencing across the country, it sure doesn’t seem like it. The relentless wind, rain, and snow can keep us locked indoors instead of getting out and enjoying our favorite activities. But, no worries–here are a few quick tips to keep you fit, healthy, and moving so you can be at your best when the sun comes out for good.

 

Bounce around for your health.

Having an exercise ball is a great tool to have at home no matter what the weather is like. Just sitting on the ball for a few minutes every day does wonders for your posture, balance, core strength, and flexibility. Adding gentle bouncing while sitting on the ball also adds the benefit of stimulating your nervous system, cardio-pulmonary system, and lymphatic system. It’s also great for your mental and emotional health, and it makes you feel like a kid again.

Why weight to feel great? 

For strengthening, sculpting, and toning, I recommend using light weights. Even 2 pound weights will give you the results you want as long as you are moving slowly and fully engaging your attention and awareness while using them. For example, when doing bicep curls, imagine the line and the shape of the muscle fibers. Concentrate on the movement of the muscle as you slowly bend and straighten your elbows. You can do an entire series of arm exercises in just a few minutes. To get more bang for your buck, do them while sitting on the ball.

Chairs aren’t just for sitting. 

Sit on the edge of a firm chair with armrests. Slowly push against the armrests with your hands, bringing yourself toward a standing position. You do not have to go all the way up. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to go very far before you feel your arms working. Very slowly, lower yourself back down. And I do mean slowly–no plopping back down. Make sure that you pull your shoulder blades down and together  as you move. This will strengthen and tone your upper back muscles as well as your arms at the same time.

Remember, it’s not about going to the gym 3 times/week. It’s about what you do each and every day that has a cumulative effect to keep you vibrant, fit, and healthy. Keep moving–be healthy!