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!

 

Ballet Is For Everybody, and Every Age

Ballet is the motherload for health, fitness, strength, and flexibility. However, traditional belief is that ballet is only for children and aspiring young professionals. That simply isn’t true! Adults of every age (and any age) can enjoy the remarkable health benefits of ballet. Ballet is the ultimate fountain of youth, and you are never too old to start taking ballet classes. I know many adults who began their ballet training in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s.

This Bonus Episode features professional ballet dancer, teacher, choreographer and all-around great guy, Radoslaw Kokoszka. He shares his remarkable story of becoming a professional ballet dancer as well as his personal philosophy of ballet and dance in general. His unique and gentle approach to teaching ballet to people of all ages is positive, uplifting, and inspiring. He also is excited to announce the addition of a new adult beginning ballet class right here in the Denver area.

However, even if you aren’t in Denver, Radek encourages everyone to look for an adult beginning ballet class, because not only will it help you get into the best physical shape of your life (no matter your age), it will help improve your cognitive function as well as your balance, posture, strength, flexibility, coordination, spatial awareness and problem-solving skills.

Also, there is nothing that can quite compare to the social aspect of ballet and the exhilaration of getting together with a group of people who share a passion with you. Finally, ballet is like food for your soul, and it fills your heart with joy.

Download this episode to hear Radek explain why he believes in his heart that ballet is for everybody. And every body. And why you’re never to old for ballet!

Episode 12: The Magic of Healing Through Movement

Movement is life, and movement can help you heal from pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and pretty much anything that is interfering with the quality of your life. On the other hand, we all have habits and patterns of moving that can create or add to our physical or emotional pain.

Knowledge is power, and so is lifelong learning. Keeping an open mind and learning about alternative health practices gives you the power to take control of your body and puts you in charge of your health rather than relinquishing it to someone else.

This episode outlines one of my favorite alternative modalities, one which I have studied extensively and eventually became certified in after four grueling years of study and training.

However, it was well worth the time, money, and effort invested. Yes, it’s that good. Learn a little bit about this method and discover how using your awareness, along with simple changes in your movement patterns can help you heal your life, in a natural, organic, and visceral way. After all, the human body has an incredible ability to heal itself.

As I said, knowledge is power. And so is the magic of movement. It will even restore your human dignity.

Episode 8: Nature’s Oil Can

Do you ever feel like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz? Maybe you wake up every morning so stiff and inflexible that you wish you had your very own oil can and a team of friends to help you use it. Or, maybe you try stretching your tight muscles, only to feel even worse afterwards. Don’t feel like you’re alone. It happens to a lot of us, and there is a physiological reason for it.

Martial artists manage to stay flexible during the course of their entire lifetime. They have to, if they want to continue to keep fighting the good fight. This episode highlights an ancient ninja secret which is a miracle of nature that is in each and every one of us. It will help you discover a new level of flexibility in your body, mind, and spirit. Download this episode to learn what it is and how to access it.

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!

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.

 

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!

The Power of Grace….

Grace. It’s such a beautiful word. Just the sound of it brings forth a sense of ease, elegance, and peace. Who wouldn’t want to experience grace? Maybe we felt like we had it at some point but lost it along the way. (I don’t know what happened to it….I know I left it around here somewhere). Perhaps we feel like we have been looking for it all of our lives. It’s possible that we don’t even know what we’re looking for, but intuitively know that something is missing. What is grace, anyway?

In my mind, grace is a feeling. It is a sense of confidence and well-being. It is about having a strong sense of self-awareness, and being comfortable in your own skin. You know how to set personal boundaries and how to cultivate healthy relationships. You respect yourself. You have the flexibility to move through life with an effortless flow, even when the going gets tough.

One of my favorite quotes is from a remarkable man named Moshe Feldenkrais. He said, “What I am after is not flexible bodies, but flexible brains. What I am after is to return each person to their human dignity.” Ahh, grace. It is a lovely word, and a powerful one as well. It’s also a wonderful feeling–one that returns you to your strength, power, and human dignity.

It was through life’s trial and tribulations and the most difficult chapters in my life that I discovered the power of grace. I will admit that it hadn’t always been easy. But I did find it, and I sure like the way it feels. And I hope I don’t lose it like I lose my car keys. Because, there is incredible power and grace in each and every one of us. As well as human dignity.

Feldenkrais®: Science and Magic

I am passionate about science, especially neuroscience. If I hadn’t been accepted into a master’s degree program for physical therapy, I would have earned a master’s in neuroscience instead. However, I couldn’t see myself working in a lab all day. I’m more of a people person. Besides, if I had gone in that direction, I may never have discovered Feldenkrais.

I absolutely love the method, and I love being a practitioner. My greatest reward is witnessing the magic of this method as it helps my clients improve the quality of their lives. However, my greatest challenge as a Feldenkrais practitioner is trying to explain what Feldenkrais is, how it works, and why it is so effective.

Feldenkrais is not magic; it’s science, and is based on the scientific principle of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity means that we are able to change and learn new things during the course of our entire lifetime. I don’t mean the kind of learning that we get from a book, or the kind of learning that we get from school. It’s the kind of learning that takes place deep in our nervous system, and it is more of a visceral, organic type of learning that changes our neural pathways, strengthens our neural connections, and actually grows more nerve tissue in our brain. How cool is that?

Feldenkrais uses the concept of neuroplasticity to access our nervous system in a very gentle but powerful way, through movement. Feldenkrais lessons gently interrupt current patterns and habits through movement explorations, thus allowing for new patterns to emerge. The learning and integration of new patterns are not limited to just movement, but include moving, sensing, thinking and feeling as well.

With Feldenkrais, you can eliminate aches and pains, improve your flexibility, posture, and balance. You can discover new ways of moving effortlessly and more efficiently. You will be able to improve your proficiency in all of your functional and recreational activities, regardless of your age and current level of function.

It does sound like magic, doesn’t it? It is, and it isn’t. It is the science of neuroplasticity, and the magic of our nervous system to discover our inner wisdom and realize our full potential. I don’t know about you, but it feels like magic to me. The magic of the Feldenkrais Method and the science of neuroplasticity.