New Year New You: Top Ten Fitness Tips

new-year-s-resolution-take-charge-of-your-health-nowNew Year, New You; right? Well it is January again, and are you wondering if you can really stick with your New Year’s fitness resolutions? If getting in shape, and staying in shape is one of yours, it’s probably not the first time you’ve tried it. I’ve spent a lot of my career studying why fitness programs succeed or fail and developing methods to help people succeed. So, Happy New Year, here are my Top 10 Tips to help you ward off decrepitude.

New Year New You Top Ten Tips

•  Start slowly and go at your own pace. Staying in your comfort zone separates the pain from the gain. You’ll get the most benefit with the lowest risk of injury, especially if you’ve been inactive for some time.

•   Find the right kind of exercise for you. Choose activities you like or at least don’t hate. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as taking a brisk walk.

•   Pick a time of the day that is most convenient for you to exercise.  Try to stick with that schedule. Studies show that people who exercise at the same time every day are more likely to stick with it.

•  Before getting out of bed each day, take a moment to visualize yourself fit. Thinking of yourself as a fit person will help make it happen. Professional athletes do this daily.

•  Keep an exercise log. You’ll get a feeling of accomplishment when you stick to your program and will be able to chart your progress.

  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes with good support. Cotton is a breathable classic. But check out the super lightweight fabrics like cool-max that wick the sweat from your skin. When buying shoes, don’t feel weird about actually exercising in them in the store before plunking down the big bucks. I can’t tell you how many pairs of sneakers I have thrown against the wall before I learned this.

•   Exercise with a friend or family member. Supporting each other’s efforts helps keep you on track. One of my students loves to go mall walking with her friend in the early morning at speed and then coming back later for some retail therapy.

•   Music is a powerful motivator. Pick music you love that makes you want to move. There are fitness music companies that sell CDs with popular tunes played at specific beats per minute. They’ll tell you what speed works for particular types of exercise.

•   Consider professional guidance, especially if you’ve been inactive.  If you don’t want to join a gym or can’t afford a trainer, consider a beginner-level exercise video by a certified teacher so you’ll see the exercises demonstrated properly.

•   Set short-term, easily attainable goals, such as doing some form of exercise two or three days a week to start.  Change your goal when it becomes too easy.

It’s rare when anyone succeeds at anything right out of the gate. That’s why “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is a classic proverb. So if you fall off the wagon one day, just climb back on board the next. And remember you’re not a failure, you’re a success story in progress.

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Dance Exercise: The Magic of Movement

Dance exercise!

America is experiencing a dance renaissance. Thanks to the success of TV shows like “Dancing With The Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance”, people are starting to dance again.

In this era of personal trainers and hi-tech exercise equipment, dance exercise classes and videos are re-surging to new heights of popularity.

From ancient times people enjoyed coming together to move and communicate non-verbally. Looking back at the history of dance virtually every community gained togetherness by dancing to insure a good harvest, asking for rain, or celebrating a season. There are folk dances representing movement styles from every part of the world.

Expressive movement comes from a natural place within us. We’re all born knowing how to move. It’s innate, part of our humanity. As kids, we stamp our feet when angry, flail our bodies when frustrated and jump for joy. Humans have been expressing themselves through movement since the beginning of time. That movement has a purpose. It was never suppose to go away. But somehow, our so-called modern culture saw that release of tension, that form of human expression as primitive. So we have been repressing it for hundreds of years.

Dance Exercise

Our technology has brought us some great things. But it negates that part of who we are. We hardly have to move anymore and so we don’t-until we see ourselves falling apart at middle age. Turns out, movement was never primitive at all!

It’s primal! Primal is natural. Primal is good. It’s part of who we are, what we’re meant to be.

Studies show that expressive movement can help heal physical ailments and relieve psychological trauma. It can also get you fit, and Fitness=Longevity.

Get back in touch with that part of yourself that knows how to move, and feel better because of it. Tap into that mind-body connection that’s been there waiting for you. Release yourself from the conventional hard-body exercise experience.

Get back to your roots at this important time in your life. It’s as simple as turning on some music and dancing to the beat. Go ahead. Try a dance exercise class and dance yourself fit!

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Cancer and Exercise

Cancer and ExerciseCancer and Exercise: Best exercises for Cancer Patients?

In my health coaching practice, I consult with women who want to exercise but have health issues that make them uncertain as to how much they should do. Recently I had a client who said, “I am recovering from breast cancer. I finished my chemotherapy a few weeks ago and though I still feel weak, I was wondering if I should start exercising again?” And this is what I told her.

If your doctor says you’re up to it, you can get started. Best Exercises For Cancer Patients: according to ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine)

Cancer and Exercise

The best exercises for cancer patients is a combination of the three major components of fitness: Cardio, Strength and Flexibility. These types of exercise can have a positive impact on cancer patients and survivors. Easy aerobic exercise for cancer patients, has been shown to increase hemoglobin levels, reduce inflammation, lessen fatigue, keep muscles in shape for better every day activities, increase self confidence, reduce depression and aid in recovery of surgery.

Other research has shown strength and flexibility exercises to be good exercises for cancer patients helping them return to a normal activity level sooner.

Exercise and social support seem to increase the life expectancy of breast cancer survivors, preventing recurrence.

At the beginning, gently move a few minutes at a time, and build up at your own pace. Try walking, light aerobics or swimming. As you get stronger, add a couple of days a week of light resistance training. On days you feel more tired, try doing a few stretches.

Personal Note: It has been my privilege and joy to use my skill as a Certified Health Coach & Exercise Physiologist Specialist to help women manage their cancer with the healing properties of movement and exercise. It is from my own experience, that exercising on a regular basis, eating healthy food and reducing your stress can help prevent and/or manage cancer and many other life threatening diseases.

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Bernadine’s Crusade

My mother died in 2005 from Ovarian Cancer. Here is a poem I wrote about her.

Time it was when she found out how sick she was.

Like a Gladiator she got in her wheel chair and with her cane she fought against her illness.

Month after month she strived and relished every peach, every plum.

Moment by moment from lunch to lunch, she road the streets and shopped for food, clothes and jewelry as if she would live forever.

Her doctors were amazed at the way she road into their offices waving her cane
in stylish hats.

For her it was just the way she lived.

Opinionated, visually acute; her sense of aesthetics keen.

Expressive, she once cooed for me like a bird then clicking her teeth like a sparrow eating a tiny meal.

So it went.

Until the last, she raged with her cane beside her in the bed.

Little sips of ice mocha and chocolate malts

Slowing down.

Barely breathing,

her eyes flew open, to take one last peek

getting ready for the next to come.

mwh©

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Wellness Mandala

WellnessWellness: Life is a balancing act.
So I started thinking about wellness. What is wellness anyway?
It’s the absence of disease. If you are not sick you are well.
But it’s more than that isn’t it? It’s quality of life and for some it’s a balancing act; the balance of all things. I like this balance concept so I dug out one of my favorite balancing act tools:

Wellness Balancing Act Tool

The Mandala: the wheel of life. I wrote down all the types of wellness I could think of and ended up with 6 categories that I stuck on my Mandala to enable us to live well.

Here they are:
Physical Wellness
· Taking care of your body, eat right, exercise
· Visit your doctor regularly

Mental Wellness
· Keeping an open mind and trying to see other’s point of view
· Allowing your curiosity to take you to new places and learn new things.

Emotional Wellness
· Trying to keep a positive state of mind
· Cultivating self esteem
· Reaching out to others for support

Spiritual Wellness
· Recognizing your beliefs.
· Allowing your core values to direct your actions.

Social Wellness
· Developing positive inter-personal relationships at home and work
· Allowing yourself to give and receive love: to and from everyone that means that much to you including animals
· Participate in social situations; try not to stay on the sidelines.

Environmental Wellness
· Making your home environment peaceful, pleasant, safe and comfortable.
· Choosing an occupation and a workplace that doesn’t drive you nuts.
· Try to have a positive impact on our natural environment.
Recycle more, pollute less.

When the wheel is in balance it spins evenly. When even one of these categories is out of whack, the whole wheel starts to wobble.
So as a certified health coach I respectfully suggest you get rolling, get your balancing act together so you can live well.

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Workout: Can You Gain Without The Pain?

WorkoutWorkout? Spring has sprung and I’ve been getting those emails for a month or so asking for advice on how to get on and stay on an exercise program. I get questions about commitment, pushing one’s limits, pain, and quick results. I go a little crazy at this time of year because I’m at odds with a very vocal segment of my industry about how to get started on an exercise program. They’re sincere, well-educated trainers, but I don’t think they remember what it felt like to be de-conditioned. They expect beginners to do to much too soon. I’m beginning to think that over-vigorous exercise dulls one’s sense of empathy.

Workout?

I’ve seen it time and time again: determined beginners pushing so hard and either getting hurt and quitting or just quitting because they couldn’t take it any more. If this sounds like you, don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault. We’ve heard no pain no gain all our lives. We’ve watched contestants push themselves to the brink of disaster on television. We’re inundated with infomercial promises of big results in no time. It’s enough to make anyone think ” I’ve got to beat myself senseless immediately so I can hurry up, get fit, have the body of my dreams and live happily ever-after.”

By the way, I’m not against vigorous exercise. On the contrary, I love vigorous exercise. But I wouldn’t have loved it nor would I have been safe doing it as a beginner. In my experience, that approach only works for a few stoic types and sets the rest of us up to fail.

I believe in moderation, easing in, starting with a little and building up to a lot, staying in your comfort zone. You may get to super-vigorous exercise eventually, or maybe you’ll like moderate exercise better. And moderate may be just as good as vigorous, maybe better. Really.
Just so you know this isn’t some favorite rant of mine, there are people, scientists even, who actually agree with me. Here’s study conducted at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health

I think, the best way to get fit and make exercise a part of your life forever is to keep it pleasant. If you haven’t been exercising in a long time, don’t start lifting weights right away. Don’t try to jog or even walk for a half an hour right away. Do something easy. Do something pleasant. If you enjoy it today you’ll want to get up and do it again tomorrow. It’s the pleasure principal. I believe in it. This study published in the Journal of Health Psychology believes it, too

So, how do you get started? I suggest starting by standing up and doing about five minutes of gentle limbering movements. Do the same for a few days in a row. You may be surprised at how good this feels and what a wonderful state of mind these simple, natural movements put you in. You may find yourself exercising longer than five minutes after a few days because you like it. Don’t question it. Simply do it. You may find the more you do it the more you’ll want to do it, and the more you’ll do.

You may want to go for a little walk, then a brisk walk, then a half hour brisk walk. Don’t rush it. It doesn’t matter if it takes a couple of weeks, or a couple of months. Listen to you body. You’re on nobody’s schedule but your own.

Once you’re enjoying a half hour brisk walk most days of the week, try adding light weight training for your major muscle groups a couple of times a week. Increase the weight, number of reps and number of exercise days only when it feels too easy. Build up slowly to weight training about three days a week with a day off in between sessions.

Remember to keep it pleasant. If it’s too intense, it ceases to be fun and there’s a good chance you’ll quit. This approach takes longer. But I’ve found it to be much more sustainable than those quick fix pump you up methods. Most of those intense immersion exercise programs remind me of the guy who beats his head against a brick wall. When asked why on earth he does that, he says: “because it feels so good when I stop”

Ease-in. Invest in your body. It will pay you back in quality of life.

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Aqua Ballet Lower Body Workout

We are filming for several hours a day starting at the crack of dawn. The weather is cooler but not for long. My only relief has been to strip off my workout clothes, which are almost pasted to my body, jump into a swimsuit and plunge into the pool. After about 45 minutes of laps back and forth (I’m so motivated from watching all these Olympic swimming trials on TV) I get an idea. What if I try some ballet barre exercises in the water, holding on to the side of the pool? Aqua Ballet Barre, not such a bad idea I’m thinking. So I try one of my on land favorites for my legs and butt. I like it! I can really feel it working. It may be even more effective with the water for added resistance.

Try it yourself.

AQUA BALLET WORKOUT:

Stand facing front, heels together, feet turned out. Hold on to the edge of the pool with your right hand. Slowly bend left knee, bringing foot up to right knee forming a triangle. Slowly stretch leg in front of body. Then bring foot back to the knee of the standing leg and return to the starting position. Repeat 4 times to the Front, Side, and Back.

Turn around and repeat exercise on the other leg holding on with your left hand.

Below are Aqua Ballet Workout Photos

Aqua Ballet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fight Upper Arm Flab

FIGHT UPPER ARM FLABFight Upper Arm Flab!

My inbox is trying to tell me something. I’ve gotten several versions of this question in the past week alone.
Q: I’m starting to feel that flabby arm anxiety again. Summer is here and I don’t want to face my sleeveless blouses with these 54 old arms a year flabbier than they were last year. Is there anything short of surgery for me to do to fight upper arm flab?
A: Sedentary women in general and women at a certain age in particularly are faced with this problem every Summer.  And it does get worst, as you get older.
In fact we can lose up to 40% of our muscle cells by the time we hit 70. This is called sarcopenia. Weight resistance exercise can reverse this process and can help you regain some muscle you have lost.
Here are two easy site-specific exercises that target those problem areas in your upper arm and fight upper arm flab.

Fight Upper Arm Flab: Two Exercises

Bicep Curl for the Front Arm:
FIGHT UPPER ARM FLABGrab a set up hand weights and stand erect with your feet about shoulder width apart. Weights down at your sides, palms forward. Remaining erect, bending only at your elbows bring the weights up towards you until they reach your shoulders.
Slowly return to starting position. Repeat 8-15 reps.
Pick a weight that will just barely allow you to complete the final rep in good form.

 

Triceps Extension for the Back of the Arm:
FIGHT UPPER ARM FLAB
You will probably need a lighter weight for this exercise because those muscles are often weaker.
Stand erect, weights at your sides, palms in towards your thighs. Remaining erect step forward with one foot and slightly bend the knee. Keeping arms straight, bring both arms behind you just at or above waist height. You should feel the contraction on the back of your arms. Gently lower down to starting position.
Repeat 8-15 reps.

Do these exercises every other day. You should expect some soreness. It’s common when you are building muscle. Doing the exercises every other day gives your muscles a chance to recover and grow. You should see results in about 3-4
weeks. You will be on your way to fight upper arm flab.

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Exercising With Asthma

Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways. Bronchial passages become inflamed and narrowed in response to triggers like cold air, exercise, smoke, pet dander, dust mites and stress. Breathing becomes labored and difficult and in extreme cases, asthma attacks can be fatal. Asthma affects about 25 million people in the US according to the National Institutes of health, and 300 million worldwide.

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Osteoporosis: Is Your Thigh Bone Like The Eiffel Tower?

Osteoporosis Awareness MonthMay, is Osteoporosis Awareness Month.I first became interested in bones as a young dancer (about 200,000 years ago, in the Mid Paleolithic era). I was studying body alignment and I became fascinated with the skeleton and the remarkable living tissue that makes up our bones. I was intrigued by the intricate architectural structure of bone.

Osteoporosis Awareness MonthThere’s the smooth, hard shell we see on the outside called cortical bone, and the amazing crisscrossed, honeycomb like structure on the inside called trabecular bone. The combination of cortical and trabecular bone make our skeletons, strong, light, flexible and efficient.

The structure of trabecular bone is the secret ingredient. The trabecular bracing structure is located at precisely the correct angles to absorb the maximum force.

So when you jump over a puddle or run for a bus, it’s the trabecular bracing that directs the force to the strongest part of your skeleton and prevents a bone from breaking.

Most of us aren’t aware of our beautiful bone structure. But, it hasn’t gone unnoticed or unutilized.

The structure of trabecular bone was copied by the French bridge builder Gustave Eiffel, who wanted to build the tallest man-made structure in the world. When he built the Eiffel tower in 1889, he calculated the positioning of the braces in the curves of the legs to direct any force like high winds on the entire structure to the strongest area; the four legs. This is why the Eiffel tower continues to stand the test of time.

That’s fine for an iron tower. If part of it becomes weakened you can see it and fix it. But what happens to weakened or damaged areas of our skeletons?

I was astonished to find out that bones are pretty smart. They don’t grow to adult size and then stop.

Osteoporosis Awareness MonthOur skeletons are constantly getting rid of old weakened bone tissue and replacing it with new healthy bone. Osteoporosis Awareness MonthIn a process called remodeling, old weakened areas are broken down and replaced with new well-formed tissue. Our bodies replace about 10 percent of our bone each year.

Osteoporosis Awareness MonthIn bones with osteoporosis, the remodeling process has gotten out of whack.Those sturdy crisscrossed structures disappear and bones get weak and start to fracture. Fractures occur most often where there is the most trabecular bone.

The three areas most at risk for osteoporotic fracture are the spine has the most trabecular bone. So, if you have osteoporosis, the vertebrae start to squash under the weight of the torso. The thighbone at the hip is next. It can break just stepping off a curb. And the wrist will likely break if you put out your hands to catch yourself in a fall.

Osteoporosis Awareness Month

But there’s a lot you can do to prevent osteoporosis and maintain bone health. Weight bearing exercise like walking, jogging, aerobic dance and weight resistance training, stimulate the remodeling process and promote bone growth.

Exercise should be site specific. Do weight bearing and resistance exercises for the whole body but pay special attention to the areas most at risk; the spine, the hip and the wrist. Calcium and Vitamin D are also important.

Remember your bones are living tissue. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you.

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ShapeUp Outdoors

ShapeUpSHAPEUP!

I love to get out in the Spring after a Winter of exercising indoors. Even if you haven’t done much over the winter, the green smell of plants and flowers in the air and switching on to daylight savings time are great motivators.
Start with a duration you’re comfortable with and work your way up. I do some standing pushups and a couple of stretches at the end of my walk to round out the workout.

 

 

 

ShapeUp Exercises

No equipment necessary, just your favorite tree. Here is what I do:

Standing Pushups: Stand facing your tree and stretch arms in from of you, chest level and place hands on the tree a few inches apart. Keeping your body straight, slowly bend elbows until your chest is close to the tree and push back with a single thrust.

 

Work up to 20 reps. Works chest, and arms.

 

 

 

Back Extention: Stand facing your tree and stretch arms in front of you slightly below chest level.
Place hands on the tree a few inches apart. Keep arms stretched as you bend back lifting your head chin up while contracting your abs. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Stretches back.

Front Thigh Stretch: Stand facing your tree and hold on with your left hand. Grab your right ankle and gently pull heel towards buttocks. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Then switch legs. Stretches the front thigh muscles.

 

 

Shapeup and enjoy the process of getting and staying fit this Spring.

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