Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Resources for Staying Fit

Stay in the moment. Stay in the game. –Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson is quickly becoming one of my favorite athletes, not just because he is leading my favorite team to a winning season, but because of his equanimity. Whether the Seahawks are winning or losing, he advises teammates and fans to stay present and focus on what’s important. This is great advice for anyone as staying fit requires staying aware of your energetic, physical, and mental states and choosing activities that are appropriate for your situation. I’ve found that traditional exercise doesn’t always fit the bill, but here are some resources that can help.

Many of the links to the Therapeutic Fitness Challenge videos will remain active on my YouTube channel. You can also buy my book, Relieve Stiffness and Feel Young Again with Undulation and CDs, Undulation Exercises, on Amazon or directly through my distributor for a super-saver, half-price discount.

Undulation Break is a computer program that reminds you to move throughout the day. You can program it to fit your schedule and also to include undulations that suit your body’s needs. Find out more at

My yoga teacher, Robin Rothenberg of Essential Yoga Therapy, has a set of yoga practices specifically designed to reduce low back pain and a very enjoyable yoga meditation CD.  
Her website also has some yoga practices, one of my favorites is one from her class for people with MS and PD.

Also, Mary Bond is a Rolfer who has taught me a lot about movement. Her DVD, Heal Your Posture, is a wonderful resource, too.

Stay aware and stay active.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Change it Up

It is raining more often now, no surprise in the Seattle area in October, and I’ve been admiring the many joggers I’ve seen who are undeterred by the fat, wet raindrops that can chase me inside. It reminds me that staying fit is as individualized as the clothes we wear.  Each person chooses what works best for her.  This is even more in my consciousness as I’ve been developing the exercises for the Therapeutic Fitness Challenge.  This program has completed its first week with 80 participants, 44 who have been consistent with the exercises. 

I know that some of the participants have to be careful to avoid neck pain and headaches.  Others can tweak the low back with seemingly innocuous movements like slightly tripping on a curb.  And a few get the unlucky trifecta of neck, low back, and knee troubles. Designing exercises that can be done by everyone is an impossible task since obviously there isn’t a one-size-fits-all exercise program.

Except that exercise can be modified.  Here’s a decision tree for how you can evaluate each exercise and determine if and how it should be changed.

Does thinking about the movement cause any twinge or hesitation? 

If so, does it cause actual pain in your system?  If so, don’t do the exercise.  Skip it and substitute something else that you know does not aggravate you.

If you question the reaction to the exercise and it is caution rather than pure resistance, try it slowly at first for just one repetition and stay aware of whether it is causing harm or not.  If it feels good keep going, but if the hesitation continues, modify the exercise further.

 Modification possibilities
  • Do it slower.  Slow movements actually recruit more core muscles.
  • Do it for less time.  You can easily fast forward the video or simply watch.  Stop when it becomes laborious.
  • Do fewer repetitions.  You don’t need to do multiples of 5 or10.  Why not 4?  Many times just doing it once or twice is the right amount.
  • Do it with less intensity, make it fun.
  • Do smaller movements.
  • Start with the idea of the suggested exercise, but let your body take over into something else that feels better.
If you think about an exercise and you feel yourself going into push mode, be just as cautious as if you hesitated to do it.  Overexertion is as often the cause of injury as is being unconscious while being active.

And, always, always, stop at the first sensation of alarm whether that is pain or just a funny feeling to evaluate how to proceed.  A mind and body that talk to each other often and kindly are better prepared to handle physical challenges than is the pair that ignores each other.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Who is Number One?

People frequently tell me that the number one reason they don’t exercise is that they are too busy. And really, with our wired, media-driven, money-conscious, demanding society, it’s easy to accept that excuse. But if you are taking the Therapeutic Fitness Challenge(TM) with me, you can’t use that excuse for the next 21 days. So where are you going to find the 30 to 60 minutes you need each day for the assignments?

How we spend our time is a reflection of our priorities.  When I chop vegetables to roast them, cook chicken with herbs grown on my deck, and pack my roasted vegetables and leftover chicken for lunch, I am expressing that fresh food is a priority in my life. Otherwise, I would get some soup or sodium-rich chicken from the store or a restaurant. I also work a lot seeing clients, writing reports and articles like this, studying, and communicating with colleagues.  My husband works 40 hours a week, no more and no less. The time spent reflects our different priorities. On the other hand, I watch less than 6 hours a week of TV (unless it is football season).   

I know women who spend over an hour a day curling or straightening their hair or applying foundation, cover-up, eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick. Then there is time we spend, unconsciously mostly, doing things that are bad for our health. For example, almost everyone I know (myself included) uses bad posture for longer than 20 minutes at a time when watching TV on the couch, or glued to the computer (guilty right now), reading, or sitting in a bucket seat during a long commute.  And my daily chocolate habit or my husband’s chip habit could easily be replaced with a healthier behavior.   

It’s ironic, because most of our time allocation does not reflect our true priorities.  My better groomed friends would all agree that their internal health is more important than their looks. And we all know that the time we’d save from eating junk food or slouching would be better spent. I could avoid gossip or spend less time on Facebook. I might need to work less or wake up earlier or, heaven forbid, wear the same clothes two days in a row to get the time I need to take care of myself.

The great thing about a fitness challenge is that it gives us incentive to make changes, some that will be transient and others that will endure.  I hope you can agree that you are number one in your life and your essence is worth some extra time.