Monday, January 27, 2014

TFC Day 20 - Organic, not Mechanical


Do you consider your progress to be less than optimal if it isn’t moving upwards on a straight line? Are your ideals for movement goal focused, such as running faster each time or lifting increasingly heavier weights? Unfortunately, we are made organically, like cats, dogs, antelope, and octopi. Our energy and cycles are in tune with the Earth, we make progress and we reverse and then progress again.
 
Perhaps the most important part of the Therapeutic Fitness Challenge is learning to assess your own physical and energetic condition and using your mind to help your body heal and increase fitness. One of the best ways to do that is to make comparisons. Today, we will redo the range of motion assessments from Day 1. You may notice “improvements,” and you may not. The body adds strength and flexibility in a non-linear fashion. Learning to realize the ebb and flow of your body is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. After the assessments, there is a breathing practice and a scheduling assignment. Do them in any order you wish.
 
Range of Motion Audio #1 (13 minutes)


 
Range of Motion Audio #2 (17 minutes)


Range of Motion Audio #3 (9 minutes)



Breathing Practice: Observe your breath. Notice the length of your inhale and exhale and the spaces between. If it isn’t already, extend your exhale so it is at least as long as the inhale. Spend 5 minutes with your breath making it as smooth as possible. Make a note of what you notice and compare it to your breath on Day 1 of the challenge.

Third assignment: Make a schedule for yourself next week with activities that will continue the progress you have made in the TFC.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

TFC Day 19 - You've Got the Power


 Yesterday my husband and I took a walk through the woods. We ended up traversing a patch of logged forest and had to scramble over branches and logs for more than an hour.  Today we are quite sore all over and our energy is low. Because I put three day’s worth of exercise into yesterday afternoon, I am going to take a break today.

My primary goal in this Therapeutic Fitness Challenge is to empower you to reach a new level with your fitness. Improved awareness and energy management is the first step of getting fit without injury. I also hope that I’ve given you a new variety of activities to meet the goals of aerobics, flexibility, and strength. (On off-trail walk in the woods is a unique and fun activity . . . if you don't get lost or twist an ankle or get a Devil's Club stinger in your thumbs.)

On the second day of this challenge, you assessed your heart rate, leg strength, and flexibility. Today’s assignments repeat the tests so you can compare.

1. Sit comfortably with good posture breathe through your nose.  Keep your jaw relaxed but closed and breathe consciously for 5 minutes. If you feel anxious, try inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.

2. Keeping your heart healthy is one of the most important parts of fitness. Do your typical aerobic exercise and measure your heart rate 5 minutes into the exercise and at the height of your aerobic activity. Then stop exercising for 2 minutes and measure your heart rate again. Write down the numbers. From this webpage, determine: a) if you are exercising within your target range, and b) your Heart Rate Recovery. 

3. Time how long you can comfortably do a wall sit (instructions here) and write down the length of time you held the sit and the approximate angle of your thighs.  Keep your knees in line with your middle toes the entire time. “Comfortably” means that you aren’t wishing you were somewhere else, that you can breathe deeply, and that you can stand up again without groaning or hurting. (You can count seconds in your head, or you can use a stop watch.)

4. Stretch. 



5. Test your flexibility. It is important to do this test with no pain. Standing with slightly bent knees, bend forward to see if you can touch the ground. If so, notice if your fingers or palms touch.  If not, measure how far from the ground your finger tips are.  Bend your knees, stand up carefully, and write down your results.

6. Review the intentions you wrote. What progress are you making on them?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

TFC Day 18 - Put it Together


To stay fit requires being able to monitor your daily needs. What is the right amount of activity on any given day? That depends on what you’ve done in the days previous and your energetic and physical state. Today, you design your own practice. Here are some guidelines to help you.

1. Start with your breath and energy.  Notice if your energy is up or down, if your breath is even or irregular. Spend 5 minutes with a breath practice; choose one from the previous days or another that you like, one that supports an energetic state that you’d like to have.
2. With the support of improved energy choose your physical practice. How long has it been since you’ve brought your heart rate up? If more than a day, be sure to include at least 15 minutes of an aerobic-type activity. Include some flexibility as well, either undulations, stretches, or yoga. If your balance was not satisfactory yesterday, spend a minute or two working on that as well. If you aren't feeling strong, practice the core exercise video. Take the available time you have and divide it between the activities you need, choosing each one that is the best combination of safe and challenging.

3. For a mental practice, choose your favorite meditation or spend 5 minutes writing affirmations (day 3), watching your thoughts (day 4), or smiling at yourself in the mirror (day 12). It doesn’t matter if it’s dorky. It's effective.

Friday, January 24, 2014

TFC Day 17 - Balance

Today it’s all about balance. A balance between mind and body and spirit. A balance between work and home. Physical balance translates into life balance, and vice versa.

1. Breath practice: Square (or box) breath. There are four parts to the breath: 1) inhale, 2) the space between inhale and exhale, 3) exhale, and 4) the space between exhale and inhale. The inhale and space after it are the energizing parts; the exhale and space after are the relaxing parts. In a square breath, all the parts are equal in length so it is a balanced breath.
  • Start by noticing what parts of the breath are naturally long for you and what parts are short.
  • Then try to bring balance to them by shortening the longer parts and lengthening (or perhaps just adding) the short parts.
  • Try a breath with 2 counts for an inhale, 2 counts pause after the inhale, 2 counts for the exhale, and 2 counts hold before you inhale again. If this is comfortable for you, then increase each of the counts to 3.
  • Build your breath to a comfortable maximum with all parts even.
  • Then let go of the pauses before and after exhale.
  • Then let your breath return to its normal rhythm.
  • Notice your breath and energy, how they are different from when you began.

2. Physical practice: Improve your balance. Not only does good balance engage the core, but practicing balance poses will help you not fall down. Start with this easy balance practice by my teacher, Robin Rothenberg. She designed this for the MS program at Evergreen Hospital.

One you’ve mastered basic balance with the practice from the link above, try these variations of tree pose. Stay close to a wall until you are practiced, and please, do not put your foot on your standing leg’s knee.



3. Mind practice: Draw a picture of yourself as you’d like to feel. As you are drawing imagine yourself feeling that way.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

TFC Day 16 - Aerobics and Fun Breathing

Aerobic exercise is the cornerstone of a cardiovascular and mental health. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. That’s more than 45 minutes three times a week. Hopefully this Therapeutic Fitness Challenge has helped you create a habit of aerobic exercise that you can build on.

Assignments for today:

1. Choose one or more of the aerobics activities in this program (hike or walk, therapeutic aerobics, dance in your living room, or any other activity that gets your heart rate up safely) to create a 45-minute aerobic exercise for yourself today, and do it. Stay conscious of when you need to take a break. If 45 minutes is still too much to do at one time, do not push yourself, but make a note so you can include aerobic activities more frequently, perhaps 20 minutes every day instead.

2. Include your mental exercise with the aerobics. Stay conscious of your breathing as you exercise. See how long you can keep your focus on your breath without letting your mind stray. Please note that your breath is an indicator of the tension and strain in your body and mind. If your breath is labored beyond the target heart rate from Day 2 or becomes ragged, back off until your breath is smooth and even.

3. Try bhramari breathing, also called bee breath.  Inhale through your nose and exhale with closed lips as you hum. Feel the vibration in your lips.  Experiment with different pitches of humming. A higher pitch hum is typically more energetic and a low pitch hum is usually relaxing.  Either way, the humming slows down the exhale and engages the core.
 
Remember to drink plenty of water and keep track of what activities cause your symptoms to increase.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

TFC Day 15 - Undulation and Yoga

Mary Bond, author and fellow structural integrator, is one my mentors.  Her way of teaching movement is very inspiring.  Her blog is fun to read, this post explains how posture affects movement, which affects how well the body functions.  You can help your body function better with today’s assignments:

1. The physical practice is unique, a combination of yoga and undulation moves. You won’t find anything like it anywhere else.



2. The breath practice is included in the Undulation Yoga practice, but if your energy needs to be adjusted add a breath practice of your choice.

3. Mind practice: Write down all the good things that have come from your commitment to taking care of yourself. Give yourself several high-fives.

If you enjoy the undulations and you spend any time at a computer with a Windows operating system, try the Undulation Break program that will remind you to take breaks with fun undulations. You can try the program for free for 5 days and customize it to address stiffness in the neck and shoulders or low back.  Learn more at www.undulationbreak.com.

Monday, January 20, 2014

TFC Day 14 - Improve Your Ability to Rest


You have worked hard for two weeks.  Today is a day of rest.  For the breathing and mental assignments, use today to catch up on one if you need to.  For the physical exercise, spend 5-20 minutes with your thighs strapped in either the constructive rest position or with your legs up the wall.  Only do legs up the wall if you have learned to do this in yoga class.  If not, constructive rest position with your calves resting on a chair will give you similar results.  Do tie your thighs with a yoga strap or bathrobe belt (as shown in the legs up the wall photo) so they are held in alignment.  Since there is more muscle on the outside of the thighs, they will naturally fall into external rotation without being tied and that can cause strain on the sacrum.  Both the constructive rest position and legs up the wall pose are rejuvenating for the body, like a power nap.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

TFC Day 13 - Modify As Needed: Breathing, Aerobics & Stretching

Today we have another opportunity to assess a previous practice and modify. Learning to evaluate an activity and changing it to suit you is an essential skill to avoid injury. Inattention to your needs—going on autopilot—is frequently the source of overdoing it or doing “something stupid.” Likewise, not being willing to make changes is a sign that your ego is willing to sacrifice your body for its interests. Strengthen your awareness, grow in wisdom, and stay fit.

1. Breathing: Develop a sequence of breath: i) Breathe as big as you can (inhale and exhale) for a minute. ii) Then let your breath return to a natural rhythm for a minute. iii) Extend your exhale for a minute to slow down the breath and relax.  Repeat this sequence once or twice more.

2. Choose an aerobic activity to get your heart rate to its target range as you learned in Day 2. You can hike or do the Therapeutic aerobics again, but modify them if needed.

3. Follow the stretching video, but feel free to change the stretches or add your own.

Remember to stay hydrated. Keep your water bottle handy all day.

TFC Day 12 - Core Breathing, Yoga, and Self-Kindness


1. The practice today starts with a core breathing video. Learn to breathe with your core and you can take this “exercise” with you anywhere. (This is not the same as the Core Exercises.)


2. Then reassess your ability to do the Therapeutic Sun Salutations from Day 6.  If they are not above your ability, do them again and notice if you feel stronger and/or more flexible. If they were too challenging, try one or more of these yoga practices created by my yoga teacher Robin Rothenberg for her students with MS.

3. Finish in front of a mirror. Smile genuinely at yourself and say nice things to yourself. (What does it mean if this is difficult or weird?)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

TFC Day 11 - Step It Up (Or Not)

If you get injured with exercise, it’s important to know when to step it up and when to back off. Today’s assignments challenge you to make this distinction for yourself based on your body’s energy and fitness today. Assignments:

1. From your daily journal (or notes or memory), make a list of the activities that exacerbate your symptoms. Next to each activity write a modification for it, with an option being Don’t Do It.


2. The breathing assignment today is a combination of the breathing exercises from day two and three: Breathe through your nose combining chest and abdominal expansion on inhale and extending your exhale until you develop a comfortable maximum breath. Draw in your abdominal muscles from the front and sides as you exhale. Sustain this breath for 10 or more breaths, then let your breath return to its natural rhythm. 

3. Evaluate your ability to do the core exercises and alignment exercises from day 4 and/or 8. If you are comfortable that your core is strong and that you can keep in alignment with challenging exercise, try the Therapeutic Calisthenics. If you are not confident, then redo the core exercises from day 4 and the alignment exercises from day 3. Remember to modify (for example, don't lift your arms as much as shown in the video or stop before it is finished) if that is what's best for your body. You might also want to take the Understanding and Healing from Soft Tissue Injuries online class

Please remember: This program is not intended to replace professional medical care nor contradict medical advice you may have received.  If you experience physical discomfort or anxiety, stop and consult your medical advisor.

Monday, January 13, 2014

TFC Day 10 - Manage Your Energy

The realm of fitness typically doesn't include ethereal concepts like energy. However, if you don't have enough energy to exercise, it's hard to get fit. Today's assignments are all designed to keep your energy up, without burning you out.

1. Wake up Early.  (Hopefully it’s not too late.) J

2. Eliminate sugar and caffeine from your diet today. Learn to generate your energy internally through breath and movement.

3. Evaluate the physical assignments you did two days ago (aerobics, core, or alignment) and the yoga practice from yesterday. Make a note of how these affected you and if you need to make modifications for these practices in the future.

4. Breath practice: For 5 minutes focus on your inhale, which builds energy.  Like the exhale practices from yesterday choose one of three methods to enhance the energy of the inhale. 1) Make each inhale a little longer, 2) Add a pause after each inhale, or 3) Do single nostril breathing on the inhale.  Do be careful with extending the inhale, especially if you are prone to anxiety.  As with all breathing practices, stop at any point your nervous system feels uneasy. After focusing on your inhale, let your breath relax and breathing normally for several minutes.

5. Movement practice:  Go for a hike or walk for at least 15 minutes, rain or shine.  Choose a route that is not too hilly.  Trigger points are often activated by cold, so dress warmly with a scarf or long jacket if appropriate. Try to get to your target heart rate, as you learned about in the TFC Day 2 exercises
 
6. Stretch after going for your walk or hike

Sunday, January 12, 2014

TFC Day 9 - Sleep to Get Fit

Sleep is essential for healing and well-being.  If you don’t have enough energy you can’t get fit, and sleep is the cornerstone of building energy. Today’s assignments all relate to getting a better night’s sleep. 

1. Evaluate your sleep patterns and how well your routine promotes a good night’s sleep.  The SleepFoundation has good information about this on their website.  Interestingly, both my sons use sleep tracker apps for their smart phones that calculate how much sleep they get and how they can modify their schedules to get a better night’s rest.  I don’t recommend any particular app, but I do recommend that you do an internet search if this interests you.

2. Set your alarm to get up early tomorrow. Decide how early you want to wake, perhaps a full hour to do tomorrow’s assignments before you start the rest of your day, or perhaps just 15 minutes. 

3. Breathing is the number one way you can control your energy.  Today the breathing practice is to facilitate relaxation and sleep. 


4. Today’s physical practice is a yoga routine I designed to help you unwind and relax.  I suggest doing it about an hour before you go to sleep, but you can use it any day you want a more restful practice.


5. Choose a route for a walk or hike to do tomorrow and write schedule it in your calendar. You will be doing this rain or shine, feel like it or not.  Pick something that can be modified, made shorter or longer, and one that is neither too flat nor too hilly. 

TFC Day 8 - Don't Quit and Don't Hurt Yourself

The Marines have a saying: “Improvise.  Adapt.  Overcome.” Please notice that improvisation and adaptation are the tools to overcome. This week’s goal is to learn to modify—improvise and adapt—activities so they are suitable for your body. Remember what you learned from last week’s exercises, like your range of motion and ability to engage your core, and use that information to determine if and how to change the assignments this week.

For today:

  1. The breathing assignment is to extend your exhale slowly so that it is twice as long as your inhale.  Lengthen your exhale in increments, taking several breaths at each count level before progressing to the next.  For example, if you inhale for a count of 4, start with 3 breaths exhaling for a count of 4, then 3 breaths exhaling with a count of 5, the next 3 with an exhale count of 6, then 3 breaths exhaling for 7, then getting to a breath ratio of 4 counts on inhale and 8 counts on exhale.  Maintain this ratio for several more breaths before slowly reduce the exhale by 1 count each time until you get back to a balanced breath.  Notice how this affects your energy and mood.  If you feel anxious at any time, shorten or stop this breathing exercise. 
  2. Review the intentions you wrote on day 2 and modify them based on what you’ve learned and accomplished so far.  Rewrite them even if you don’t make any changes. 
  3. Work on your core.
  • If you gave the core exercises from day 4 a thumbs-up and feel like you could do something a bit more difficult, do the Therapeutic Aerobics. However, remember to improvise and adapt when needed. For example, if your neck gets sore, stop lifting your arms. If your back gets sore, don't go to the end.

  • If you gave the core exercises from day 4 a thumbs-up and feel like they were difficult for you, do them again and modify where necessary.  Feel free to stop at any time.
  • If you gave the core exercises a thumbs-down rating, do the alignment exercise video.

 

Friday, January 10, 2014

TFC Day 7 - Rest and Reflect


Fitness is not all about doing stuff. The body, mind, and spirit need down time to repair, heal, and prepare for increased capacity. Today’s challenge is to rest and get ready for the second week of the challenge. Do take one minute to evaluate the physical exercises from this week:

  • Wall Sit
  • Aerobics/Cardio exercise from day 2
  • Stretches
  • Alignment exercises
  • Core exercises
  • Undulation compilation
  • Aerobics/Cardio exercise from day 5
  • Sun salutation seated
  • Sun salutation hands-and-knees
  • Sun salutation standing at the wall

Which ones need to be modified if you do them in the future?
Which ones will you not do in the future?
Which ones are on you’re A-list of exercise?

Take time to relax today. Tomorrow we start to build on this week’s assignments.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

TFC Day 6 - Therapeutic Sun Salutations

Years ago I thought of this Fitness Challenge as a Therapeutic Boot Camp, but never went through the logistics to find a class location. I recently was inspired by the Yoga Journal's onlineYoga Fitness Challenge to do this program online. And today we have one of the most popular yoga practices, Sun Salutations also known as Surya Namaskar, modified into therapeutic versions with breathing exercises before and after. 

I have created three versions: one seated, one on hands-and-knees and one standing.  Start with the seated version.  If your body feels good, go on to the hands-and-knees and/or the standing versions.  The hands-and-knees version includes lunges, which can exacerbate any sacrum or low back problems. So if that is an issue for you, or if you can’t be on your hands and knees, skip the second version. Feel free to repeat the salutation(s) that feel(s) the best to you. 

The breathing and mind assignments are built into the Sun Salutations. Link your breath to your movements and be as aware as possible when doing the video. This is useful multi-tasking.

After the sun salutations, lie down in a comfortable position and be aware of your bodily sensations for 3 to 5 minutes.  Try to feel without any judgment, just notice.

And remember to stay hydrated and keep track of activities that are helping you and those that cause you pain so you can limit symptom causing movements in the future.

Feel free to post questions and comments on the Undulation Exercises Facebook page if you like.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

TFC Day 5 - Undulation, the Fountain of Youth

How are you feeling today? Please make note of any activities from yesterday that go on your “good, as-is” list, “good, but need to modify” list or “bad” list.

Assignment #1: When we were kids we didn’t have to exercise to stay in shape. We stayed fit through being present and including a great variety of movement. Today’s assignments hope to revive this youthful spirit within you. The video practice is a compilation of different undulation exercises. If you are new to undulation, you may be surprised at how little effort and movement is needed to mobilize stuck segments in your spine. That’s because small and slow movements engage the smaller, more core muscles; muscles that many traditional exercises neglect. Be cautious with (or skip) the Happy Dog and Hip Hiker undulations if your low back is easily aggravated. Remember that kids have little patience for uncomfortable activities. Also, if you can’t do exercises on your hands and knees, you can do those ones standing with your hands on the wall instead.

Assignment #2: Make breathing fun. Remember how you used to challenge yourself to take a big, deep breath when driving through a tunnel or swimming across the pool? Take 10 very big breaths as big as you can. Make sure you extend your exhale with each one, too.

Assignment #3: Get some cardio exercise at your target heart rate for 15 minutes. Do something fun and safe.

Assignment #4: This isn’t a kid’s exercise; meditation requires a mature brain. The benefits of meditating include increased pain tolerance, lower anxiety, and greater presence. The assignment: Watch your thoughts for 5 minutes. Don’t try to change your thoughts, just notice what you are thinking. Notice when you get caught in the thoughts and stop noticing. Then begin noticing again.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

TFC - Day 4 for the Core

A strong core is key ingredient in the recipe of preventing injury.  The core muscles maximize strength in the back, which is essential to lift anything heavy. The core also keeps the body in good alignment and the nervous system out of “fight or flight.” That’s why today’s assignments focus on building your internal powerhouse. Unfortunately, many supposed core workouts only strengthen the core if you already know how to use it. The practice below uses a progression to be sure you know where your core is.

Please remember: This program is not intended to replace professional medical care nor contradict medical advice you may have received.  If you experience physical discomfort or anxiety, stop and consult your medical advisor.

Core practice


The breathing assignment today is a combination of the breathing exercises from day 2 and 3: Breathe through your nose combining chest and abdominal expansion on inhale and extending your exhale until you develop a comfortable maximum breath. Note how your core engages on the strong exhale. Sustain this breath for 10 more breaths then let your breath return to its natural rhythm.  Notice the difference in your energy and awareness compared to when you started.
 
Sit and feel the sensations in your body.  Describe them with adjectives, nouns, verbs, and/or adverbs.  Say them out loud or write them down and save the paper. (Does this assignment seem boring or useless? Bear with me, please. Being able to sense and name the sensations in your body is another key to avoiding injury and developing strength.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Day 3 TFC - Aligned, Relaxed & Resilient

Today’s assignments are near and dear to the hearts of structural integrators as they are based on intention and alignment. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished simply by starting with an intention that is developed into an affirmation. And, while today’s alignment exercises may be considered by some as too easy, the repeated daily insults of misalignment are the root of so many painful knee, hip, spine, and shoulder problems. It’s worthwhile to take the time to improve daily alignment in all activities.
  1. Evaluate the physical activities from yesterday: aerobics, wall sit, forward bend, and stretches. Based on how you feel today, give each one of them a “thumbs up,” “thumbs down,” or “not sure” grade for future reference.

  2. Write 5 affirmations and say them aloud. Here’s a great post about affirmations.

  3. Alignment practices:  These “exercises” can be incorporated into your daily routine to strengthen your core and reduce wear and tear on your joints and connective tissues. 
  4.  
  5. In good seated alignment, develop a full breath. With each breath, get your breath bigger.  Each inhale feel more of your ribs expand, in the back, sides, and front, all the way down to your kidneys, in your armpits, and up to your collar bones.  With each exhale, draw your belly button toward your spine and your waist in from the sides, engaging more of your abdominal muscles with each exhale.  Find your maximum comfortable breath for today.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Day 2 TFC - Breathing, Assessment, Intentions


Yesterday we assessed our range and quality of motion. Today we are going to continue to assess aspects of our fitness. There are more exercises than usual today, but each one is short.

1.     Sit comfortably with good posture or lie down and breathe through your nose.  Keep your jaw relaxed but closed and breathe consciously for 5 minutes. If you feel anxious, try inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. If you still feel anxious, stop the exercise and breathe naturally for the rest of the time. Breathing through your nose activates the parasympathetic (calming) nervous system and also uses more intrinsic muscles in your chest. It’s a habit worth developing.

2.     Keeping your heart healthy is one of the most important parts of fitness. Do your typical aerobic exercise and measure your heart rate 5 minutes into the exercise and at the height of your aerobic activity. Then stop exercising for 2 minutes and measure your heart rate again. Write down the numbers. Using this webpage, determine: a) if you are exercising within your target range, and b) your Heart Rate Recovery. 

3.     Time how long you can comfortably do a wall sit (instructions here) and write down the length of time you held the sit and the approximate angle of your thighs.  Keep your knees in line with your middle toes the entire time. “Comfortably” means that you aren’t wishing you were somewhere else, that you can breathe deeply, and that you can stand up again without groaning or hurting. (You can count seconds in your head, or you can use a stop watch.)

4.     Test your flexibility. It is important to do this test with no pain. Standing with slightly bent knees, bend forward to see if you can touch the ground. If so, notice if your fingers or palms touch.  If not, measure how far from the ground your finger tips are.  Bend your knees, stand up carefully and write down your results. (Skip this assessment assignment if you have low back or sacrum troubles.)

5.     Stretch. 



6.     Write down your intentions for the next 20 days. Do you have any specific goals or aspirations? How would you like to feel when you are finished with this challenge?  As much as possible, be specific and include your desired emotions.

You will want to refer back to your results later in the challenge, so please write them down somewhere you can find them later. (You are welcome to report on the Facebook page if you’d like.) And one more thing, keep drinking water.
 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Day 1 TFC - Breathing, Water, Scheduling, Range of Motion


Congratulations on your decision to take better care of yourself with the Therapeutic Fitness Challenge (TFC). Your consistent work with this program will pay rewards of improved health and peace of mind. True fitness is a comprehensive endeavor. Therefore, the assignments in the TFC are well-rounded, targeting the mind-body-energy connection.

This program is not intended to replace professional medical care
nor contradict medical advice you may have received.  
If you experience physical discomfort or anxiety,
stop and consult your medical advisor.

And for today, the assignments are:

1) Spend 5 minutes noticing your breath. Extend your exhale so it is at least as long as each inhale.  (But limit this exercise if it causes any anxious feelings.)

2) Schedule 30 to 60 minutes a day in your calendar for the next 21 days to do the challenge (or 36 days if you are doing the challenge every other day).  The time can be continuous or in 2 or 3 chunks of time throughout the day.

3) Get a water bottle and find out how many times you'll need to fill and drink the water in it to get 2 quarts a day.  Your connective tissues require water for health.  Start to get in the habit of drinking that much every day.

4) Do the range of motion assessment exercises.  The links are below.  Please note that there is not a video component for today’s assignment. I prefer for you to be entirely focused on your body as you explore your range of motion. I divided the exercise into three segments so you can determine the right amount to do for your body. Although these exercises seem simple, they most likely will be moving your joints and muscles in unusual ways.  So start with the first one and if you aren't sore move to the second, and then if you're still feeling OK, do the third.  All together they will take 40 minutes.
 

In addition to noting the quantity of your motion, the range, please also consider the quality of motion. I am recovering from a repetitive stress injury in my left wrist/thumb/arm (quite frightening to a structural integrator, I assure you). In the process of healing, I have noticed the grabby, jerking way I typically use my left hand. No wonder it got hurt! I am consciously trying to grasp fluidly, like an octopus not a robot, in addition to being careful when lifting. As you listen to and follow the range of motion “videos” be aware of how you move as much as how much you do.

Make a note of your range of motion limitations for future reference. For example, if you experience discomfort when you raise your arm to shoulder height, you will need to modify or not do any exercise that involves lifting your arms higher. If rotating your thigh causes discomfort in your low back, you want to be careful of twisting motions.

 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Pre-Planning for the Therapeutic Fitness Challenge

When starting a new activity, it's helpful to be more mindful to avoid injury (in addition to checking in with your trusted health advisor). Here are questions to ask yourself about your activities: 
  • How do I feel today?
  • What activities from yesterday/today were particularly helpful?
  • What activities from yesterday/today might have exacerbated my symptoms?
  • How will I modify or replace those activities if they come up again?
Please print this page so these questions are handy. Whether you like to journal or not, please include these questions in your daily observations.

If you are prone to injury when you exercise, you might consider the course I taught on Understanding and Healing from Soft Tissue Injuries. It includes two hours of information, plus questions and answers, and an audio yoga practice.