Archive for the ‘Balance’ Category

Some of the most Inspiring Athletes

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

The most common reason people give for not exercising is lack of time.  As a parent of two children who works inside and outside the home, I understand.

Some of the people I admire most are athletes who have to go above and beyond to exercise. Yes, they have to prioritize their time, but they also have to put on a prosthetic, change wheelchairs, and demonstrate amazing drive to bring fitness into their lives.Inspiring Athletes

One organization I really admire is the Challenged Athletes Foundation. For 20 years, they have helped people of all ages, wounded soldiers and “individuals with physical challenges who desire a balanced  life of work, family, friends and fitness.” They partner athletes with a mentor who has similar challenges, so confidence and skill is passed on.  They are an outstanding organization that truly partners fitness with family and friends and changes lives.  If you want a goal this summer, train for one of CAF’s many fundraising events.

Next time you are wondering if you have time to work out, feel like it’s too hot/cold, are tired, or fill-in-the-excuse here, think about the challenged athletes who go for it. Whether they compete in Ironmans (notice the range of ages in the pictures) dance,  go for a bike ride, snowboard (watch this one!) or compete in the Paralympic Games (there are 28 competitive sports from rowing to wheelchair fencing!), be inspired, be moved — figuratively and literally.

If you want more inspiration, some other great organizations for adaptive athletes are Adaptive Action Sports, Extremity Games, and Disabled Sports USA, and Athletes with disAbilities Network.

Physical Chess

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

“Fencing is like playing chess with your body at 100 miles per hour. In competition, the only thing that moves faster than a fencing sword is a speeding bullet,”  explains Carla Corbit, the head coach for Caltech’s Fencing Club.

How cool is that? Physical chess!  Size up an opponent, develop a plan of “attack” with speed and high technique, and an intense game is played with such focus, it’s almost a meditation.Fencing

There are three traditional weapons in fencing (foil, épée and saber) as well as the gear to protect you. There are many places that teach fencing, and classes range in age from children to adults.

Recently, my kids went to a Star Wars birthday party and were taught to joust with a balloon light saber. Is this how it starts? Is Star Wars a modern version of fencing?

Pantomime or for real, fencing will get your heart rate up, your reflexes revived, your mind sharpened and your body strong. Give it a try and see if physical chess is for you.  At the very least, when you practice with your kid(s), you’ll crack up with laughter (which is my favorite way to work my “core”).

Swing into a Strong Core

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Strength in Numbers

How long can you hold a plank on a swing? What if the swing moves side to side? Front to back? Be sure your back and wrists stay in neutral.   Here are some ideas for more fun at the playground, and moves that are super effective. Compete with your kids, your friends, or yourself. One parent I know keeps track in his phone of how long he can hold a plank. Then he beats his number next time.

Try it the other way, with your feet on the swing.  Put both feet on the swing while your hands or forearms are planted on the ground.  Do moving tuck or pike crunches.  Or swing your legs side to side. Keep your feet up and do unstable push-ups.

Turn and hold a side plank with both feet on the swing, hand or forearm on the ground (relax your neck/throat).  How long can you hold this in proper position? Can you raise and lower your hips? It’s challenging which makes it super fun!

How will you get a great start on the New Year?

Climb

Monday, October 14th, 2013

One of my favorite sports is rock climbing. I love rock climbing so much that I named my cat after the carabiner used to connect me to the rope. When I climb up the rock, focused on where to put my foot next, the day’s stresses disappear. I get to the top (or not) and feel like I can solve any problem beforeRock Climb me. Perhaps doing an actual gigantic physical puzzle makes everyday nuances easier.

I’ve discovered that all kids, of any age (1 to 108), gravitate toward climbing rocks. It doesn’t have to be an actual rock face that requires belays and harnesses; any pile of large rocks will do (even a big pile of hay, huge sand dunes  or super long stair cases do the trick). Walk a kid over to a pile of boulders and see what happens. Don’t stand there as a parent observing.  Have total engagement and climb too. Climb, scamper, scale, and clamber up the rocks. Get to the top and look around. Is your heart beating faster? Did you just have fun and forget everything else?

Try an official rock climbing class at a rock climbing studio or store like REI that offers weekend workshops. Don’t just climb indoors; get outside and try it, too. It’s different. Don’t use the excuse “I have no upper body strength” or climbing “is just for kids.” If you’re scared, that’s fine. Do it anyway! Be proud that not only did you try it, but also you role modeled being scared and going for it despite your fear.  As you ascend, you might just notice your mind soaring to new heights, too.

Yoga Month

Friday, September 6th, 2013

I’m tired. I don’t know if I know anyone who isn’t. Maybe it’s the news; maybe it’s the endless dishes; or laundry that grows like a amorphous blob, but I’m tired. September is National Yoga Month. Seems like a good time for some restoration, relaxation, and Child’s Pose among the back-to-school chaos.Yoga for Tween Girls

Yoga Mommy is a BakerI like yoga. I’m not a crazy-over-the-top fanatic like some Yogi’s I know, but I respect it as an ancient practice that brings incredible mind-body awareness, inner and outer strength and peace, and a discipline that improves over time.

I don’t want one more thing to do. I do want high quality time with my family that doesn’t involve technology, that does involve health and fitness, and is interesting and challenging for us all.

Recently, I borrowed some yoga books from the library. I was already doing some basic poses with my children but, since they are four and six, the visual books was helpful. Plus the provocation was coming from the book rather than Mom.

yoga5 yoga4 Yoga Books for ChildrenGoing to the library can feel like one more thing though, and the point is simple. Easy. Soothing and refreshing. There are tons of websites that detail yoga poses, but to start, pick one or two. Make it your pose. Have your kids find their favorite. Kids usually  love downward dog. My children love tree pose, but pretend there is fruit on the tree. They like to do their own variations. There are books for young toddlers, and books for teens. I like The Girls Yoga Book by Michaela Caldwell by for Tween Girls.

Do it after school when you haven’t quite moved into an activity. Try it while the toast is browning for snack. Try it daily or whenever the mood strikes. Just, well, as the saying goes, just do it.

Imagine if the whole world was taught from a young age a go-to exercise we did for calming and comfort, for settling our mind and strengthening our bodies.  Imagine if that same exercise was our go-to quick exercise for our whole life. Perhaps the news wouldn’t be as depressing. Perhaps resolution would be found in other ways. Yoga GamesMany people have seen this video of the man who can’t walk without the help of crutches, who practices yoga, and then… watch it here if you haven’t seen it. Start practicing yoga. Like all exercise, it’s a great use of time.

Five Senses

Friday, August 30th, 2013

I can’t help it — the back of my mind is always thinking of new ways to inspire people and families to exercise. I also have a quiet love affair with TED talks, and watched one recently about how if the five senses are incorporated into product design, the product is much more effective. (This talk is meant for adults.) See it here.

Stream WalkIt started me thinking about how exercise can incorporate the five senses, and can easily be a top experience of our day or week. Think about a fall hike in the woods after a light rain. How does it effect our five senses?  A scenic hike is incredibly fulfilling visually. After a rain, the wet earth smells fantastic, the crunchy leaves beneath feet are full of sound, the feel of the your body exercising and sweating goes from our head to our feet, and the cold water and snack mid-hike taste refreshing. All five senses stimulated in a simple, free mountain hike. How about a bike ride/skate board to a local coffee shop?

Even an aerobics class can stimulate our fives senses to different degrees. Our hearing, vision and touch senses are all high. Smell, well, hopefully that’s the sense least stimulated, unless the drink you are hydrating with has a good smell. Taste? That water bottle hits the spot. When I taught spin class last week, I brought them all chocolate. All five senses activated and great fun.

While not every sport can rouse all five senses perfectly, the more senses involved, the more pleasurable the experience. And all this doesn’t even take into account the incredible bonding time with your friends and family, the conversations, the feeling of playing on a team, the endorphins from movement, and the thrill of a new sport or winning a game!

A Puzzle

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Someone in my family is an incredible puzzle master. He can solve almost any puzzle, and does it with joy. He doesn’t really like exercise though, and while he understands why he should exercise, he doesn’t gravitate toward it.

As I watched my children in gymnastics or kicking a soccer ball, it became very apparent to me that exercise is really a puzzle. Instead of manipulating a little wooden piece into a peg, or a metal ring through another, athletes turn their bodies in different ways to get them to “fit” into a cartwheel or kick a goal.Hockey Puzzle

As I teach different age clients about how to exercise, we measure heart rate, quantify times, chart successes, tweaking the “puzzle” so their bodies can go faster, stronger, quicker or more efficiently. What starts as a body-puzzle of a successful lunge, becomes a real-time, highly individual math equation, statistics and science game all at once.

Putting aside for a moment that exercise is the only way to grow more brain cells at any age, and that exercise makes our bodies healthier, happier and an infinite of other positives, why are sports, physical education and gross motor time being taken out of schools? How come we teach the map of the world but not the map of our own anatomical and physiological bodies? Why do parents hire math tutors for their children, but disregard the free teachable times of everyday movement?

What if parents triedhopscotch hiccup for teaching addition, subtraction, and multiplication, playing it with their children, everyone moving and learning together?  How would weekends look if parents had jump rope contests alongside their neighbors, so all were moving their bodies through a dynamic, fast-changing puzzle? Imagine the educational and fitness possibilities of running scrabble, creative scavenger hunts, or Letterboxing.

The teachable moments are all there for ourselves and our children; we just have to start. Maybe that’s the hardest part of the puzzle.

Four Square

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Four SquareThe thing that’s great about the ball game Four Square is that it’s played all over the world, you don’t need a racquet or a special court and it’s a simple game anyone can play.  I love the eye-hand coordination, thinking, and both fine and gross motor skills involved. Plus my kids love to play it, which makes me want to get better.

If you don’t remember it, Four Square is a large square drawn with chalk, tape or sticks that has four equal boxes inside it. The goal is to strategically have the others miss or hit the ball out of bounds while your bounces stay inside the square. Here is a great description of the game, as well as customized rules, etc.   There is even a forum for ridiculous rules.

If you get crazy into it, you are in luck! There is a Four Square World Championship. Or simply make a movie like this one.  Funny!

Be FITT

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

When you are exercising, no matter what activity you choose, think about varying it to keep your body from stagnating. How? The acronym “FITT” sums up what to do to continually grow stronger and healthier. The “F” stands for Frequency. How often are you exercising? You want to move as much as possible and all movement counts! Additionally, if you can, you want to work out so hard you are sweating and out of breath at least three times a week. I realize this sounds crazy, but I’m talking “ideal”.  If you do it as a family, you’ll have exercise and family time all together!

For example, the mom in this picture regularly went running with her son in a stroller, did strength training with me, and went on a reality tv show less than a year after child birth. Oh, and she works full-time as a biologist too. Mix “FITT” exercise with family time and anything can happen!Rows Plus

The “I” stands for Intensity. This couples with what I said above about sweating and being out of breath. How intensely are you exercising? On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest, you want to be sure you work around level 6,7,8 and even 9 sometimes -depending on what your goal for the workout is.  Short bouts of REALLY intense exercise can be incredibly effective!  Think jumping rope or super squat jumps (doing a squat, then jumping in the air landing back in a squat). It can be just for a few minutes, but interspersed throughout your day and week, you’ll have some real cardiovascular and metabolic improvement. Sometimes short super intense bursts are great, sometimes a long sustained walk/jog is great. Know that they all have wonderful attributes and you can weave them into your fitness plans to keep your body changing. Click on cardiovascular activities on the blog for more ideas of what to do.

“T” stands for Type. What type of exercise have you chosen? Walking, swimming, biking and dancing are great!  But what if you don’t have time/resources for anything other than the chair or bathtub exercises?  Then just vary the type of things you do, such as lunges, squats, push-ups, step-ups, step-downs, sideways jumps, etc.

The last “T” stands for Time. How much time do you have to spend on your activity? Five minutes? Go hard! Five hours? Enjoy the movement! Vary the speed you do squats or jumps or whatever the move is. Fast squats are great for a cardio challenge. Slow squats are great for muscle work. Keep changing the timing (or tempo) of your exercise.

Vary any of the Frequency, Intensity, Type and Time and you’ll have the recipe to keep your workouts interesting, your body challenged, and your mind happy!

 

Kick-butt Chair Exercises

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Everyone thinks chair exercises are for old people who don’t have enough balance to stand while exercising. Well think again. Everyone who has taken my chair class tells me they couldn’t walk for three days after because they were so sore. Try some of these moves at home with your family or at the office, and leave your excuse of not getting to the gym behind. Chair Warm-ups

Face your chair, and warm-up by marching in place, tapping the seat of the chair with your feet.  Continue to march, but tap the handles or arms of the chair.  Keep going, but tap your left foot on the right handle so you are forced to twist and rotate.

Stand sideways to the chair and kick your leg above the back.Chair Side Kicks Then lunge to the side and touch your ankle. Repeat as many times as possible. Then turn and try the other side.

Back the chair against a wall or desk, put your hand on the arm rests and do deep, low push-ups. Stay in that position, but hold yourself in a Chair Push-upsplank. If you can, try a one-footed plank. Or tap your right knee to the left elbow, across and underneath your body. Or do the same side and really swing your hips.

Stand up as if you were going to sit down, but don’t. Take one foot off the floor or place it on top of the other, and do one legged squats. Go all the way down to sitting, and all the way up to standing all while on one foot. Really. Do more. It feels good. Now switch legs. The physician who edits my blog said “I always think that it is hilarious when you say that it feels good.  I’m not sure if you’re trying to convince us or if you think that it does feel good, in a sadistic way.”  What do you think? ;0)

If you want more leg work, put one leg up on the chair and do one-legged lunges. Be sure to have good posture all the while. Now switch legs.  Jump around the chair in three jumps or less. I can barely do this but it’s interesting to experiment with.

If your chair is super sturdy, try tricep dips (toes off the floor, fingers pointing down, arms bend then straighten). In this position, while keeping your arms straight, raise and lower your hips. You will suddenly feel your hamstrings.  Extend a leg out to the side for a harder variation.

Run in place, tapping the top of the chair like a soccer ball drill. Lunge next to the chair and swing your leg over the top, both directions. Switch sides.

Similar to the bathtub post, do side planks, where your hips are raised and lowered to the ground.Sit Down

Sit on the chair. Try all these exercise I’ve described here and feel your abs get stronger and stronger. Really, these can all can be done at the office. Sitting all day is a thing of the past!

Finish by lying on the floor and putting your feet up which I detailed here. Put Your Feet UpBe psyched! You kicked your own butt and are getting stronger, all for free right there at home or the office!