Archive for the ‘Flexibility’ 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.

Adult and Kid Playgrounds

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Vita-courseWhat’s a fun and free fitness activity you can all play together over Thanksgiving? The middle school near my house has a public exercise circuit, Parcourse or fitness trail — you know, the ones with the metal posts showing exercises like in this picture, and sometimes there are benches or bars where people can do exercises.

VitaCourses (a brand name of exercise circuits), Parcourses, and/or fitness trails are all around the country, so wherever you are on Thanksgiving, you can find one near you. Kids have formalized playgrounds. VitaCourses are kind of formalized playgrounds for adults that kids can do, too. Go try it, it’s fun!

I used to push my daughter to the school in the stroller for my warm-up, then get her out of the stroller, and she would do the VitaCourse stations witFitness Circuith me as a game. Now that she is older, she rides her bike to the track and challenges me to the circuit.

It’s easy to stand there and watch her play, so I remind myself that it’s more fun and healthier for both of us to move through the circuit. Her step-ups and push-ups are as hard for her as they are for me based on our weight and size. She thinks these are the most fun things in the world because we are doing it together. I’m not talking on my phone. I’m not checking email. I’m outside with her; we’re doing the exact same thing – making up crazy movements around the course, creating lasting memories for both of us. Oh, and we’re also getting a great work-out. Family fitness indeed!

Can’t find a circuit near you? Try some of these games over the holidays instead: active vacay, object race, hand slap plank game or scavenger hunt. Have a game or activity your family loves? Take a picture! Focus on Family Fitness has a contest coming up for the best active family photo.  Details are coming!

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.


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!


Gymnastics Circus

Friday, April 26th, 2013

I was talking to an incredibly smart woman last week, who also happens to have been a client of mine for four years. She said she wanted her daughter to stay in gymnastics and was willing to pay extra for a good place so her daughter Handstand Chattingcould learn to cartwheel. The mom felt like it was one of her regrets, never learning how to cartwheel herself.

It made me wonder, why do we think gymnastics is for kids? Or even more, why do so many people think games are just for kids? OK, the Olympics are for adults, but hopscotch, jumping rope, just bouncing a ball, etc. is “supposed to be” for children. How did we get such a cognitive dissonance between the two?

With Screen-Free Week coming up, take each night that you’d watch TV, and turn it into an active night. Set up a gymnastics or circus circuit in your home instead. On Monday, put masking tape down in your living room and walk, jump, twirl, and cartwheel along the “balance beam”. If you live on a quiet street, go outside and use the curb.  Start small by just balancing on one leg along the line.

Pummel HorseOn Tuesday night, use the side of the couch, laundry basket or the bathtub as a pommel horse. Yes, you’ll need to allow yourself and the kids to flop and jump on the couch some, but it will be incredibly fun, memorable and good exercise. Think of what you see gymnasts do and try a smaller version. Put your hands on the edge of the couch and see how long you can hold yourself up. Do push-ups on it, or let your child swing both feet over the top while holding on with both hands.

Trampoline and or “floor” work can be Wednesday night. Bounce on the bed, or push back the couch and play. Walk your feet up the wall to try a head or handstand. Attempt a cartwheel even if it looks bad. It will get better. Do somersaults and crab walks. Attempt a backbend if you are really feeling brave.

The even (or uneven bars if you are female) is trickier to create at home. On Thursday, see if you can go to the playground and experiment at the park. It’s fun! Don’t let the excuse “I have no upper body strength” stoCircusp you. You have more upper body strength than you think. Really.  Alternatively, find a super sturdy dining room/office chair with arms. Sit on the chair, put your hands on the handles and lift yourself up, so nothing is touching the floor. It’s hard; it’s not you. Compete with your kiddo and see who can go the longest. Invent new ways to use your even bars. My kids are great at this, although I can barely do most of the things they create. Nevertheless I try, we laugh, I’m humbled and the game continues.

On Friday, have a gymnastics or circus show. Put down hula hoops as circus rings, put on costumes, and take turns performing the skills you practiced this week. Realize you didn’t miss the screen time (too much), and discover new muscles. Plus, you won’t regret not learning that cartwheel. You’ll know you are working on it…

Active Play Date/Vacation

Friday, March 29th, 2013

With school spring break around the corner, plan active play dates, parties and/or vacations. It’s more fun, memorable, and (oh yeah), you’ll squeeze in exercise at the same time!

-Take a walking tour of cities and towns. Try a gourmet walk from chocolatier to bakery, a walking comedy tour (I’ve done it; it’s fun!) or make your own tour. Let your kids pick a destination and walk to it.

-Plan an active play date with another family.  Try some of the games on this website such as running Scrabble, a scavenger hunt, Letterboxing, Tri Day or go on a simple hike. One of our favorite things to do as a family is go hiking with friends. One Dad I know concocts intricate stories involving their kids’ stuffed animals as the children walk along riveted to his tale.AngryBirds

-My neighbor and his son are already on vacation. This morning, they were starting to play their home-made Angry Birds Game in 3-D. They are working on a slingshot to go with it.  Think they’ll have a blast and get some exercise chasing after the balls and boxes? His son will get the side benefit of a great day with Dad all while having a blast learning physics.  So fantastic!

-Regardless of whether you go away or stay home for a vacation, make it active (and therefore, much more fun and memorable)!  Rent bikes in a new town and just explore with no agenda. Or ask the bike shop for local bike trails.  Find a new pool, lake or beach to swim; snowshoe from hut to hut; roller-skate to the ice cream parlor or have a dance party.  By three, my son was able to ice skate by himself. So I just skated alongside.  If you can, “practice” your activity beforehand so you can ride/ski/hike/etc. comfortably for days in a row.

-Try the jumpy places that have walls and floors made of trampolines. They are all over the U.S.  Or go to your local park for free and jump on all the wobbly bridges and bars. I know I’m not the only adult who does it because I’ve seen others play along too. Make the park active time for all of you, rather than sitting and watching your kid play.  You’ll get a workout, and your kids will feel like you really played with them and didn’t just “watch”.  Bring balls, discs, jump ropes, kites, skateboards, and other friends to join in running around. Think of childhood games you liked to play and do them. Remember Kick the Can?  Four Square? Wheelbarrows? Hopscotch?

Sounds like a memorable play date/vacation, doesn’t it?

Planes of Motion

Friday, March 15th, 2013

So our bodies move in multiple planes: think front and back and side to side. Create a game – either oral, with cards or dice that challenges the other person to move in all directions.

A simple version for toddlers to kids (and their parents to join in!) is a dice game such as the one featured here.  This is an excellent game you can make as easy, creative or challenging as you want.

For older kids and adults, you can have fun learning anatomical terms to describe planes of movement by making a card game.  If you exercise and have never thought about how your body moves, it’s pretty interesting!   Put the cards in the middle of the table and turn over two cards.  The person who moves correctly at their turn according to his/her card, keeps the cards. Alternatively, race, and whoever can do the move the fastest keeps the cards.  The person with the most cards at the end wins the game!

What goes on the cards? A body part and one of the four planes of motion. The sagittal plane divides the body into right and left, so every time you take a step forward or do a bicep curl, you are moving in the sagittal plane.  You can even add a more difficult layer to the game by talking about flexion (curling your arm up for the bicep curl) or extension (the lowering phase of the curl). Can you challenge each other to come up with new movements for each one?

The frontal plane divides the body into front and back, and within this plane you can move your arms and legs away from you to the side (abduction) like a jumping jack, and back towards your center (adduction) completing the jumping jack, bringing your legs together. If you have a high schooler, add in elevation and depression, like your shoulder blades moving up and down. There are deeper and deeper levels to go here, of course. You can add in more anatomical terms or more anatomy. Why stop at the scapula (shoulder blades)? The goal is to develop awareness, moving through every plane, challenging each other’s creativity and having an interesting, dynamic, active discussion with your kiddo that carries over into day to day.  One of you will be getting cereal one day and suddenly say “Hey, what planes am I moving in?”

There is also the transverse plane that divides the body into top and bottom. Motion in the transverse plane is rotational around the axis of your spine.  Think of swinging a baseball bat.

The last plane of motion is circumduction, which is the combination of all three planes above, such as drawing circles with your arms or legs. If you get really into this, there are a lot of other terms to explore such as how the foot moves (dorsiflexion and plantar flexion), the ways the wrists move (pronation and supination), etc.

The goal is not to get overwhelmed, but to explore the movement of your body with mindfulness, appreciation, and a sense of fun. If you are still reading this, bravo! You are on your way to super body awareness!


Friday, February 1st, 2013

Flip2BFit® is a company that makes two active games.  One is a children’s fitness board game where you stretch, jump and twist in order to win the game. While playing, you can pose in a few yoga positions, build strength or do a cardio burst – all while learning about healthy eating choices. The company’s mission is to “prevent childhood obesity one exercise at a time!”

The second game is a fitness memory card game called Bakari, where you match two physical activity cards and earn points by doing the exercises.

See the games here at

Add the Flip2bFit games to the others on this blog (like active Charades, Twist It Up, Running Scrabble, body Rock, Paper, Scissor, etc.) to play for family game night.  Over and over, Focusing on Family Fitness is easy to do when exercise and activity are woven into family time.