Archive for the ‘Strength’ Category

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.

Strong Shoulders, Happy Babies

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Sing “the cute little babies go up and down…” , etc. to the tune of “Wheels on the Bus”.  Babies LOVE it! And Mom gets stronger shoulders! Yay!

Happy Baby, Stong Shoulders


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!

Standing Arm Wrestle

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Stand facing your teen, partner or friend, and place your right hands together palm to palm. (See photo)Arm Wrestle Palm to Palm Stand with right ankles touching and in a lunge position. Now push palms together in opposite directions, with the strength coming from your hips, particularly the obliques. Push hard at the same time, until one of you falls over from losing strength or laughing. Now try it again on the left side. If he/she is much bigger than you, have them stand up taller or on one foot while you lunge lower.

Start again, in the same position as above, but rather than push palm to palm, hold his or her hand as in the photo.Arm Wrestle pulls You can try doing a low lunge arm wrestle and “pull” him or her toward you. Don’t “jerk” your partner over, stand low and steady in a lunge, and both of you pull at the same time in opposite directions. Use your whole body as a muscle and counter weight, not just your arm. Keep your elbows bent the whole time.  Feel constant resistance as if playing tug of war, until one person can’t hold it anymore or again, you lose strength from laughing.Arm Wrestle

Stand facing each other in a low deep squat. One person has palms up; the other, has palms down on top, as shown in the picture.Partner Body Strengthener At the same time, one person curls up, the other pushes down. Continue steady even resistance as you both resist the other’s strength. If you are curling up, use your whole body, especially your legs to lift your arms. If you are pushing down (hands on top), aim to mostly use your core.

If your child is much smaller than you, have them partner with a sibling or friend their size while you wrestle both, or you wrestle your husband/wife.

These moves take five minutes or so depending on how into it you get and how many times you repeat them. They are effective full body strengtheners all while being very entertaining.  Experiment with other hand and body positions for a fun partner workout. What are your favorites?

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…

Partner Play

Friday, April 12th, 2013

I really like this video. Whenever I train couples, groups of friends or parents with their children, we do a bunch of partner moves.  I always thought I created them myself, but apparently I’m not the only “crazy” trainer! Partner Massage

Amusing family fitness couldn’t be easier! I don’t suggest all of these moves, particularly the Kettlebell Turkish Getup with a partner as the Kettlebell.  However a lot of these moves are really fun, effective and adaptable to people of different sizes and strengths, and can be done anywhere at anytime.  Like the wheelbarrow , hand slap and leg wrestle games I’ve mentioned before, many of the moves are related to that. The difference is, in the video, they go through the moves really quickly, whereas I have people hold the moves longer and make a game of it!  Try both and see what you like best. Then do it again!

Son MassageSkip the first 15 seconds of the video, something is wrong with it.

Check out the video and try some fun moves!

The two pictures that go with this blog are incredibly endearing to me. I teach this phenomenal group of 13 families on Tuesday afternoon. We’ve played with tennis balls before as massage tools and also just fun toys to add to our workouts. At the end of class on Tuesday, I noticed one woman helping another with her back pain, using two tennis balls along her spine. Five minutes later, I realized her son, was doing the very same thing, helping his mom as her friend had. If that isn’t exercise imprinting and role modeling being thoughtful, I don’t know what is.  SO sweet!

Band Aid

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

If you wanted to have one awesome exercise toy in your house that could give you a full body strength workout, anywhere, anytime, and nobody at work or home will hear you, buy an exercise band for about $10. The list of exercises you can do with it has no end. The only limiting factor is choosing not to pick it up.Band Together

I can list a thousand descriptions of how to use the band, but there are many websites and YouTube videos that have free suggestions.  Keep the band under your work desk or by the kitchen counter. Each week while you are cooking or procrastinating at work, try one new exercise.  I know many people who just exercise while at their desk or watching kids do homework. They use the band when reading documents or on conference calls, and by the end of the day, they have finished 30+ minutes of strength training.

If you added one new exercise a week, by the end of the year you’d have one fit body and mind. One of the my favorite bands (it’s hearty, inexpensive and no, I don’t get a kick back from them for saying this) is this one, by SPRI.   Splurge and spend an extra two dollars on the door attachment. You’ll essentially have a whole cable exercise system in your home for $12 that barely takes up space.

There are a lots of exercise videos on amazon, and youtube.  Check out your local library too.

I like this video because it shows how you can use the band anywhere and get a great full body workout.

This guy shows how easy it is to use the band.

Tie your band in a circle to perform all of these.  These are more rehab and single muscle exercises.

Band together and get stronger!

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?