My view of myself has morphed over the years from “Personal Trainer and MELT Instructor” to “Corrective Exercise Specialist”, and it’s time to describe what I mean by that.
As a personal trainer, I cannot diagnose any medical condition. However, what I can do is identify muscular imbalances to the best of my abilities. Theoretically, there can be as many imbalances as there are people but, in practice, there are certain misalignments which can been seen over and over. The normal lifestyle for many people includes sitting for long hours, often in front of a computer or in a car. Over time, this can create a posture with the head jotting forward, the shoulders being rounded, the pelvis misaligned, and the knees moving inward while the feet are pointing outward. Calves and hamstrings are tight while the hip muscles are often weak.
Ultimately, every person has a unique combination of those issues. When somebody approaches me for personal training, it is simply imperative to me to address those deviations first. To load a body with one or more of those problems would be like loading a car for a road trip that is neither balanced nor aligned.
For most imbalances, there are exercises, comprised of stretching and strengthening, to improve or even neutralize them. Since most people come with a combination of imbalances, the challenge is to find the right path of exercises. It also includes education so that the client understands what habits have led to the current issues. At this point, it’s as much an art as a science. There is the personality of the client that must be considered; existing limitations (for example arthritis in the hands or even MS) that require modifications; the life circumstances of the client which may put constraints on time.
For the exercises, I can draw on an entire arsenal. I have studied the corrective exercise approaches from NASM and from The BioMechanics Method, developed by Justin Price. I have extensive knowledge of Sue Hitzmann’s MELT Method, a self-treatment technique for connective tissue. I recently took the course ‘Core Barre’ with Monica Hoekstra who has developed the Systems of Smart Movements® which is yet another approach to corrective exercise. Both MELT and Core Barre can even been taught to groups. Core Barre in particular combines the effectiveness of corrective exercises with a certain elegance of movement which makes people feel good about themselves.
Corrective exercises themselves are too many to name but they all include the muscles of the shoulder girdle, hips and lower back and what is commonly called “the core”. I have found over and over that, once the stabilizing structures have improved, many aches and pains lessen or disappear.
Given my love for ballet, it was only one logical step for me to look at a Barre certification course. And just at I had decided to look into it further, an opportunity for the very thing presented itself in Raleigh J. The stars were lining up.
The course provider is Core Barre™, and its creator is Monica Hoekstra. Given my over 20 years in the fitness industry and a fair amount of education, I am a rather critical consumer and not easily persuaded. The content and presentation of Monica’s course, though, meets my full approval, and I enjoy it very much. Her approach to what she calls ‘Smart Movement’ is fully in line with my training of MELT, The BioMechanics Method and the other corrective exercise modalities that I employ. I am a hawk on good posture myself, and her entire Core Barre™ system is geared towards improving posture through the strengthening of the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder girdle, hip and core.
The course has elements of ballet without being a ballet class. Her suggested syllabus includes an intelligent warm-up, a segment on the barre, and floor exercises which are mainly inspired by Pilates.
Once I have ‘incorporated’ those exercises into my own body, I intend to augment them with MELT Length and Strength techniques. This format will be one only taught at my studio to a small number of participants, so be on the lookout for an announcement some time soon.
Hypertension is one of the common precursors to heart disease and stroke, and millions of dollars are spent on medication to control it.
Yet in many cases hypertension can be lowered as successfully as with medication through the DASH diet. Dash stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet has more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy and less sweets, saturated fat and cholesterol than the typical American diet. Studies have demonstrated its effectiveness over and over again. If people also cut sodium, then the DASH diet is even superior to medication! (Source: Nutrition Action Healthletter March 2015)
So what are you waiting for? Make a DASH for it. Here is a link to more information http://dashdiet.org/.
By North Carolina standards, we had a lot of snow and ice during the last 2 weeks. Since snow is not necessarily an annual occurrence in this neck of the woods, the activity of snow shoveling is not often practiced.
The terms ‘functional fitness’ and ‘functional training’ have been thrown around a lot over the last decade, and quite rightly so. Sitting on a machine and pushing or pulling a weight stack in the only direction the machine allows can build strength in that one movement pattern, but rarely translates into the real world.
You know that you have trained yourself ‘functionally’ when, after two hours of shoveling snow, you are ready for nap and a little sore over all, but do not have aching shoulders or a painful lower back.
And, if I were you, I’d hop onto my foam roller and MELT away.
Today is Valentine’s Day, hearts are aflutter and the card, restaurant, florist and chocolate industry has one of the most important days of the year.
February is also Heart Month as featured by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Here is an excerpt from their website with many good recommendations to keep your heart healthy so that the heartbeat only rises for the right reasons.
“Make Blood Pressure Control Your Goal
This American Heart Month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Million Hearts®–a national effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the United States by 2017–are encouraging Americans to know their blood pressure, and if it's high, to make control their goal.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. In fact, more than 67 million Americans have high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are 4 times more likely to die from a stroke and 3 times more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those with normal blood pressure.
High blood pressure often shows no signs or symptoms, which is why having your blood pressure checked regularly is important. It's easy to get your blood pressure checked. You can get screened at your doctor's office and drugstores or even check it yourself at home, using a home blood pressure monitor.
Make Control Your Goal
If you know you have high blood pressure, take these steps to help get it under control:
Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be. Set a goal to lower your pressure with your doctor and talk about how you can reach your goal. Work with your health care team to make sure you meet that goal. Track your blood pressure over time. One way to do that is with this free wallet card from Million Hearts®.
Take your blood pressure medicine as directed. Set a timer on your phone to remember to take your medicine at the same time each day. If you are having trouble taking your medicines on time or paying for your medicines, or if you are having side effects, ask your doctor for help.
Quit smoking—and if you don't smoke, don't start. You can find tips and resources at CDC's Smoking and Tobacco website.
Reduce sodium intake. Most Americans consume too much sodium, which can raise blood pressure. Read about ways to reduce your sodium and visit the Million Hearts® Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Resource Center for heart-healthy, lower-sodium recipes, meal plans, and helpful articles.”
Check out more information
Here is a direct link to the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/ where you can find out more information about high blood pressure.
How did that happen?
A few more days, and I will be celebrating (?) my 60th birthday. I rather think of it as the 2nd anniversary of my 30th, but that is really cosmetic.
It is certainly time to be grateful. Grateful that I have not been afflicted with one of those diseases that come out of nowhere and profoundly change a person’s life. Grateful for all those years during which I could learn that 90% of all worries never materialize; so I am now making better use of my time. Grateful for the happenstance of my skin color and ethnicity which works like an automatic door opener where others have to push.
Grateful that I changed my career 20 years ago and got into the wellness industry. Without it, I may now be a manager at IBM (well, maybe not), spending hours at my desk, making forecasts of supreme irrelevance to anybody’s well-being, and collecting frequent flyer miles. I would also look at retirement (if it had not already happened) and would be wondering what to do with the rest of my life.
None of those worries for me. Even though I realize that I am quite unemployable as a 60 year old woman (urgh! that sounds awful), I am and will be my own boss. I am in an industry where experience actually counts, and that includes life experience. Being 60 is not a mark against me but a batch of honor.
Happy Birthday to me :-)
I am once more moving away from my fitness field to talk about art which to me is therapeutic and stress-relieving (well, maybe I am talking about wellness after all …..)
I bought a beautiful piece of artwork called ‘Odette in a Dogwood Forest’ by Jaimon Caceres which unites in one piece my love of painting and my love of ballet. It is in a place where I see it often in the course of the day, and every time I pass by it makes me smile and feel happy.
It makes me wonder how colors on paper can have that effect. I am reminded of Magritte’s famous painting “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (this is not a pipe) under the drawing of a pipe. It’s our brain that creates the narrative and fills in the blanks. It’s my brain that places me in a forest where I see an ethereal figure dancing, unaware of being observed. It is also my brain that marvels at the balance of the picture where everything is just in the perfect place. As I stand and look at it, I am receiving the gift of being in the moment. Whenever I look at the drawing, I forget, for that little space of time, what was and what will be.
And then I continue my day – smiling :-)
So, here you are at the dawn of a New Year (I am till in poetic mode after my Shakespeare impersonation). You have decided it’s time to do something about those ……… (fill in the blanks such as extra 20 lbs., cigarettes, sodas) and you are determined to change. You were a little reluctant because those goals seem to repeat themselves year after year. You start off great, and then you fall off.
Setting goals is great but there is a way to increase the odds of you actually achieving them, and here are some tips:
- Write them down and divide them into a long-term (eg. I want to lose 20 lbs. in 6 months) and short-term goals (eg. I want to lose 5 lbs in the first month by walking every day for a total of 20 minutes and decreasing my caloric intake by replacing my afternoon super-size double chocolate thingamajig with a small single chocolate thingamajig).
- Share your goals with others, and if I were you, don’t share them with your significant other as this can cause problems beyond the ones you have already ;-). A personal trainer or wellness coach would be an excellent choice.
- Tape the goals where you can see them every day. You can even write a subset of them on your daily to-do list if you do such a thing to keep them present in your awareness.
- Identify potential barriers and think through strategies how to offset them. For example, where will you walk when it rains so that you cannot go to a park? Is there a mall? Do you have access to a treadmill? Are you getting bored? Have you tried listening to music or a recorded book (my personal favorite)? Do you have a party coming up where thingamajigs will abound?
- Track your progress. After a week or two, review what went right and what was difficult. Adjust your short-term plan as necessary. Rather walking every day for 20 minutes, maybe it’s better for you to walk only 5 times per week for 30 minutes each.
Studies have shown that good goal setting can make or break the deal whether you will reach your goal or not. And you do not have to wait for the New Year’s Day to make a resolution. Changing the way you have done things for a long time requires commitment and vigilance. The old habits have not served you well; they have led you to where you are right now.
So try to be SMART as you set your goals.
Happy New Year!
To make or not to make – that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous portion
Or to take up arms against a sea of gobbles,
And, by opposing, end them.
Oh Shakespeare, please forgive me.
‘Tis this time of year again. And the question in many minds is whether or not to make a New Year’s Resolution. The biggest argument I hear against it that people know that they will not be sticking to it anyway, so why bother making them in the first place.
Well, that’s one way of looking at it. It is always easy to live up to no expectation at all. If you have not set yourself a goal, you cannot fail at it. And who wants to be a failure ……
I have a favorite quote from one of the most remarkable men who ever lived, Michelangelo. He said “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
With the New Year approaching, I’ll leave you to ponder the question of where you want to set your aim.
As a MELT instructor, I talk about hydration a lot. Water is what keeps the connective tissue happy and in good shape. I suggest to everybody to drink a glass of water after a class, and, from all I can see, everybody trots dutifully to the water fountain to get their fill.
With the latest cold spell, I noticed a change. Water bottles are not as common. To be honest, after a long walk with my dog, I feel more like a hot cup of tea than a glass of water.
But that’s the problem: warmer temperatures make us so much more likely to drink water. So we have to be a little more mindful that hydration is just as, if not more important in the colder days.
And it has an added benefit: everybody complains about the effects of heating on mucus membranes and the skin. So let’s get hydrated and improve all of the above.
Prost! To your health!