(Move over, Charles Dickens. An open letter to a client.)
As a trainer, I want you, my client, to succeed. I would love nothing better than to be the facilitator of miraculous change where bodyfat drops, strength triples and flexibility soars to unknown heights.
To make this work, I have studied many different programs, exercises and modalities and am willing to develop any one of them as we start our journey to health and fitness.
But are you coming with me?
Yes, indeed, it is a mountain to climb and not a stroll through the park. I can develop any program and come up with the best techniques but here’s the catch: you’ll have to do them. It will be you who has to sweat, lift, huff and puff.
Setting goals with a client has to be a process of mutual understanding. When you think about your goals, consider how much effort you are realistically able to put into it. You may have been inspired by shows like “The Biggest Loser” but the settings in which the participants there operate are so far removed from reality that results like that are unattainable in the real world.
Fascia (aka connective tissue) is an amazing fluid-based tissue that can adapt itself to any position we want to assume, and always returns back to a natural state of ideal alignment. At least, that’s how it should be.
Enter: the demands of modern life. Prolonged sitting, hunching while texting.
Over time, the stresses placed on the body cause the fascia to be stuck in some areas, and that stuck stress can impact any part of the body, even remote to the site where the stress actually resides.
Enter: MELT, the knight in shining armor.
The MELT Method is a self-treatment technique which restores the body to its original state by rehydrating those areas of the fascia where stressors have caused dehydration and the manifestation of stuck stress.
Observations: I have been teaching MELT classes for almost 6 years and have observed those who MELT with great regularity. You can easily recognize a regular MELTer by the good posture and alignment and ease of movement. I have heard stories of MELTers being measured for height by their doctor and having gained (!!!) half an inch.
Isn’t it worth a few minutes every day to self-treat your fascia?
Last week, I attended the IDEA World Fitness Convention in Los Angeles. 12000 attendees from 50 countries – a world-wide event indeed.
I have to credit IDEA with making me the trainer I am today. Being exposed to the best in the industry, learning the latest trends and getting inspired be presenters and fellow trainers brings out the best in us.
My focus in this year’s conference was a mix of Barre and corrective exercise.
I have obtained a Barre certification a few months ago and was using the conference to deepen my knowledge. No matter how much Barre gets its inspiration from ballet, it is really a very effective way to work on muscular endurance with minimal equipment. Not even a ballet barre is necessary; a chair will do, then add some light elastic resistance or dumbbell and a little ball, and you have a Barre workout.
Stay tuned for my announcement of a combination of Barre and MELT.
Corrective exercises get more and more of my attention. Our wonderful modern life has left us in a dysfunctional dilemma. Back and shoulder problems are ever increasing, and many are brought on by prolonged sitting with an incorrect head position. Unless those issues are not addressed in an appropriate way, the best designed workout will fail and potentially lead to injury. So finding ways to assess (or self-assess as in the case of MELT) and then being proactive has become a foundation of my training.
One last word on fascia. I never heard that word mentioned as often as at this conference. I am pretty sure I heard is in every session. One presenter went as far as calling it an organ. I don’t think that it has been elevated to that status but it’s on the way. And MELT was definitely a forerunner of that movement.
This is a fitness blog but at times I break my own rules and take a stance on political matters.
The horrifying events of last week have suddenly enlightened governors and legislators that the Confederate Flag is a symbol which – at this point in time – stands for white supremacy and racism. It did not take long for those who claim the flag to be their ‘heritage’ to argue vehemently against it. The flag, they say, honors their ancestors who have fought on the confederate side of the civil war. One wonders how those feel whose ancestors were victims of the romanticized antebellum South.
I also have a loved one who fought under a flag and ultimately lost his life from the injuries and illnesses from that war. It was my father who was drafted in Germany in 1942 at the age of 19 and who fought on the losing side of World War II. He grew up with the swastika as ‘his flag’.
As such, the swastika is part of my heritage. It is a part which I’d rather not claim; but we cannot escape our own history. However, we can learn from it.
Because of its symbolic value, the swastika is the favorite among neo-Nazis who understand perfectly well what it represents now: white supremacy, intolerance, and hate of foreigners. It is illegal in Germany to fly that flag.
True, the historic contexts of those two flags are very different but they share the symbolism which they have acquired over time.
Removing a symbol of hatred from public view will not stop hatred. But it will send a signal that we have recognized it for what it is now and are no longer tolerating its presence.
The news about the negative effects of prolonged sitting are getting worse and worse. If the musculoskeletal consequences are not bad enough, prolonged sitting has not been linked to a significantly higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and depression, according to an article in the Washington Post.
Gavin Bradley, Director of Active Working (http://www.getbritainstanding.org/active-working.php) says: “Metabolism slows down 90 percent after 30 minutes of sitting. The enzymes that move the bad fat from your arteries to your muscles, where it can get burned off, slow down. The muscles in your lower body are turned off, and after two hours good cholesterol drops 20 percent. Just getting up for 5 minutes is going to get things going again. These things are so simple, it is almost stupid.”
Fortunately, the message is getting out. Standing desks are no longer a construction of boxes on desks but well-designed pieces of equipment. Standing or walking meetings are becoming accepted. (Personal sidebar: I wished we had had those when I worked at IBM. I am sure it would have shortened many endless discussions.) More and more devices are coming on the market which can be set up as reminders to stand up more frequently.
For me, it’s not a matter of how many years in my life, but how much life in my years.
Let’s get up and go!
In the past, I have been a sceptic whenever somebody brought up the issue of online personal training. It seemed a contradiction in terms to me. Yet, I now find myself giving it serious consideration, and I need to explain what brought on this transformation.
Among other things I each MELT, a self-treatment technique for connective tissue, which has great potential to help people to manage or even get out of daily pain. It is really difficult to hurt yourself when you try to MELT. It is, in theory, easy to learn but, after having taught it for more than five years, I have seen enough people who have a hard time following the proper technique even in a live class, and I cannot imagine it to be any better when they try to follow DVD instructions. However, I have also seen that people do very well with individualized verbal corrections.
Enter Skype. Well, I know, it’s not exactly a new discovery of mine. It has been around for a number of years already but it is new to me, and it answers the technical requirement for online training. And it is new to me. I am currently exploring the logistics of this system. Today I taught my first Skype MELT session with one of my existing clients and was amazed how good the picture was. This enabled me to see her body position very accurately and to assess which verbal corrections I needed to give.
Who can benefit from online training? If there is no qualified instructor anywhere near you and you are not sure whether you are doing the techniques accurately, this may be a great option. There is more to MELT than is in the book, and online training can give access to additional techniques. As a seasoned instructor, I have been talking large groups of people through MELT techniques, and this gives me the confidence that I can also do it when I see a person online.
So off into the 21st century we go. Online MELT Training coming soon to a computer near you!
According to the National Institute of Health, young women athletes are two to eight times more likely to suffer an injury to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) than male athletes. One reason is the increased level of participation in sports which by itself is great news. But this increased injury risk is a serious downside, and one wonders whether there are ways to prepare young girls to minimize the risk.
There is one form of physical activity where ACL injuries in women are almost unheard of, and that is a sport where leaps and bounds are a substantial part of the program: BALLET! So what is it about ballet that creates this shield of protection?
It is believed that ACL injuries in girls are often the consequence of improper landing mechanics. Unless properly instructed, girls tend to land flat-footed which is one of the risk factors for an ACL tear. Because jumping is such a big part of ballet, proper mechanics here are a major part of the training so that they become second nature. Even if a girl decides that her athletic future is on the soccer field rather than in the ballet studio, the lessons learned during ballet practice will have a positive carry-over effect into other athletic endeavors.
An ACL injury at a young age predisposes the person to an earlier onset of arthritis which can have a major impact on the quality of life as we are getting older. And while young athletes cannot possibly imagine anything but being indestructible, those of us who know better can give them a better chance at a successful and healthy career by giving them the necessary athletic skills.
Ballet training can be one such option, and it also teaches them to stand up straight!
If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Not that one. That one is even better. I purchased a vibration device at the IDEA World Fitness Conference. It is called RRT PRO 1. It works on a very specific frequency and target scar tissue adhesions.
I have owned it now for about 8 months and have used it on myself and as part of my personal training and MELT sessions.
I want to give a testimonial from personal experience. As a fully trained MELT instructor, I am used to deal with aches and pains in a very efficient way. But I ended up with the proverbial ‘pain in the neck’, and it was not budging. Both my chiropractor and Rolfer had a go at it; it would improve some, and then go back to its painful self. Icepacks were in daily use.
I was wandering around the expo hall at the IDEA Conference when one of the exhibitors asked me whether I wanted to try it. The moment that machine touched that spot in my neck, it just simply felt great, and within a few minutes the pain was greatly reduced. (It had been made worse by the flight from Raleigh to LA.) I felt better for the rest of the day, and went back to the booth because I knew that I wanted to take that machine home with me. I used the device regularly for the next few weeks, and the pain in the neck was gone.
I have viewed this acquisition as one of the best purchases of my life, and that is not an exaggeration. In my training, I strive to help people with muscular imbalances that lead to postural problems and pain. But those exercises cannot address scar tissue adhesions which are often part of the problem. This gives me another tool with which I can help.
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.