Last Tuesday, I spent almost 16 hours at a precinct to help my follow citizens exercise their right to vote. I had done this in the past and have always looked at it as fun, though in a rather twisted kind of way.
The last Election Day was almost too much fun.
I was assigned to the help table and in a very busy precinct. As I was assisting voter after voter with little break, it struck me to which degree physical fitness can help to survive such a day.
We were a team of 10, all women. All of us had been to the mandatory training prior to the election and had been at the polling location the evening before to set up the polling place with the voting booths and all the tables and folding chairs. The morning of the election, we were all there before 6 AM to put the finishing touches on the location before the polls opened at 6:30 AM.
A line had already formed outside the precinct, and at the stroke of 6:30 AM the voters streamed into the polling place.
Being sent to the help table means that something is not as it should be, and people are usually not happy about it. At best, it means a delay of a few minutes. There can be a line, and it may take a little while to figure out where the hang-up is in the process. The goal of a precinct worker is to help as accurately as possible, and checklists aplenty are provided to ensure that the processes are fully adhered to. There are so many fields to check and to initial! While each process seems straightforward and easy, the unrelenting stream of voters can cause an oversight. As the day progresses and fatigue sets in, one has to call on all reserves to get through it.
Most voters were very appreciative and gracious, some were impatient, some were suspicious, and some did not have a good understanding of the voting process. Well, and then there were a select few who …… well, how to put this politely, were …… not so very nice ………
When the day was over and I was at home, I took a physical inventory. Quite an interesting picture, and not one that I liked a lot. I got my roller and MELTed and also swung my rapid release device into action. Soon, all was well again.
Quite a big questions to contemplate in a blog of a few paragraphs! Volumes have been written. But I will not be intimidated.
I had a spectacular day yesterday. In the afternoon, I went to see the ballet “Dracula” by the Carolina Ballet, and later in the evening I went to the North Carolina Symphony and had the great joy to listen to a concert that had me at the edge of my seat. I am also looking forward to going to the North Carolina Museum of Art to see the exhibit “Small Treasures” of Dutch and Flemish genre painting.
I am not writing this to brag what kind of a cultured person I am. Other people derive equal pleasure from completely different art forms and can only shudder at the list above.
But it makes me wonder whether our appreciation of art and beauty in the eyes of the beholder is not the very essence of what it means to be human.
I look at my dog who has so many qualities that you hope to find in another person. Unconditional love, loyalty and honesty are things you will find in any dog. And as I interact with Mr. Darcy through the course of the day, I appreciate his understanding of my ways which he has learned to read like a book. Yet for all this, I have never seen him react to a beautiful sunset or a wonderful piece of music in any peculiar way.
If this gift is truly unique to us, then we should treasure it as our very humanity and foster the application and appreciation of art in its many forms.
Today was the Walk for Hope, and I am happy to report that we had the largest team since we first participated in 1996 and raised the most money, about $2000.
The Foundation of Hope raises money for research of mental illnesses. Their support is unique. The foundation gives so-called seed money which enables researchers to do the preliminary work necessary to apply for grants from the CDC for larger studies. That way, a little goes along way, and the Foundation of Hope has, by this method, been responsible for millions of dollars spent on research.
Despite all the progress that has been made, mental illness still bears the stigma of people “just being crazy or making it all up”. People will happily talk about any other ailment as long as somebody is willing to listen, yet mental health is under an embargo.
Yet, just about all of us know a person suffering from mental illness. It can be difficult to deal with a person thus afflicted. We often lack the right words in the face of physical disability, and mental illness leaves us even more befuddled as to what to do or what to say. So we look away and pretend not to see. Understandable? Yes. But should we not approach this with as much compassion as we have towards those who suffer from a physical illness?
It’s worth a try.
Whenever I am coming back from the IDEA World Fitness Convention, I bring something back. I always come back with new ideas and great information. More often than not, it is also something to touch and feel from a small relatively inexpensive gadget to something much larger and much more expensive. This year I was able to combine the two virtues: small AND expensive. But what a thing we got!
At this time already nicknamed the ‘Magic Machine’ it is a tool from Rapid Release Technology. This thing is about the size of a hand-held kitchen mixer and provides a very specific rate and depth of vibration which breaks up scar tissue and adhesions and has a wonderfully relaxing effect when applied to sore necks and shoulders. If you want to find out more, you can go to their website www.rapidreleastech.com.
I am usually suspicious when something seems too good to be true, and before I part with a large amount of money, I need to be convinced that this is legit. When I roamed the expo hall, the people manning the booth hailed me over and asked whether I had a place on my body that hurts. As a matter of fact, I had. There was a place in my neck that had resisted the combined effort of MELT, my rolfer and my chiropractor (even though it had gotten better through all of the above). Within 5 minutes, this spot felt A LOT better. I went back to the booth a few hours later for another dose and then got out my credit card. Had to have it!
It’s been in constant use at the studio ever since we had it. With regular application, this thing can perform minor (and, in my case, major) miracles. It is a bit on the noisy side which makes it even more surprising that there is another person in the studio who gets a daily dose of vibration: Mr. Darcy, my beloved dog.
Last month’s conference was probably the 30th IDEA conference I have attended. I have lost count but it’s somewhere there in the neighborhood.
As I reflect on the impact those conferences had on my growth as a trainer, their value cannot be overstated. There was much I saw and liked and some I saw and disliked. But the main point is that I was exposed to it and could form my own opinion.
The fitness industry has changed dramatically over the last 20 years since I have been a trainer. Some things are still the same, and they also have still validity. If I trained my clients the way I did 20 years ago, I would not do them a disservice. They would get stronger and thus hopefully healthier. But having experienced all the developments and picked the ones that work for me has enabled me to become the trainer I am today. I could not possibly have read myself into that knowledge. Being able to see and feel is what makes the difference.
As such, I am grateful that the founders of IDEA, Peter and Kathie Davis, for their vision of a fitness organization of the kind that IDEA has become over the years.
So! HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is all the rage. I would call it outrageous.
I just returned from the 2014 IDEA World Fitness Convention, full of motivation and ready to continue helping my clients towards better health and fitness. And one thing is for sure: HIIT will not have any place in my programming.
I took two classes; one with a ViPR, the other one with a new machine called CoreStix. Ultimately, the type of device is irrelevant, but the style of training is.
HIIT has made the headlines because it ‘burns more calories’ in a shorter period of time, and, in today’s environment, who would not want a shortcut. The premise is that one does one or a series of exercises for a short period of time as fast as possible to exhaustion, then rest, and repeat. Perfect form, we are told, is actually detrimental because in real life we do not align our bodies in the correct way and move 100 % correct. (And I can see that argument – to a point.)
What I have seen in my two sessions was the following: a room full of fitness professionals all of whom without a doubt in complete knowledge on how to perform exercises well, being cheered on by the presenter and by motivating music to give it their all. And give it they did. As exhaustion set in, form was lost. However, the amount of resistance remained the same. In the heat of the moment, it was not easy to quickly find suitable modifications to make the exercises more appropriate. Fortunately, I have reached a stage in my life where I can leave my ego safely in the coat check and only do what feels right, no matter how much somebody may shout “Faster, faster”.
My conclusion: fast tempo coupled with resistance is a recipe for injury. It does not matter whether it is called Tabata, HIIT or CrossFit.
I love to study and to learn. Recently, I have focused more and more on corrective exercises in the quest to restore ideal alignment and posture and to help people get out of chronic pain as a result of those misalignments.
The MELT Method is a great tool to accomplish this. I love the fact that it based on the concept of self-treatment thus empowering people to do something for themselves and not having to depend on others to administer treatment to them. I also like the concept of self-assessment in MELT because people can learn about imbalances in their bodies because they can feel them.
I have recently studied another method, called The BioMechanics Method by Justin Price who is also a well-known name in the fitness industry. He also starts with an assessment which initially is conducted by the specialist in his method but is almost immediately taught to the client with the goal that they client can understand their imbalances and can feel the changes of the program. The corrective exercises in his method are a systematic approach of myofascial release, followed by stretching and then strengthening.
As an advanced MELT practitioner of 5 years and a newly-minted BioMechanics Method Corrective Exercise Specialist, I will be able to use them both in the shared goal of helping people get out of the chronic pain which is caused by muscle imbalances.
They both have their strong suits. I love the foam roller length techniques in MELT but I also like the myofascial release approach with tennis balls which makes this more portable when people travel. I find the TBMM process more systematic and love the stretching components. The strength components of both methods are great. Some of the individual techniques are better in one, some in the other method.
Bottom line: two great methods with equal value in both of them.
Added bonus: one person (me J) who knows them both.
Lately, I have been using my treadmill and elliptical trainer with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. The reason? I just finished reading the book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John J. Ratey, MD
I had seen enough statistics over the years that demonstrate how helpful exercise is for just about any condition known to man, be it hypertension, diabetes, heart disease ….. you name it. I had also seen data on the effects of exercise on some mental disorders such as depression and ADHD. But I have never seen all the evidence combined in one place on the profound positive effects that exercise, mainly aerobic exercise, has on brain function.
I grew up with the belief that every cell on our body renews itself except for the brain cells. You are born with so many, and it only goes downhill from there. This has been soundly disproven. The brain can grow new cells and make new connections but it needs some MIRACLE GRO fertilizer, and that fertilizer is EXERCISE.
I cannot recommend this book more. There are some on the Amazon book review who consider this book “really, really boring” since it reads like a textbook. Well …. I could not put it down. There is a line in this book that just struck me:
“If you are not busy living, your body is busy dying.”
As a MELT instructor for almost 5 years, the subject of ‘fascia’ (sometimes also referred to as connective tissue) has been of great interest to me. I have witnessed firsthand the effects the MELT techniques have on my students, whether they are in my classes as one of many or get instructions from me one-on-one. Yes, I had very few people over those years that I could not reach with MELT but I would put this number no higher that 1 out of 100.
I also like to educate my participants about the properties of fascia, what it is, what it does and why it is so important to keep it healthy. I have come up with analogies ranging from body stocking to orange to panty hose, and I am still searching.
I recently got some unexpected help. Europe, and Germany in particular, is way ahead of the curve in research of fascia, and I was made aware of a broadcast from a German television station on that very subject. Not only does this video (with English subtitles) explain in very simple ways what fascia is, it also shows the possibilities that are opening up for the treatment of many chronic pain conditions.
If you have 30 minutes, please do yourself the favor to watch it. And then just get on your roller or get out those little balls and just make your fascia happy. Here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ikx-0s8y480.
A few days ago I attended a short seminar at Duke Raleigh Hospital by the shoulder specialist Dr. Kevin Speer who talked about the aging shoulder.
I had observed that many people are suffering from shoulder problem as they are getting older, often for no apparent reason, and I was looking forward to the talk in hopes of an explanation. I was not disappointed.
Dr. Speer stated that the shoulder will develop bone spurs and a degradation of the muscles and connective tissues as an inevitable results of getting older. That does not necessarily mean that this leads to pain but it often does. Shoulder pain is typically referred pain, meaning that the place where it hurts is not necessarily where the problem is. With shoulder issues, the pain is often down the upper arm or in the front of the shoulder.
He had a number of suggestions for maintaining healthy shoulders to the degree possible. Good nutrition was his first recommendation. The following list is taken from the www.webmd.com for an anti-inflammatory diet.
· Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
· Minimize saturated and trans fats.
· Eat a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or fish oil supplements and walnuts.
· Watch your intake of refined carbohydrates such as pasta and white rice.
· Eat plenty of whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat.
· Eat lean protein sources such as chicken; cut back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods.
· Avoid refined foods and processed foods.
· Spice it up. Ginger, curry, and other spices can have an anti-inflammatory effect.
On the supplement list, his recommendation was for fish oil. He also suggested a heat (before exercise) and cold (after exercise) therapy when some pain has already crept in. As an exercise maintenance routine, rotator cuff exercises to strengthen the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder should become part of the workout.
When shoulders are beginning to hurt, he looked at it from two perspectives: the first is whether the pain goes away with rest and avoidance of triggers, the second whether pain starts interfering with a good night’s rest.
In the first case, it can be managed with ice, maybe some anti-inflammatory medication and rest. Some exercises may have to be avoided for good such as overhead presses or push-ups. Downward dogs should be left to the dogs as well. The elbows should always be in the field of vision.
However, when shoulder pain interferes with sleep, a visit to the doctor becomes necessary. Even then, physical therapy may help, and Dr. Speer stated that he was a great fan of it. Only when all else fails, there is surgery which he views as the last option.