Thursday, July 11, 2013

You Rock!

I am writing this post just to tell each of you, my clients: "You Rock!" Everyone in this new class is doing a great job. Showing up. Sharing. Warming up. Working out. Moving up (in weights) steadily and smartly.

We are moving into Week 4 of the Strong Women Stay Young program, which is a milestone of sorts. At this point you are all familiar with the workout and many of you are starting to notice that you feel different--better. Yes, there have been days after a session when you feel sore, but that's to be expected, and you're all being smart about it.

Keep up the good work!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Exercises for the Quadriceps

Our first group class, based on the book Strong Women Stay Young, was a lot of fun; what a neat group of women! It took longer than the anticipated 30-40 minutes to get through the workout, but that is mostly because we, well I, did a lot of talking and some demonstrating. Everyone was super attentive and followed instructions, and no one experienced insurmountable difficulty.

Chair squat
However, even with the help of the lovely support bars my husband installed in my studio over the weekend, my chairs turned out to be too low for some of the women to feel very comfortable rising from and then squatting to sit back down onto. And the chair seat is shorter than the legs (the femur) of some of the women, so they could not comfortably do the knee extension exercise (shown below).

The first two images shown here are basic (we could call them Level 1) quad exercises, both recommended in the book. Now, imagine the chair being too low so that as you squat you feel you're just going to fall into the seat rather than have a nice, slow, controlled descent. (This is due in part because your quad muscles are too weak to support you.) And then imagine your leg being too long to put a towel in the right place, as shown in the second image. So these two exercises just did not work out very well for some of the gals.

Knee Extension
Instead of running out to buy lumber to build a suitable bench or platform to perform these exercises, I spent a little while exploring alternatives. I want to ensure that everyone can safely and effectively work those big, important thigh muscles at the front of the leg, called the quadriceps, and although there are several different possibilities, I decided that the lunge is going to be the one we do for the next eight weeks, instead of the chair squat and knee extension. 

The lunge exercise is also described in Strong Women Stay Young, it is just not included in the basic program. It is an excellent exercise and can be modified in many ways. When just starting out, people can hold onto a support bar or counter top to help with their balance; they can separate their feet only a little or a lot; and they can drop down into the lunge position just a wee bit, or far enough to touch their knee to the floor. Additionally, it can be done while walking forward or back and it can be done slowly to focus on improving strength, or more quickly to focus on making it more of an aerobic exercise. So it is adjustable to many levels of exercisers. 

Another benefit to this exercise is that it works on a whole lot more than just the quad muscles. It works on several other upper leg muscles, on the lower leg muscles, the muscles surrounding the hip, and the important core muscles in the back and abdomen that help us maintain balance. Once good balance is achieved while performing this exercise, weight can be added in the form of a barbell or dumbbells in each hand. Combine holding a dumbbell in each hand, adding a biceps curl, and moving walking forward to drop into a lunge each step, and it becomes a real power-packed exercise! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Strong Women Stay Young

I am excited to be starting an eight-week exercise class* on June 25th for a neat group of women I met through my friend and business associate, Kerry Webb. Kerry is an RN and Food Coach (Learning to Eat for the Health of It) Her classes about healthy eating habits are fabulous!

These gals are committed to improving their health through diet and exercise, and have proven it by meeting weekly for months, shedding pounds and sharing success stories and challenges. With Kerry's help, they have supported each other through the ups and downs of making (sometimes difficult) changes to their eating habits. It will be great to join them and offer support as they embark on this new challenge--to become more fit. We'll be following the Strong Women Stay Young strength training program designed by Miriam E. Nelson, Ph.D.

Dr. Nelson has also authored or co-authored the following books:

  • Strong Women Stay Slim
  • Strong Women, Strong Bones:
     Everything You Need to Know to Prevent, Treat and Beat Osteoporosis
  • Strong Women Eat Well
  • Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis
  • Strong Women, Strong Hearts
  • Strong Women's Guide to Total Health
  • Strong Women, Strong Backs:
     Everything You Need to Know to Prevent, Treat and Beat Back Pain
  • Strong Women Stay Healthy
  • The Social Network Diet: Change Yourself, Change the World
  • The Strong Women's Journal

Visit the Strong Women web site for more information.

*This class will be meeting at the Flamingo Fitness studio on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, starting at 6:15 pm. Cost is $80 for 16 sessions ($5.00 per session). Enrollment requires payment in full and no refunds will be given for missing a class or dropping out. (This policy  is meant to encourage everyone to continue attending!)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Corrective Exercise Specialist

Since my last blog post here, I have been super busy with, well, life! I spent a lot of time last fall and this spring down in Texas, taking care of my granddaughter while her mother works (what a gift it is for all of us!). Also, my husband and I have been making changes to our property. But, most exciting of all for my business, I studied for and became a NASM Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist in April. Yay!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Relaxation of Muscles DURING Exercise

I recently read Lynn Hill's book, "Climbing Free--My Life in the Vertical World." I found a page in it that describes something I am encouraging some of my clients to work on, and that is learning how to relax muscles that are not actively being used during certain moves (or exercises). This ability is always useful, but it is most beneficial when doing any activity that requires endurance, because by relaxing muscles that are not needed for the activity, you do not expend excess energy (on unnecessary muscle contractions)--and the energy you do have goes into only what is needed to complete a move or sequence of movements.

This means any muscles, not just the big ones! So, for example, even learning how to relax your hands and fingers, or you facial muscles, can help conserve energy that can then be used for the run or climb or long-distance swim.

Here is the quote from Lynn's book:

Planning on a midsummer ascent, I started training in early spring. I ran and climbed nearly every day, increasing the intensity of my efforts on a weekly basis. Because I was preparing to free climb a thirty-three-pitch route, I needed plenty of endurance and a high level of power; the most difficult sections of the Nose begin after nearly 2,000 feet of climbing. As I practiced going the farthest while expending the least amount of energy, I discovered a new consciousness in my climbing.

I learned to appreciate how subtle shifts in my attitude could greatly affect the quality of my movements. By focusing on maintaining a "soft grip" and a "relaxed face," I was better able to relax all the muscles not necessary for each movement. By observing my breathing patterns, I discovered that while reaching in stretched-out positions, it was helpful to inhale in order to gain extra lift, and conversely, while making powrerful or dynamic moves, it was helpful to exhale air in a quick burst or to make a karate-style grunt. I focused on maximizing the use of momentum in order to move quickly through awkward body positions or to jump between holds instead of wasting precious strength. Conversely, I practiced minimizing all excess movement to arrive at a "still point" before committing to a delicate move.

Throughout the months of training, I practiced an attitude of acceptance; no matter what the situation presented, I made an effort to remain patient and relaxed each step of the way. My intent was to pay attention to my intuitive sense and follow the natural intelligence of the body. When I made this shift in emphasis, my whole approach changed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gokhale Method

Flamingo Fitness Studio is hosting a studio viewing of a free online workshop in the Gokhale Method of back care. The workshop will be held on Tuesday, July 10th at 5:15 pm. If you are local to the Olympic Peninsula and wish to attend, please RSVP via email, or call 360-683-2082. If you are out of the area, you can click the following link and sign up for it yourself:
Gokhale Method Free Online Workshop

The founder of this method is Esther Gokhale, author of "8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back." Here is a link to Esther Gokhale's web site: Gokhale Method Institute

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Give Your Brain a Real Workout

The following quote is from a fascinating book titled, The Invisible Gorilla--How Our Intuitions Deceive Us, by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons.

"In promoting Brain Age, Nintendo's website makes the following broad claim about how its products enhance brain function:

Everyone knows you can prevent muscle loss with exercise, and use such activities to improve your body over time. And the same could be said for your brain. The design of Brain Age is based on the premise that cognitive exercise can improve blood flow to the brain. All it takes is as little as a few minutes of play time a day. For everyone who spends all their play time at the gym working out the major muscle groups, don't forget--your brain is like a muscle, too. And it craves exercise.

As it turns out, the final science is accurate, but not in the way that Nintendo's marketers intended. They meant to imply that cognitive exercise is necessary to keep your brain functioning well. In reality, aerobic physical exercise is likely far better for your brain. Cognitive neuroscientist Arthur Kramer, a colleague of Dan's at the University of Illinois, led one of the best-known studies of how improving physical fitness can affect cognitive abilities. Their experiment, published in Nature, randomly assigned 124 sedentary but otherwise healthy seniors to one of two training conditions for six months: aerobic fitness, in which the subjects spent about three hours each week walking, and an anaerobic exercise condition, in which subjects spent the same amount of time doing stretching and toning exercises. Although both forms of exercise are good for your body and lead to better overall fitness, aerobic exercise more effectively improves the health of your heart and increases blood flow to your brain.

Not surprisingly, both training groups experienced the expected benefits to their physical fitness. The surprising result, though, is that walking for as little as a few hours a week led to large improvements on cognitive tasks, particularly those that rely on executive functions like planning and multitasking. The stretching and toning exercise had no cognitive benefits. Kramer's group also conducted meta-analysis of all the clinical trials of the effects of aerobic fitness training on cognition through 2001; the results confirmed a sizable benefit of this type of fitness training for cognition.

The benefits of exercise are deeper than improvements in behavior and cognition. With age, most adults start to lose some of the gray matter in their brains. (This could be part of the reason for the accompanying cognitive declines.) In another clinical trial, Kramer's group randomly assigned seniors to the same aerobic and anaerobic six-month training regimens just described, except this time, they first used MRI scanning to acquire a complete picture of each subject's brain before and after the fitness training. The result was astounding: Seniors who had walked for just forty-five minutes a day for three days each week preserved much more gray matter in their frontal brain regions than did those who had done stretching and toning. Aerobic exercise actually did keep their brains healthier and younger.

It might seem counterintuitive, but the best thing you can do to preserve and maintain your mental abilities may have little to do with cognition at all. Training your brain directly might have less impact than exercising your body, particularly if you exercise in a way that maintains your aerobic fitness. The exercises doesn't even need to be particularly strenuous. You don't need to compete in triathalons; just walking at a reasonable clip for thirty minutes or more a few times a week leads to better executive functioning and a healthier brain. Despite Nintendo's claims that you need to exercise your brain, it seems that sitting in a chair and doing cognitive puzzles is far less beneficial than walking around the block a few times. Exercise improves cognition broadly by increasing the fitness of your brain itself. And doing puzzles does nothing for your longevitiy, your health, or your looks."

Read the book, and/or visit The Invisible Gorilla web site to learn about how our intuitions deceive us.