Get Moving! – Self Care Matters

I was on a long road trip this past weekend and delved into a few podcasts, all but one related to fitness as it pertains to the health, development, and symptomatology (physical manifestations, presentations in the academic setting, social interactions, problem behaviors etc.) of various disabilities (including autism, down syndrome, and ADHD.) What I heard, however, was relevant to all human beings as a species – much of it covered material I have always taken as “common sense” (likely a product of an athletic upbringing), but some of it was also a little bit alarming.

According to studies, a wholly sedentary life can be more detrimental to our health long-term than smoking. Uh…YIKES. As I am neither a clinician nor a doctor, I’ll leave the research review of studies and articles (such as this one) to you. One way or the other, though, inactivity is bad news.

While I know some people who’d argue a few minutes out of a lifetime isn’t a big deal, I’m willing to bet there have been moments in all of our lives during which we’d have done anything to gain more time. It can be a frightening prospect when put into that kind of perspective – we are (like it or not) a fragile and fleeting species.

The discussions in the podcasts revolved around how we can engage those that have deficits in joint attention, physical challenges, and slower cognitive processes, as well as those who aren’t particularly interested in the activities to begin with. Again, the concepts were ones we all would do well to live by, particularly that last one.

We have one body this go around and it’s important that we take care of it as if it was as sacred to us as whatever else in our lives we cherish (YES, you DO deserve that kind of love and care from yourself.)

This photo crossed my path the other day and I found it, too, to be both jarring and sad.

I was recently chatting with a 93 year-old friend about aging well – meaning mind, body, and spirit. We were out on the ice – both of us skating – and were nodding our heads that many people resign themselves to a false fate. What do I mean by that? I mean that some people think “active” and “healthy” are reserved for 20-somethings or younger.

B U L L S H I T ! Here’s my buddy George proving everyone wrong by zooming around the ice with me…

As we get older, some change is inevitable – we might need longer recovery, we might need an extra rest day, we might need to tweak our nutrition to suit what our body and minds need with each passing year…but that doesn’t mean we can’t stay healthy overall. 

I always believed in maintenance because a spiral that has delved into the depths is harder to come back from – that goes for every aspect of our being (emotional, spiritual, physical, you name it!)

Goals don’t have to be unrealistic (nor should they be!) – we DON’T have to compete with anyone, let alone a professional athlete, a model, a celebrity, a Roman statue, a meme…! 

There’s also no need to set ourselves up for failure by trying to attain what doesn’t make sense. Not everyone wants to be overly muscular, or necessarily “thin”… It’s about striving for a healthy, fit, and / or active life, which is – YES – more than achievable. Remember, our “healthy” may look differently than our neighbor…but we always know, deep down, if we have attained that. Or not.

When we try to take steps each day to love the one vessel we have been given, we are able to stay in control of what we CAN do…rather than deal with what we can’t because we decided we were too much effort. 

You ARE worth the effort, 1,000%. 

And…you can do anything you put your mind to. Beyond that, treating ourselves with the respect we deserve in order to live and enjoy a healthy life means we may buy ourselves some precious moments that one day we will thank the stars we have to spend.

 

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Advice From Stephen Hawking

Advice I believe is great for everyone, regardless of circumstances…

As someone who has the honor to work with children and adults with disabilities, I can safely say I have never found a more motivational set of individuals. In spite of sometimes substantial adversity, I watch them not only push their limitations, but sometimes also overcome them entirely. I believe it is absolutely crucial to focus on the positive – the unique talents, interests, and abilities of each individual – and to downplay the weaknesses.

Now, that’s not to say we can’t recognize areas that need improvement – whether for ourselves or another individual, we need to know what in our lives and development needs some TLC (or flat-out hard work!) However, making a point to emphasize our abilities is a surefire way to keep us in the most positive head space possible. When facing some of life’s challenges, a great attitude will make all the difference. 

The other day at a volunteer session, a mother was inquiring about activities for her daughter, including Martial Arts – beyond autism, her child has been through surgeries to correct club foot and other impairments to the feet and lower extremities. The doctor was trying to steer her clear of many activities and yet…here was this young lady actually running around. I spoke to the mother, making clear I have no medical background (but a lifetime’s worth as an athlete), and explained that sports can be modified. So long as we have the proper instructor who is aware of our challenges, there is no reason that many more sports could be available to her than suggested.

For example, this young lady was able to participate in ballet to some degree. I watched her not only walk briskly in our gymnasium, but also run at times, further confirming that she has a great deal more ability that it appears she is (externally) being credit for. I encouraged the mother to look into specific Marital Art programs, and to not be discouraged by the “can’t do”s. As Stephen Hawking alludes to, to handicap ourselves mentally can be incredibly damaging – we needn’t add to our own, or another’s physical difficulties.

The truth of it is, we all have strengths, weaknesses, injuries and physical limitations. In the majority of cases, we all have some mental challenges as well – low self-esteem, insecurity, self-doubt to name a few. To focus on what IS possible, and what we ARE able to do can make a massive difference in the quality of our lives overall, as well as contribute to our success in our activities, careers, and relationships.

I will ever and always be in full support of “focusing on the positive.”  It isn’t about being idealistic, but recognizing that what we focus on can literally alter the course of our lives – what we dwell on becomes our reality and all we see.

Focusing on our strengths not only helps us to weather the working-on-our-weaknesses better, but also the ups and downs of life. It gives us the strength and courage to carry forward, to makes strides in spite of anxiety or fear, and to find happiness, fulfillment and success in spite of tipped scales. The sky is the limit when we have the right attitude. Period.

Fitness Humor – Apparently Not Fit For Stairs!

There’s an irony to this scenario, especially if you are an active person. This happens to me ALL THE TIME! Weirdest phenomenon, positively hysterical in some ways (a little disheartening in others)…and I think more common than people like to let on.

If you feel badly about having trouble with stairs…don’t! You aren’t alone.

What WE Feel Is What Matters Most

As an athlete, I’m often in environments where people have a heightened awareness of their appearance – in ballroom dancing, the focus was so intense it sometimes made me uncomfortable! In figure skating it wasn’t as much of a big deal, but it did matter. At the gym, I’m used to people checking in on themselves in the mirror… And even when I’m doing my own thing, I sometimes am interrupted by someone making a comment as well.

We all have different goals and what should matter the MOST is how WE feel…not what someone else thinks of us.  I remember someone saying “you know you look good” and it actually gave me pause.  I wasn’t ungrateful at all, and I certainly truly appreciated what I believe they intended to be a supportive comment – but my thoughts stopped for a moment to examine the idea. . .

To some people, we are going to look great.  But to others, not so much!  And that’s more than okay. I’m thankful to have a husband who is supportive of my mesomorphic body type. My family is also incredibly supportive, even though they don’t all “like” a muscular physique. It makes me feel good because “mesomorph / endomorph” is what I am working with – I can’t change that, and I appreciate that the people closest to me always back me up in what feels best to me.  

I *could* lose weight, gain weight, or stay where I am, but fundamentally, my structure is what it is.  As a lifetime athlete, I identify with feeling and being strong – I love having muscle, I love the feeling that I can move my own furniture, or roll my own car.  That doesn’t, however, necessarily mean OTHER people like that.  Fortunately, I ascribe to the following:

#1.) I don’t really bother myself with what someone else thinks about which condition feels – again – best to me, and…

#2.) I have ZERO misconceptions that I am perfect to everyone out there (or that any of us have to live up to that impossible standard)

As Dita once phrased it…

We could be the most gorgeous thing to one person, and not at all attractive to another.  That doesn’t mean we are too skinny, too full, too muscular, too tall, too short… Someone else’s idea of beauty is his or her own.  What matters most is how WE FEEL about ourselves, and in our own skin. 

WE need to feel good about ourselves – we deserve to feel healthy, and able, and happy.  Period.  If something in that picture is falling short, we also have the power to change it! But we mustn’t confuse what others think, because that reality isn’t our reality.

I always encourage people to be honest with themselves – are they wanting a change because HE or SHE FEELS that a change would bring about positive outcomes for themselves (feeling healthier, having more energy, feeling sexy, fitting into older clothes etc…) or is it because someone else is forcing that idea on them..?

The ball is always in our court – we have the power to decide what makes us feel our best, to have that, and to feel great in our own skin.

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Go Ballistic!

Ballistic, high intensity movements are an awesome addition to any workout.  They’re sometimes tough to push through, but they’re worth the effort.

High intensity training has plenty of press coverage so you can find lists of benefits all over the place, as well as solidly backed articles. . .

For the naysayers, I’d encourage giving it a go for a time and you will notice many of the purported benefits yourself, nevermind what others are saying.

That said, it isn’t something you need – nor should – do every workout.  The body gets pushed quite a bit during HIIT, so it’s important to also take a rest.  Two to three times a week is generally the recommendation (though don’t take it from me directly, as I’m not a doc myself.)

I personally love adding it in here or there.  Some of my favorite non-equipment HIIT exercises include:

  • Active Skater Lunges
  • Jump Squats
  • Sit-thrus
  • Bench Hops

I find that these jazz me just a bit more than steady state cardio, and are a great addition to my regular weight lifting routine.  HIIT exercises give me (and my metabolism) a nice boost, help me be as efficient as I can be with my workouts, as well as increase my endurance for Martial Arts.

If you haven’t tried HIIT before, start slow – try some jumping jacks, jump rope, or jogging in place to start. You don’t have to make it impossible (which honestly will only make you jump ship that much quicker!)  

It’s okay to take your time building up! HIIT is an awesome “bang for your buck” approach to fitness – the benefits are not only ones you’ll feel, but ones you will see.

Keep up the awesome work!

Morning Tabata

I’m not sure about other people, but without my music, I’d have a seriously hard time getting through my cardio.  

I know cardio is important – not just for weight loss or maintenance, but for my organs, my body as a whole, and my emotional state!  So three times a week I hop on the spin bike and jam for about 50 minutes.  

I used to do a lot more but with added Martial Arts classes, and weightlifting, anything BEYOND this is far too much – it’s a delicate balance and each person has to feel out the best approach and volume. For me, four rounds of tabata thrown into peddling seems to help.  My sprints aren’t always ultra difficult – I try to do enough, but not so overboard that I can get through four-minute (eight set) rounds.

But to get me there in the first place…I put in my buds and set the iPod to shuffle. I like not knowing what will come on, and I allow the songs (and types of music) to dictate my rhythm – without it, it would be a painfully long almost-hour, and given that I want to get through it, I set myself up for as much success as possible.

 

Giving Yourself A Break

I had a really rough week last week with a loss in my family.  It’s one of those things that I know takes a long time to “get over” – I’ve been there before.  

But. . .I’ve also had a lot of conditioning that makes me feel that I’m a burden if I’m feeling down, or that I have tp put on a happy face…even when it’s the last thing I want to do.

Part of me agrees with the idea that I need to keep going – one foot in front of the other, and sticking to my routine is more helpful than it isn’t – I get out of my brain, for one (which frankly isn’t firing on all synapses at the moment.)

And part of me feels like…let me get through this, and then I can go home and cry when I need to…because it is just as important for my wellbeing to “allow” my emotions” as it is to be stoic.

I haven’t had much energy, but I still go through the motions.  Form is integral, though, and no matter if we are doing lighter weight, or just running our “usual” on autopilot, we have to pay attention to the form.  I’ve made it a habit to really focus on the muscle that should be working when I exercise, so fortunately I’m in tune with what’s moving (and what shouldn’t be.)  I listen to my body and always try to respect when it needs a break…and to give it a little bit of a push if it needs it.

Today was one of my leg days – I have two.  I used to do EVERYTHING on one day, but it’s overboard for me at this stage in the game. Instead, I like having two manageable but challenging days that aren’t to the point that I make myself sick thinking about them (which used to be the case.)  What’s the point if you are stressing about what’s supposed to be fun and / or good for you?!

My usual Tuesday exercises include the following (I try to keep some of my rests “active” to knock out my ab work without tacking on a ton of time – I don’t want to live at the gym the way I used to back in the day!)

  • SQUATS – 5 sets, narrow and wide stance (with a reconstructed knee and no ACL in one, I opt for smith machine for these.  Yes, Physical Therapist approved! 🙂 )
  • PLANKS – 4 minutes total, main core and obliques, interspersed with squats
  • LUNGES – 3 sets each side, smith machine (free weight done on my other leg day)
  • CRUNCHES – 2 minutes total, varied, flutter kick and bicycle variations, interspersed with lunges 
  • STEP-UPS – 3 sets each side, smith machine and bench
  • BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUATS WITH DUMBBELLS – 3 sets each side
  • DUMBBELL DEADLIFTS – 3 sets of 12 to 15 (using 2 45 lbs dumbbells. If I’m at another facility, I’ll use the 110 lb bar.  Too much weight here really hinders kicking in Martial Arts!)
  • AB VACCUUM – 3 minutes total, interspersed with the three exercises above, as they fit
  • DUMBBELL HIP THRUSTS – 3 sets of 16, using the 45 lb weights.. (If at another gym, Ill use an 80 lb bar.)
  • JUMP SQUATS – 2 sets for 30 seconds each
  • BENCH JUMPS – 3 sets of 8 to 10 (IF my legs aren’t total jello)
  • KICK UPS – 3 sets of 15 (with a dumbbell if I want to add one more exercise in)

As I look at it here…it’s A LOT.  I’m even happier that I split it up!

So today wasn’t my finest – I wasn’t feeling great, and I’m incredibly over tired.  BUT…

BUT…

I went to the gym, I put on some music, and I went through the motions (carefully.)  I didn’t get upset if I couldn’t do everything as well as usual, or if I had to cut my reps.  Movement is helpful even when it can’t be as much as I normally do.  It’s SOMEthing, and that’s what matters.

We have the opportunity to melt down at any given time.  We also have the opportunity to pick ourselves up and move forward as best we can.  I choose both, and that’s okay.  One allows me the freedom to be comfortable with myself and what I’m feeling – to acknowledge that those emotions are acceptable.  The other reminds me that I’m goddamn strong, and I will get through ANYthing.