Tag Archives: Fitness

An ideal 20 minute workout for the mind and body

Only have 20 minutes for a quick workout? Keep it interesting and effective by incorporating several types of movements done with a focus on precision . Below is one suggested program. (Psst. Always consult a professional trainer, or your doctor before embarking on a new workout regime.)

5 MINUTES An intense cardio boost ( jump rope (my favorite), sprints, jumping jacks, burpees, etc)

8 MINUTES Pilates/Yoga – or a combination of moves that stretch and strengthen the body ( Good selective Pilates moves include: “Roll Ups” “The 5′s series”,  “Swan” or back extensions, lying side legs, and “Teasers”).

5 MINUTES Traditional strength training (pull ups, chin ups, push ups, dips, and/or planks – forearm planks for weak core and wrists) Builds much needed strength for neck, shoulder, and back tension.

2 MINUTES Deep breathing to bring you back to a calm, relaxed and refreshed center.

It’s always good to mix it up. Extend one part of the routine for another after a few weeks to keep your muscles from settling into movement habits. And work with a professional instructor every now and then to get the most out of those 20 minutes. Every body is unique and has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Enjoy every minute!

 

Get moving outside and feel better inside

Connecting water and board at the beach in Southern California.

With Spring in full bloom, taking your exercise activities outdoors could not only boost physical health, but mental well being too, according to Mind, a nonprofit mental health organization based in the UK.

Mind recently conducted research on whether or not outdoor, “green” activities improved overall mental health. While the survey samples were small, the findings are strong. Out of 100 people polled, over 94% of commented that green exercise improves their mental health. Another test included setting up two contrasting walks with 20 participants in each group, one outdoors amongst nature and one indoors. 71% of  people experienced a decrease in the levels of depression after an outdoor walk verses 45% indoors.

Mind’s website offers suggestions for making an outdoor date and creative ideas to help inspire more outdoor activity.

Other suggestions?

Taking a stroll in Little Tokyo, Downtown LA

Morning – Find a park or outdoor space nearby offering sunrise Tai Chi.

Evening  – The classic after dinner stroll is a perennial favorite. A nice way to wind down after the day, digest dinner, and enjoy the night air.

Anytime – Pull together your own action/adventure team, and as a united front take on various outdoor challenges and activities.

Photos by Stephanie Ellison

Look Up – New Pilates and Movement Classes in Los Angeles

Here it is – My new class schedule! At the top of this page are several new links  to find out more about me and the Pilates and movement classes I’m currently teaching throughout Los Angeles. It’s also where to find upcoming workshops or special events. Check back often because classes are growing and changing.

For questions about Pilates, this blog, and inquiries into private lessons, tailored workshops and corporate programs, email me at: pilates@stephanieellison.com

What the world thinks Healthy means

Does being healthy mean the same thing in Africa as in China? From the charting wunderkind at GOOD Magazine now you can compare.  For an upclose look at this chart and what the world thinks of the term “healthy”, just click on the image, or go to GOOD.is

100 years of fashion history, danced

Charming and fun! It’s a 100 years of fashion and social dance history in 100 seconds.

Scooping the abdominals in sit ups

Last week we delved into what it means to  “scoop” the abdominals in Pilates. If you haven’t, I recommend starting with the previous post here.

Continuing the abdominal scoop adventure, today’s saga crosses paths with the #1 exercise culprit which, when done incorrectly, can lead to back pain and neck and shoulder tension…it’s the sit-up.

Don't do this

Try one, looking for these foreboding signs: Does your back tense? Do your legs pop up? Do your neck and shoulders round forward into your ears? Do you hold your breath? These are all signs your core is skipping out on the work. You may feel some ab muscles working, but, as mentioned in the last post, there are many muscles that make up the trunk.

Up. Up and away…

Try these deconstructed versions of sit ups for a few weeks. You may notice your core pulling in better, supporting your back and lengthening your posture.  The key is to scoop the abs and stretch and breathe while moving. Phew, that’s a tall order! Small and slow movements win this race, no matter your athletic ability.

The chest curl

The Chest Curl

How high can you curl your chest up while keeping the low back and belly down?

Lie on the back. Stretch and curl your chest up off the floor, keeping the low back on the ground and the abs scooped in. Push the back of your thighs into the floor.  Hold this lift for two breaths and then stretch back down.  Do not let the belly push out. (If the belly pushes out, you’ve gone to far and chances are your legs have popped up a bit and the shoulders are tensing forward.)

Keep it small! Focus on stretching the back and neck muscles alone the spine. If your neck is tensing, support your head with your hands. Try 10 of these.

The modified roll down

The Modified Roll Down

Sit up as tall as possible, As though your spine is lifting up by a string from the top of the head. (This alone should be work). If your back is strong the legs are straight out in front and together. If your back is tight and you feel leg strain, bend your knees and squeeze them together. Holding a tennis ball or pillow between the knees helps.

More challenging Roll down

From this lift, begin rolling back by curling the tailbone towards the back of the knees. Roll back one bone at a time to stretch the spine. Only go back as far as you can keeping the feet firmly planted on the floor, the legs from moving, and the shoulders relaxed. Hold this position and take two breaths. Curl back up into the upright position.  Again, it is important to keep belly scooped in towards the spine. If the belly is pushing out it is an indicator your spinal posture is crunched and not staying long and lifted. Try 10 of theses.

In either of the above moves, if you feel pain or pinching, STOP. It might be time for professional help.

Remember, the best way to get the most work from the trunk muscles is twofold: (1)  simultaneously lengthen while in motion. (2) Coordinate your breath with any movement.  The combination of stretch and strength with diaphram work produces a flowing, smooth, safer movement.

I didn’t say it was going to be easy…

New Pilates Classes/Core Conditioning in St Louis

Bumbershoot Aerial Arts (2200 Gravois Avenue, 63104) is an aerial and circus arts school close to downtown St. Louis where people can discover their inner monkey. There are few places like it.

Core conditioning and awareness of movement are important building blocks to gaining strength and staying safe in the air. It’s one thing to climb a rope, and another to know how you got there.

To aid in your circus skills, or to just gain strength for everyday life on the ground, Pilates mat classes, private training on Pilates equipment, and aerial conditioning classes are now offered at Bumbershoot.

It’s the only classical Pilates classes near downtown and the only colorful studio space like it around!

Bumbershoot Pilates Classes – Fall 2010

INTERMEDIATE PILATES MAT Tuesdays  and Thursdays  at 6pm

A faster paced, classical Pilates mat class, with emphasis on flowing movements outward from a strong core.  Advanced exercises are explored. Previous Pilates experience or instructor approval required. Knowledge of proper modification for your body is required. 55 minutes

BEGINNER MAT Saturdays 10 am

Kick off your Saturday morning with a stronger core! This Pilates mat class is open to all and focuses on fundamentals and beginner classical mat. Learn how to simultaneously stretch and strengthen your muscles. Gardening, sports, and even trapeze become much easier with a stronger center. 55 minutes

Joseph Pilates partaking in fitness fun

Private and small group instruction by appointment. For information on these classes and instructor Stephanie Ellison, please click on the classes and instruction page here.


Presidential Fitness – Claim your Award

TO BE FIT

Ah, the joys of doing the presidential fitness test in junior high. As if we all weren’t awkward enough, mix in memories of bad P.E. classes and…well, not a lot springs to mind because I blocked them out. I do remember the mottled red t-shirt and ill-fitting, infinitely uncomfortable polyester shorts.

Looking back, it’s such a wonder why the education system can’t make physical education more adventurous and pertinent. Light anatomy, injury prevention and creative exploration of personal activity goals, could help stave off the obesity epidemic and stress levels, in part.  But this is a topic for another day. I digress.

While you don’t have to don the old itchy shorts, you can redeem your junior high years by taking the presidential ADULT fitness test. Yes, this test does keep following you. At least you don’t have to perform it in front of the school jocks. Trying this with a friend could make for a fun-filled hour of laughter… at each other. The test is filled with oldies but goodies observing general flexibility, endurance, strength, and aerobic fitness. Here it is, in brief:

  • Timed 1 mile walk
  • How many push ups can you do in 1 minute?
  • How many half sit ups (or chest curls) can you do in 1 minute?
  • Sit and Reach: Sitting on the floor, legs stretched out, belly scooped in, how far can you slide your hands along the floor?

Big fun, right? Sometimes, we have to start somewhere, and this isn’t a bad place to begin. Again, a partner in crime makes this more palatable and fun-ny.

I know. What you really want is an award – specifically from the President that says, “You made it. Go you!” Your prayers have been answered. The President is offering a Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, or PALA, for those of us who can’t live without acronyms.

The program has promise. It’s a simple, realistic, attainable goal – 30 minutes of activity, 5 days a week, for 6 out of 8 weeks. Done. Award please. It doesn’t have to be 30 consecutive minutes. Spread it out throughout the day. Taking the stairs at work, counts. Walking the distance of the parking lot, counts. Every little bit adds up.

Did I mention the award looks pretty official? You could place it on the mantel next to your child’s, or your own childhood, trophies.

You can even up the ante with the Presidential Champions Challenge, building on more activity to earn points towards supremely awesome medals: 40,000 points for bronze, 90,000 for silver, 160,000 for gold, and a whopping 1 million for platinum. I’d be sure to wear it around my neck at all times, if I were you.

Once moderate movement sets in, don’t be surprised at how steadily you feel better. It doesn’t take much and it works! I move to become adults in revolt, in the name of reclaiming our presidential fitness award. If you complete it, send me your photo with your award and we will post them. Just remember, 30 minutes of activity, 5 days a week, 6 out of 8 weeks. Good luck. See you on the other side.

Integrating mind and body into medicine

It is exciting to see the medical community steadily moving towards a well-rounded, holistic approach to health care.

Dr. Herbert Benson is a great example. He heads the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Benson and his institute are working to integrate mind/body medicine into all areas of health care.

Benson sees health care as a “three-legged stool”:  one leg is drugs, another being surgical procedures, and the third as self-care or mind/body medicine which he classifies as the following:

The relaxation response (ways to de-stress, such as meditation)

Positive coping (cognitive behavioral therapy)

Physical activity

Nutrition

Social support

What’s great about the Benson Institute is not only are they promoting stress management for patients, but are educating doctors and health care professionals on how to integrate mind/body medicine into their practices, rather than just offering the text-book drugs and surgical procedures.

A quote from their own site states:

Primary care physicians often are taxed by patient complaints that do not seem to have a clear etiology, nor do the patients improve despite good medications and expensive procedures. Current studies show that stress or distress may have a significant effect on the onset, the course, and the management of many, if not all, diseases. Understanding a patient’s underlying stress physiology and coping mechanisms may enable physicians to better understand various clinical disorders and treat their manifested symptoms. -Benson-Henry Institute

Dr. Benson’s most recent book: Relaxation Revolution: Enhancing Your Personal Health Through the Science and Genetics of Mind Body Healing is now available.

You can hear an interview with Dr. Benson on the Diane Rhames Show, broadcast earlier today.

Most Workout in the Least Amount of Time? – Jump Around

This is Buddy Lee, Crazy pants owner and founder of the Jump Rope institute

Guess House of Pain had it right. (That’s right. I went there.)

Jump up and down for 20 minutes in the morning and you are set for the day. It can: up your metabolism, get your heart pumping, your lungs in shape, your brain working better, and it doesn’t take hours.

According to research The Jump Rope Institute a minimum of five minutes a day can improve physical fitness and when you build to ten minutes of nonstop jumping at 120 RPMs it can provide the same benefits as the following:

  • 30 minutes of jogging
  • 2 sets of tennis singles
  • 30 minutes of racquet and handball playing
  • 720 yards of swimming
  • 18 holes of golf

Pretty impressive huh?

According to various sources, jumping rope is pretty darn safe, if not extremely challenging. (After trying to jump for 2 minutes straight I began to wonder how kids can do this for hours) It’s less impact on the knees than running…since both knees can land at the same time. You can also control the amount of impact by jumping low, lifting with the core, and staying forward on the balls of the feet.

But what if jumping rope is simply not an option for you? No way. No how.

It’s true. There is no perfect exercise for everyone. Jump rope prep exercises can get your body moving and accustomed to the bouncing movement. Put on your favorite music and try bouncing on a mini trampoline (a rebounder) or even bouncing around and playing with your balance on a large stability ball.

Maybe not like this...

And definitely not like this...

While these options are not nearly as intense they are still great cardio options that can be fun, and really that is what is most important.

This is more like it. He's "king of the world"...