Monthly Archives: March 2009

I’m Serious. Get out there and PLAY, damn it.

encouraging-adults-to-play-in-the-rain1When was the last time you hula hooped? juggled oranges? Played in a warm summer rain? Jumped rope or on a trampoline? Hung by your knees from the jungle gym?

Now hold up. Before the eye rolling begins, I want you to give it a serious minute. I want you to picture yourself hula hooping, in the backyard, with your children, grandchildren, or, niece and nephew. I can almost guarantee you want to smile just a little bit right now…in between the desire to eyeroll. Come on now. Embrace the cheese and let go.

Physical play is important as a child. It helps in motor skill development, exploration and curiosity inquiring into how things work. It is no different now. In a way it’s like riding a bike, you never forget, you just get rusty. You have to give yourself permission to let go, live a little, and just play.

We all know the benefits of exercise throughout our lifetimes. I’m just not convinced, however, that getting on the treadmill, or going to the gym really does it though. Let’s be honest. For most of us, it is not fun. You might feel better, or at least physically exhausted to match the mental work of sitting at a computer or in meetings all day, BUT, the thought of going to the gym does not make you smile. How can that truly be good for stress levels? Exercise soon becomes another “have to” or “should”, like bills and taxes. So now exercise get a bum rap.

Usually play and exercise are not thought of in the same category, especially for adults. The usual connection is play equals  embarrassment, or play only happens on Wii. Why should fun and “letting go” be so difficult? It is exercise too! Hula Hoops are great for coordination and the abdominals, back, and hips. The jungle gym is all about arm strength and balance, and jump roping, is pure aerobic activity. Coordination and balance tend to go as we age, but not so much if you continue to explore and challenge those skills in ways that are fun and relatively safe for the body.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get outside on one of these fine blooming spring days, go get yourself a hula hoop (and perhaps a child relative to make you feel less self conscious) or a jump rope.  Go to the park, find the playground, and play. And if you can’t? Most of us have one of those balance balls deflated in the house somewhere. Blow it up and jump around on it for 10 minutes or so, alternating legs, shifting your hips, going in circles…play with it.  If your mission is completed, I think you might be feeling a little better, smiling a little more, and acknowledging the kid inside never has to really go away.

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Bad Economy. No Excuse.

Respect your Body

Yes, the economy blows. For real. But it is now even more important you do something for yourself, to keep your body physically fit and your mind less heavy with stressful thoughts.

Most illnesses can be linked to overall stress on the body. Keeping physically active can be the best preventative medicine out there. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg. Here are a few ideas for keeping mentally and physically fit in these fabulously slumpy times.

#1. Do something you love! This is the most important factor. Running on the treadmill is not gonna cut it, if it’s something you hate to do. We both know it won’t last, and you are not gonna get the mental challenge you need. I, for instance, take trapeze lessons twice a week. I always look forward to each lesson, enjoy the challenge, and laugh and cry with my classmates. That’s what your exercise should be…something you enjoy in your own way. To each his own! What’s yours?

#2. Create a community. Bring the class to you. Say you want to do pilates or yoga or dance or whatever, but privates lessons are too expensive. Create a class of your own. Get a group of friends with similar interests together, find a time that works for you, and go find a teacher. The cost would be minimized. The class would be fun. It’s also an excuse to get together with friends, or make new ones.

#3. Turn off CNN or Shut down your computer. We can all create more stress and the downward spiral of becoming news or internet junkies – needing to know how the Dow ended, and what John Stewart has to say about it. Cut out the headlines for a week or so, maybe 1 hour less a day, and give that time to yourself to take a walk outside in the fresh air, call a friend, write in a journal. Something just for you.

#4. 20/20/20 This is my at home mind and body workout. I tend to be ADD. So much I want to do at once, I often end up doing nothing. This formula seems to work for me most of the time. And if I don’t do all, I do at least one or two. I spent 20 minutes exercising or stretching (jumping rope, pilates mat, just stretching, etc), then 20 minutes journaling – which is almost like mental spewing to get certain stresses or ideas out of my head and onto paper, and then finally 20 minutes meditating or breathing – this is the hardest, but very beneficial.

Whatever you choose to do, remember that money rolls, but you only get this lifetime once…enjoy it!

The Dawning of the Age of Golfers

golf mustache for wind resistance

Pilates and Golf.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might have heard of this popular combo.  I must fully agree with the pairing.  They both require the same skills: mental and physical conditioning from the inside, outward to the external.  In other words, practicing how you respond to your surroundings.

Unfortunately, like in most things, there is no magic spell to make this happen. It requires mindful repetition of movements which allow you to change and control your own habits without over-thinking, no matter what the external challenges might bring.   To be done properly, both golf and Pilates require precision controlled movements flowing outward from a strong and flexible center. One compliments the other indisputably. To create control and precision movements, one needs to be able to breathe properly, releasing tensing muscles, and quiets the active mind.

Living in the Midwest now, I realize golf is seasonal, as opposed to the West Coast, where it flourishes year round.  So now is the ideal time to start prepping body and mind for the upcoming season.  One movement every golfer needs to work on is twisting properly. My explanation here of twisting is pretty rudimentary, but this should convey the general concept. Keep in mind, just like with the English language, there are always exceptions to the rule.

In Pilates, the basic concept of twisting starts with the axis of the spine. Along the spine axis we have two attached bones structures we will focus on: the rib cage and the pelvis.

Twisting to stretch the back and strengthen the obliques, one must either A. Twist the rib cage, and stabilize the pelvis, or B. Twist the pelvis and stabilize the ribs. When we attempt a twist without stabilizing one part of the spine we often end up with back injuries. The twist of a follow through in your swing is only executed properly with the ability to stabilize ones pelvis  even as it moves with the spine. Hmmm. tricky. But, possible. Think of a rubber band: In order to stretch it, one point must be fixed. If both points are unstable, it’s a wet noodle. If both points are fixed, it is rigid and doesn’t move.

So how do you practice twisting?

Warning: Be careful and do not over do any exercise. I recommend only 3 sets. (1 set is a twist in each direction). If you have any back pain, do not do this exercise until you consult a professional.

Sitting on a large balance ball. Both feet and knees about shoulder width apart. Arms can stretch out to the sides, rounded in front, OR you can place one hand on top of the other on top of the head. Twist the rib cage to the right, but DO NOT MOVE THE BALL OR YOUR LEGS. This will limit your twist, so that you are twisting from your obliques and not your hip flexors. Repeat to the left. The stability of your legs, backside and the ball is more important than the amount of rotation from your chest. As you twist, think of spiraling up towards the ceiling, rather than twisting back behind you. Remember: twist up, not back. twist-on-ball

For the more advanced student, it can be done on the floor, keeping both legs glued together and the spine lifted up towards the ceiling.

spinetwist1

Spring and Summer 2009 I will be giving several workshops on Pilates movement for golfers. Please check back under classes and workshops to find out when and where. If you are interested in hosting a Pilates and golf workshop, please email me at: pilates@stephanieellison.com

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