Monthly Archives: September 2009

Hmmm….Your brain needs the treadmill.

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In the past month I’ve learned

1. that exercise won’t make me lose weight (according to the Article title in TIME)

2. and now it seems the treadmill makes me smarter.

Phy Ed piece in New York Times Sunday talk about the need for aerobic activity for the brain.

Pushing your body apparently stimulates dramatic blood flow changes creating new neurons and brain connections.

Makes sense. It’s often been said exercise could lift ones spirits, mood, and now cognitive abilities.

Just don’t get on the treadmill if you hate it.

There’s more to an aerobic workout than the treadmill.

A few ideas:

Running (outdoors)

Jump rope

tennis

swimming

dance

Or, get a punching bag, put some good music on, and knock the crap out of it. Very cathartic. Must mean the brain gets twice the benefit…

punching_bag

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Every Woman is a Guru Unto Herself. I Think.

NEW YORK TIMES 9 21 09The new wave offered up a few playful names for themselves — “the Charlie’s Angels of Wellness,” “Spiritual Cowgirls” and “Spiritual Superheroines.” It’s clear they are proffering guidance at a time when urban women like themselves are eager for it.

Referring to an article from Sunday’s NY Times.

Cringe.

The desire to change from within is a good thing, right? A search for spirituality and personal insight is always something to strive for, yes? Self-empowerment…yay?

Then why does this trend make me so uncomfortable.  Frankly, it’s irksome.

Perhaps it’s the seemingly quick self-help”Secret” approach.  The entirety illuminates the inside of  my head  with the omnipresent neon Mc-preface American society can pin on any subject…the McMansions of the last 5 years have been foreclosed upon and we are now walking towards the dollars and hopes surrounding McSpirituality – no meat, meditation, and wish lists for what we want our future to hold. There is some wisdom here, but overall, something doesn’t feel right.

Perhaps what makes me squeamish about the latest new age spirituality is how close my own tenets teeter that fine line of reasonable and ridiculous. My loathing of McSpirituality dances right beside my manifesto on moderation in modern society. But they are so cheesy! I am realistic. And yet, the proof is on the bedside table, where the book pile includes Deepak Chopra, Brian Weiss, and maybe a copy of Co-Dependent no more…but it was a gift! I swear!

Is it possible to have a sound mind, healthy body, a closet full of great shoes, and dinner reservations at the French Laundry?

I don’t really know.

I do know I do the best I can, and make peace with it regularly. Life is a work in progress…and not a cliche…like the one I just spewed. Wait. Life can be cliche. That’s why we created them. Life can be a lot of things to a lot of people. Just figure out what it is to you. For me…I guess life is a work in progress.

In looking for balance, it helps to hear what others have to say, just pick your sources wisely. Skepticism can be a healthy thing.  Use your intuition. Listen to your gut.

My intuition and healthy sense of skepticism tells me to steer clear of anyone who labels themselves the Charlie’s Angels of Wellness…

Understanding Your Balance Creates Strength Control and Flexbility

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You may have heard of the 42 year old Beijing Olympic Swimmer Dara Torres, who attributes much of her training success to resistance stretching. Bob Cooley is one trainer who created a system of movement around this concept, Meridian Flexibility system. Before this in the 1950s the physical therapy concept of PNF stretching was created to help people retrain muscles with isometric contractions followed with passive stretches of muscle to improve range of motion.

At the early part of the 20th century, Joseph Pilates created his own resistance training method combining Western calisthenics with Eastern movement principles, working from the inside out and elongating muscles outward as they were being contracted simultaneously in order to maintain core stability. Go further, a thousand years or so, and we find the concept of muscular balance and flow, stretch and strength, yin and yang, in movement arts throughout Asia, such as in Tai Chi and yoga.

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The idea of stretching and strengthening simultaneously is not new. But it seems to be a hard lesson to learn. Brainpower is a necessity. It requires patience and knowledge of one’s own body. Most of us do not seem to have time to invest in ourselves, although it would reduce injuries and add to our active lifespan.

In my ten years of teaching pilates i have found several truths about people and our bodies.  One in particular is: flexible people love to stretch and tight people like to strengthen. Funny how we do. A very broad example is that it’s very hard to get a runner to slow down, become internally aware of deep muscles and breathe. It’s also a huge challenge to get a yogi to speed up, not to over think, and push their strength training more while forgoing lots of stretches. Part mental, part physical in both cases.

There must be a balance of both stretch and strength, body and mind to create true balance.

In any exercise you do, look for a lengthening, stretching muscle, reach against gravity. Use awareness and gravity to create resistance. If all you feel is a passive stretch, explore the muscles which should be contracting in their length to support the stretch. Don’t just hang out in a stretch! This is what is meant in muscular balance.

Don’t force a stretch, and don’t force a muscle to be in a certain place. These things come with time. Forcing your body (and mind) into place will not create sound balance any sooner. In fact, it might impede it.

Here are two moves, from previous posts, to help you contemplate your own balance.

#1. The Forearm Plank ( detailed in Hip strain post)– test strength, learn to release tension in difficult situations and find the stretch. I go to this again and again, but it is a safe test for strength, balance, and control for the entire body.

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forearm plank(1)

# 2. Wall Exercises for feeling your postural muscles stretch and strengthen ( detailed in Spinal Stability post)

wall squats

TIME Magazine, what have you done? Exercise Won’t Make You Thin?…ugh

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Maybe while standing in line at the store you glanced through the recent TIME Magazine cover story:

Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin

This bummed me out in the same way Tracy Anderson does. The title is misleading, and the article could be construed as confusing to people who are looking for a simple answer. (Despite this, it does contain interesting information and research.)

The title alone, Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin infers we should all stop moving, because it’s not helping, and instead focus on what we eat. The title supports the all or nothing mentality so often held in America, seeking the path of least resistance.

Call it exercise or a walk to the store, either way, Please keep moving!

This article is really about the psychology of diet and exercise in the US, and the definition of the word “exercise”.

The truth is, exercise, or activity or movement will help you lose weight. It is a basic formula: less caloric intake plus more energy expended equals weight loss.

As stated in the article: The problem ultimately is about not exercise itself but the way we’ve come to define it.

AMEN! If nothing else, this is the statement you should take away from the Time Magazine article.

You may work out two or three times a week at the gym, an hour each time, but does your workout become an excuse to eat more? And how do you spend the other 166 hours that week?

Think moderation. You would be better off, moving all day long, albeit low intensity. It’s healthier, less impact on your body and better for the mind.

Have you ever been on a trip to a big city where you are constantly on the go while at the same time enjoying the city’s culinary delights, and upon returning home, are surprised to find you’ve lost weight? It is possible to enjoy life and stay healthy. Healthy living is not based on sacrifice and rewards. (Does this stem from our puritanical roots?) No matter how you slice it, the American perspective on health is a bit off.

Granted, it’s a big country. Few places in the US are navigable by foot like New York or San Francisco, making it harder to stay active throughout the day.  Use some creative elbow grease. Walk in the evenings after dinner with friends, take the steps, not the elevator, create a living environment and lifestyle that allows you more room to move and not just remain in the car or at the desk 10 hours a day. It’s a tall order, but the doing falls on you, and it can be done.

And yes! If you enjoy walking on the treadmill, then do it. If you enjoy going for a lap swim or taking a pilates class, then please go for it. Don’t stop. The key is to enjoy. Enjoyment keeps your brain happy, heart healthy, and stress levels down.

However you add a bit more movement throughout the day, always keep in mind moderation and enjoyment. Life is too short.

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