Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Gardener’s Workout

It’s officially Spring…The season of Golf and Gardening backs pains.

Warm rays from the sun bring the need to weed, rake and plant. The one thing my gardening clients have taught me is that pain will not hold them back. The gardening must go on.

When engrossed in an activity like gardening we often lose personal awareness, which is partly why it is so appealing. Nevertheless, by the end of the day we regain that awareness quickly when a stiff back or neck presents itself.

What to do?

Here are a few tips and exercises to keep you in peak gardening condition for as long as possible.

– Use a Timer!

Get the timer out of the kitchen and bring it with you. Every 20 – 30 minutes, stop. Do some stretches. Change position and/or activity. Is it annoying to have to stop and move around? Of course it is, but keep in mind this will save you some aches, pains, and several more years of gardening.

– Mix it up

As mentioned above, change position and activity regularly. Multi-task. Instead of focusing on getting the yard raked in one day, spread it out along with a few other “have tos” over several days. This way your body is not stuck in one position or a repetitive motion for hours on end.

– 7th Inning Stretch. The Mid Gardening Workout

When your timer goes off and your body is craving a stretch. Here are 4 great movement options:

#1. cat and cow/ #2. child’s pose

Cat and Cow / Child's Pose

#3. quad stretch

Quad Stretch. Press your hand into the fence or wall for stability.

#4. elbow stretch circles ( from one minute movement)

– Gardening core strength.  The Pre/Post Gardening Workout

Your core is not your just your belly. It is the entire ring of muscles around the trunk and can even include muscles of the thighs and shoulders. 5 to 10 minutes of simple core strengthening exercises done both morning and night might help in preventing back aches.  Here are 6 exercises that will help:

#1. The Spine Extension and #2. The Forearm Plank (from the Easy TV workout)

#3. The Dead Bug Exercise (from Finding Your Fulcrum)

#4. “Clamshells” Side Lying leg movements

Lying on your side, bend the knees and make sure neck and shoulders are comfortable. Keeping feet together lift the top knee. Do not allow the pelvis to rotate backwards, torquing the back. The goals is to move only the leg, keep the pelvis and back stable. 10 to 20 times on each side.

Clamshells. Neck is long and relaxed. Pelvic bones push forward. Back is still. No twisting.

#5. “Chicken Wings” Side Lying External Shoulder rotations

Remain lying on the side. Using a light weight ( no more than 3 lbs.). Keep elbow glued to the side ribs as the forarm rises and falls. Shoulders stay down. Neck stays long. 20 on each side.

Chicken Wings. keep neck long and elbow in side.

Another view

#6. Wall Squats

Are a great way to build gardening strength while working proper knee and hip alignment. With or without a fit ball, Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Keep knees in line with toes as you bend downward. It is safest not to go past a 90 degree angle. Keep the tailbone reaching down to earth and the belly button scooped upwards towards the back of the ribs. Try 10 squats.

Wall Squat

Consider a back brace or corset support while gardening

It might not cure your back problems, but a brace or core support will remind you to stay aware of proper back placement when leaning over or squatting outside. It will help you be aware of your back.

– If all else fails, ask for help!


Get some help already!  I know you love to do it yourself, but it’s not worth the pain and perhaps ultimately having to cut gardening out all together. Plan, design, organize and get some minions at your disposal.

– More Information

A great website with wonderful ergonomic tools and ideas is offered through the University of Missouri Columbia, called Gardens for Every Body.

Happy Gardening!

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Celebrating Spring, Movement, and Fashion

Spring fever is in the air in Vanessa Bruno’s 2010 Spring Collection video.  It’s a frolicking romantic piece, swelling with lightness that’s oh so French.

Featuring Jane Birkin’s daughter, Lou, whose character in the video celebrates not just the movement of the gorgeous clothes she wears, but the beauty of movement in general, as Spring awakens with new life. It makes me want to stomp in chalk and roll down hills in big dresses.

Here’s to Spring, the French, dreamy fashion, and the beauty of movement!

Making Movement a Habit

Regular exercise is the only well-established fountain of youth, and it’s free. What, I’d like to know, will persuade the majority of Americans who remain sedentary to get off their duffs and give their bodies the workout they deserve? – Jane E Brody NY TIMES

The exacerbation in the writer’s voice in the article: “Even More Reasons to Get a Move On” is palatable. It is the frustration and dilema American’s face everyday.

This article is clear and concise. Exercise offers big benefits and little concerns. It’s a win win, but how to get people to do it?

If I had a nickel for every time I tried to get a client to do a few minutes of exercise a day…

In the same breath, I understand how hard it can be to stop and take time to do something for yourself.

It becomes less about the activity and more about learning how to create a new habit.

So, how DO you create a new habit?

Psyblog has a nice article about the science behind forming habits.

Most of the habit forming suggestions come down to:  1. defining exactly what the habit is, 2. list the benefits the new habit will bring to your life, 3. list the negatives if you don’t create the new habit,  and 4. remove roadblocks to new habit 5.commit to 3 weeks of new said habit.

This is a relative battle between each person and their habit. I think there is much more involved to truly make fitness habitual.  Some people do it in 21 days, others might take 100. Remember, we are talking habits, not temporary changes.

Here are 2 additional tips that will help make any fitness habit more successful:

6. Start small. If you could do 10 minutes to 20 minutes of exercise every morning – the time it takes for the coffee to brew – you could see and feel significant changes in your health and well-being over the course of one year.

7. Make sure it’s something you enjoy. I cannot stress this enough. If it feels like exercise, then it most likely won’t last. Listen to your gut and find that activity that will boost your heart rate and energy. Enjoying your new habit doesn’t mean it is always easy to get there everyday, but it must be something that once you are there and in the moment, you feel good.

Hold Your Guts Up – The Elusive Pelvic Floor

Hey. Guys have them too. Don’t think this is just a woman thing….

I’m heading into dark waters. Big Sigh. The Pelvic Floor. It almost sounds like a mythological made up place in the body. Unfortunately, it’s very real, and effects two of our most immediately important bodily functions – sex and urination – which is probably why it’s isn’t more openly discussed.

Most women have heard of these muscles, and perhaps the name of a popular method to strengthen them, kegel exercises. Although not discussed much in the gym, men need pelvic floor strength too. If you are unaware of these muscles, it often goes hand in hand with lack of proper abdominal strength and back support. A weak pelvic floor lends to a weak golf game. Your pelvic muscles are the floor of your torso. They hold your guts up, so to speak. The pelvic floor muscles contract in tandem with the deep spinal support muscles, creating a girdle of support – a diaper of strength, if you will. Down and dirty we are going to try and find these muscles. When they are contracted there is often no visual engagement seen externally.

Stop the flow


The easiest way to find the pelvic floor muscles is stopping the stream of urination.  If you can do it, then you’ve found them. Congrats. Don’t do this all the time however; constantly stopping the urinary flow when going to the bathroom, and not emptying the bladder entirely can lead to urinary tract infections. This is a good method to first find the muscles.

Simple pelvic floor exercise

We are trying to contract like the blue image on the RIGHT!

Here is a good way to work the pelvic floor muscles, sans the bathroom. Find your sit bones. These are the two bony protrusions located at the base of your pelvis. You can feel them underneath your backside as you sit down.  Imagine drawing those two bones together, towards each other, without tensing the backside or leg muscles. Picture the two sit bones becoming magnetically attracted to each other, and feel them pulling towards your center. Draw them together for a few seconds and then release. Try again. It helps to do this sitting upright on a stability ball. If the ball moves a lot or your legs and backside tense, lifting you up from the ball, know that these are the wrong muscles. When contracting the pelvic floor there is very little, if any, movement from the ball.

Another way to imagine triggering the pelvic floor and the transverse abdominals while sitting is to imagine zipping up the last bit of zipper on a pair of pants that are too tight.

Elevator Exercise (From Mayo Clinic)

Visualize an elevator. Slow down the exercises, gradually contracting and releasing your pelvic floor muscles one at a time. As you contract, visualize an elevator traveling up four floors. At each floor, contract your muscles a little more until you reach maximum contraction at the fourth floor. Hold the contraction and then slowly release the tension as you visualize the elevator returning to the ground floor. Repeat 10 times.

Crazy gizmos

uh...Kegel 8 plus 2.

There are lots of instruments and mini machines to help you find the pelvic floor. Some more invasive than others, but all will help get the job done.

Super Kegel Exerciser

An easy way to recreate the above exercise for both men and women is to take a tennis ball and hold it in the same place as above.  Squeeze just below the gluts with the back of the inner thighs. The place where you would hold the ball almost feels like it’s about to pop out. Contract and release the back of the thigh muscles and pelvic floor around the tennis ball.

Pilates

In Pilates we call the above exercise “wrapping into the back of the inner thighs”. It’s an important fundamental movement that will not only strengthen the pelvic floor, but the deep abdominals and the inner thighs, creating a leaner, longer posture.

See the squeezing of the back of his inner thighs

No matter how you go about it, strengthening the pelvic floor takes time, patience and practice, but the practice can happen anywhere. No gym clothes required. Go ahead. Try a few right now. Better love life and deeper belly laughs without fear of having to cross your legs await you.

How Japan Stays Fit – Radio Taiso

Every morning in Japan, before heading off to school, sparse piano music would tinkle lightly from the radio coupled with an incongruent bold voice counting: “Ich! Ni! San! Shi!” It was odd. An old world sound that eventually would prove quite comforting,  as though this program had existed for over fifty years.  It had. This is Radio Taiso, the 6:30am morning radio exercises in Japan. Radio Taiso is an integral, if not widely known, part of Japanese culture.

The first pop-culture American descripton of Radio Taiso that comes to mind is the 1986 Michael Keaton movie “Gung Ho”, which really is just wrong. The title “Gung Ho” is a Chinese derived phrase, yet the movie premise centers on culture clashes between Japanese and Americans at an auto plant.  This aside, at one point in the movie we witness automaker employees doing the morning exercises together. The American employees get freaked, as they would of course, by this large group fitness act.

Funny thing is, just like the automobile industry, the morning radio exercises started in the United States. Exercises on Japan’s NHK radio go as far back as 1928, but the idea for these exercises came to Japan by way of America, specifically from the American health insurance industry.  In the 1920’s Met Life in would sponsor 15 minute exercise radio broadcasts in major cities throughout the country, helping people stay fit. As is historically fitting, Japan took the idea and made it work really well,  helping lengthen their population’s lifespan, from age 40 in the 1920’s to 80 today. In fact, Japan has the highest population of seniors in the world.

During World War II and the Allies occupation, Radio Taiso was banned for seeming too militaristic, with large groups gathering to exercise together in unison. In the 1950’s they reemerged, and are still going strong to this day.  Children go to the local park in the summer, office workers gather together outside the office with loud speakers, and the older populations will turn on the radio and go along as they have for decades, starting their day with these routine exercises, to help build strength, work ethic, and unity within the community.

There are two sets of exercises, the second being geared more towards young people. The simple calisthenics promote increased energy, circulation, and improved flexibility. Go ahead and give it a try…

I’m gonna take the leap – going “ganbatte” vs. going “gung ho” – and suggest the United States take back Radio Taiso and broadcast a national morning exercise program, helping to build health, well being,  and community….just change the music, please.  Maybe a radio taiso mash up with special guest djs? It’d be like a new electric slide for fitness. Ok. I might have leapt too far…

がんばって!!!

Chinese Brands Have Arrived

It came much sooner than I thought.

Little did I know as I posted about the growth of Chinese Brands (you can read about it here) Li-Ning was opening its first store in the US. Listen to the story on NPR here.

Li Ning chose to open in Oregon. Take that Nike.

How weird.

100 Years of Galloping Fitness Machines

It’s in the expressions worn by the people in Zander’s advertisements that the real distinction between workouts of 1908 and workouts of 2008 can be found. Take the horse rider. She sits casually astride the machine, one arm out holding the “reins” on her anthropomorphized device. Her body leans slightly back. Her eyes gaze up at the camera, almost ecstatic, head thrown to the right a bit, a slight smirk on her face. She wears hose and heels, and the strap of her dress has fallen off the shoulder.

– “The Origins of Cybex Space” by Carolyn de la Pena for Cabinet Magazine

Wait. Has it really changed that much? At least our advertising has not.

Let’s compare.

One hundred years later we have similar smiling and provocative ads for the igallop and we wonder, does history not repeat itself? Or do we not at least learn from our mistakes?

Personally, I find the local Singapore ad below to be much catchier. Sticks in your head much more effectively, annoyingly so.

Now whoa there fella. Before wrangling yourself some sort of mechanical riding apparati, I offer you this observation from my pilates years; The two bodies I’ve come across with the most injuries, tension and pain are:

1. Dental Hygenists

2. Horseback Riders

The igallop isn’t exactly like a horse, of course. Just thought you might want to know before jumping on the bandwagon… or any other type of mechanical mountable fun.