Tag Archives: Exercise

I hate to exercise. Now what…

Look. You get it…you are supposed to do something more than move between desk and couch. But “exercise” isn’t fun…at least in your opinion.  You can continue sporadically riding the treadmill to nowhere, but maybe the time has come to try another approach. It’s actually possible to sneak fitness in like vegetables into a kid’s dinner…just hide it really well.

Here are your general options:

#1. Go standard: Do the gym

Ho-hum. Exercise and health, blah blah blah. Who hasn’t tried this? We sign up for a gym membership in a moment of inspiration, usually in January and then it languishes into one extra payment on the ol’ checking account. Some people thrive on routine. If you can psyche yourself into being accountable at the gym 3 -4 days a week, for 2 or 3 weeks, then this might be the option for you. Gyms offer convenience for fitness and a great fall back when all else fails, but little else that can often be exciting.

#2. Go Group: Join the team…or start your own.

Maybe you need a team effort to get moving. Lots of local sporting leagues exist: softball, basketball, bowling, kickball, dodgeball, you name it. Join in. Finding a buddy to join could make the move easier. No groups you like? Start your own action adventure team.

#3. Go to school: Please grade my fitness

Maybe teams aren’t you thing, but personal exploration and trying new things are. Sign up for a class.  Try something totally new. All kinds of sports, movement arts and activities are offered through local colleges. Community, state and/or private universities usually have offerings for the public. Since collegiate classes go in semesters, it is a doable committment for those of us who get bored. This option keeps your brain supple too.

#4. Go Big:  Spend a lot and do as little as possible

Invest in the most expensive home gym out there that touts the fastest way to perfect fitness…4 minutes a day. Afterall, if you pay $14,615.00, it must really work. Although, who we kidding, eventually it will languish in the basement and become the worlds most expensive laundry drying rack…ever.

#5. Go Bizarre: Extracurricular odyssey

If you are like me, you need to be entertained. A stationary bike sounds worse than the dentist. Maybe it’s time to give up the Dungeons and Dragons game in the back room of the comic book shop and take up jousting outdoors instead. There are an endless array of activities that classify as fitness. Gym is not required and creativity is by all means allowed. Possibilities are endless!

Find something that inspires you. Even if it’s a dvd or book, a self created 10 minute workout at home, reading my blog for fabulous ideas…whatever. Try to do a little more. I’m still working on the ultimate ab pulverizing couch and desk workout.  I’ll let you know when it comes out.

Four exercises in under 10 minutes to firm your core

How fit is your center?

It’s not about how many crunches you can do. Did you know if you overwork your abs, you could end up with back pain and no flatter a front? Your center is not just the muscles you look down at and sigh, but your whole trunk: front, back, sides, top and bottom. A fine balance in all of these muscles is necessary for a strong core.

Here’s a simple test to determine how you measure up:  Hold a forearm plank as long as you can. 1 minute is good. 2 minutes is excellent. Less than 1 minute? We have some work to do.

During the above test, really pay attention to what you are feeling. These feelings speak volumes about what and where you are weak, strong, tense, etc.

Do you feel your low back? Then your abdominals and deeper core muscles are not lifting to support your trunk and they need to be strengthened.

Do you feel your neck tension or elbow pressure? Then you upper core muscles, like the lattisimus dorsi,  (ie the muscles that push your armpits down towards your hips) need to be strengthened.

What’s your body telling you? Different pains and strains mean different muscles are out of balance. Tuning into your body and developing the awareness of what is being felt is the first big step to finding core balance and strength.

To build overall trunk strength, try this simple core challenge.

Performing these exercises at least 5 days a week. It should take less than 10 minutes. Even after a few weeks, you will feel the difference:

#1. THE FOREARM PLANK

Up to 2 minutes. Pinch glut muscle together. Lift abdominals up towards the spine. Keep your neck long (front and back), and maintain an open chest, with the collar bones trying to peek out.  Balance forearms on a stability ball to mix up the challenge. Starting on the knees is a-ok!

#2. SIDE FOREARM PLANK:

1 minute each side. Keep hips lifted. Belly pulled in (tighten the waist muscles all around like a corset), and chest stretched open.

#3. BACK EXTENSIONS: Keeping hips and top of thighs on the floor. Hands under armpits. Press into palms and lengthen chest and back up and out, away from legs. No pinching in the low back  nor strain in the neck allowed. If you feel this, angle your arch less.

#4. BIRD DOG:

On hands and knees, scoop the abdominals up and in towards the spine. (Think of putting on a tight pair of pants, trying to get the last bit of zipper up).  Extend the opposite arm and leg away from the contracted center.  If both arm and leg together is too hard to balance, start with extending just the legs. Hold the extended position for 10 seconds then switch sides. 5 -10 sets.

That’s it. Start simple and slow. 4 exercises. Less than 10 minutes a day. 5 days a week.  It will make a noticeable  difference within a few weeks, and who knows…maybe those 10 minutes will inspire you to add more activity throughout the day. Good luck!


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.


ACL Pre/Post Surgery Knee Exercises

Torn ACLs and knee injuries are surprisingly common, and a prime example of how muscular imbalances create wear on the joints. Proper awareness, balance, and strength training are key to preventing and rehabbing any and all injuries… knees included.

For a knee injury, it is important to build the entire leg: maintain quad strength, build stronger hamstrings, and focus on balanced strength in the hips. Pay attention to proper traction and alignment of the ankle, knee and hip as you exercise – in other words, make sure everything is lining up. You can easily do a movement, but without proper alignment of the joints, muscular imbalances can be created, resulting in continued strain.   The best way to build overall strength and better alignment is to incorporate some form of balance into your exercises. Balancing coerces lesser developed muscles to engage, as well as to kick in a little core support.

Your doctor or PT will probably gave you some similar movements, like squats, leg presses, and lunges, but my recommendation would be to try to incorporate an element of balance with each:

Wall Squats with a balance ball behind the back – Angle out the legs and work your way to bringing them under your hips. Pay attention that the knee lines up with the center of your foot. Don’t let the knees extend into flexion past the toes, or a 90 degree angle. Hold the squat for 30 seconds.

Single leg wall squats – This is a challenge. Be careful with these.


Standing on one foot Hip hikes
– Using a yoga block, encourage balance work on the standing leg. allow the opposing leg to tap the floor and lift up. Works the hips and standing leg stability.


Balance on one foot
– Balance on an upside down bosu ball, foam roller, or a wobble board at the gym
Practice balance on this for 30 seconds to 2 minutes at a time.


Lunges with bosu ball – You can flip the bosu either way.  Arm movements are optional.  Here’s an alternative with the Bosu Ball flipped.

Swimming over balance ball – Lying over the ball. Core is centered. Opposing hand and leg lift, other two remain in contact with the floor. Hold for 5-10 seconds each. Keep both arm and leg completely straight, hold and balance. Switch.

Hamstring curl, pelvic lift series on balance ball or bosu ball – Lying on the floor. Soles of the feet flat on the ball (don’t hang in just heels), curl hips up towards the ceiling and roll back down through the spine. Keep ball stable. Can do with legs together (harder) or shoulder width apart. Curl up and down 10 – 20 times.
1. Next progression: you can keep hips elevated and carefully push the ball out and in. Don’t move hips as you move legs. Be careful with this one.
2. Next progression: you can do single leg pelvis lifts, with opposing leg stretched upward towards the ceiling – again, be careful with this one.

Leg presses on the gym equip. Don’t just power through. Keep body aligned and lengthen spine and low back away from the leg movement.


Foam Roller IT band massage If you have a foam roller at the gym, you might want to roll out the outside of the leg. Actually, investing in a roller for home is a wise purchase. There are a multitude of uses and benefits. Rolling out the IT band can be painful, depending on how tense is. The roller helps release hip and leg tension, while reducing strain on the knee.

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"...

Putting the moves on while at the airport lounge


This is what I’m talking about.

We sit all day. In the car, at work and home, and for hours at the airport and then onto the plane. We take the brunt of demands, sitting down.  We get agitated, crabby and stressed, but do we really do anything about it? Take some action? No.

I, for one, am not going to take this siting down anymore, and I ‘m starting at the airport.

And why not? More and more people exercise at the airport. While you might be the lone spectacle at first, others will soon get brave and follow suit. A call to action takes time.  It’s kind of amazing long we ignore the instinct to move around and stretch.

Here is a New York Times article from this week about exercise at the airport and suggestions for seated stretches.

Below are my recommendations when you are hanging around the airport lounge:

1. Modified Arching

Extension with arm push

don't do this

This is the antithesis of sitting all day and is very important for spine flexibility.

Lying on your belly. YES. In the airport. Arms are out to the sides and bend your elbows. Palms are flat and all 5 fingers are touch floor. Press Up. Sense the force of the push traveling up your arms, into your back and down your spine. Continue to push your arms down and out into the floor and raise your head and chest off the floor. Keep the back of your neck long. Let your chest feel broad, your neck free, and your spine feel long. The shoulder blades should be drawn together behind you. The arms stay straight. Hold and take deep breaths. If you feel pain in your back, walk your hands out in front of you further, or prop your belly with your jacket. If you feel pain in gluts or legs. Stop.

2. Cat and Cow

On all fours (hands and knees), draw your nose towards the knees, round the spine and drawing the belly in. Next, extend your neck and tailbone up towards the sky, allowing the spine to sink towards the ground. Take deep breaths and move back and forth through these two positions, rounding and arching the back.

3. Roll Downs against the Wall

These feel great and provide a much needed spine stretch. Keep your tailbone fixed to the wall and follow the pictures and images below:

drape and reax the neck. Tailbone stays fixed!

drape and reax the neck. Tailbone stays fixed!

Roll up by lifting each bone away from the next as it presses into the wall. Create space between vertebre.

Roll up by lifting each bone away from the next as it presses into  the wall. Create space between vertebre.

Arms can remain by your sides as well. Let the spine slide upwards against the wall, stretcing towards the ceiling. Enjoy taller posture!

Arms can remain by your sides as well. Let the spine slide upwards  against the wall, stretcing towards the ceiling. Enjoy taller posture!

Don’t be shy. It’s for your own mind and body. Join in the movement revolution and I’ll see you at the airport. We can exchange knowing glances as we lay on the airport floor…


Pilates, guys, and core strength

Joseph Pilates was a manly man.

Strutting his stuff well into his 70s, smoking cigars and sporting tighty whities, this former boxer and circus strongman (“living Greek Statue” to be precise) mainly taught his method of exercise to men, until he came to New York and moved his studio into the same building as the NYC Ballet. Once Pilates became associated with dancers, it seems the menfolk started to disappear.

To set the record straight, Pilates is not just for dancers. Joseph Pilates himself called his exercises a corrective method of movement. Many athletic men still complain of a bulging belly and back pain, When properly executed, Pilates exercises improve muscle imbalances, building strong, flexible trunk muscles, backs free of pain, and younger, taller posture in any body.

Here are a few key insights men should know when beginning Pilates or any core strengthening regime:

Strength need not come from strain.

The subtly of Pilates can, at first, be frustrating, and might not jive with traditional notions of a manly workout. Try to leave the power workouts at the door, at least in the beginning. A good Pilates instructor will not allow clients to power through an entire workout without proper muscle control.

The challenge of Pilates is in the details.

Pilates core strength comes from muscle awareness and control. (Joseph Pilates named his exercise method, “Contrology”.) Finding control requires some thoughtful and, often, small movements. These beginning steps shape the more advanced work that comes later. Without awareness of all muscles, both large and small, the benefits attained will be limited. It’s training for the body and mind.

With proper control, even a football player will struggle with 2 pounds weights if they lengthen muscles outward from a strong core, rather than tense up and inward to power through. It’s like the Aesop moral, “better to bend like the reeds than break like the tree trunk”.

Keys to good Pilates: Stretch the spine and draw in the abdominals during all movement.

This is often referred to as “scooping” your abdominals. Lifting the spine upwards and allowing space between the vertebre to corset the trunk muscles inward.

Practicing the Pilates scoop.

Here is an exercise to work on the Pilates scoop from Jillian Hessel:

Sit up as tall as you can, lifting up out of your hips. Place your hands on your lower abdomen with your fingers spread apart. Imagine you have a belt slung low across your hips.Inhale deeply through your nose for 5 counts. Exhale through your mouth for 5 counts, imagining you’re tightening the belt and drawing your hip bones closer together. Your fingers should interlace as you exhale completely.

Your core is a corset of muscles with several layers that wrap around your trunk. Pilates exercises draw this corset tightly inward to support the spine rather than push outward away from the center.

Now do that same scoop as you perform a forearm plank on a fit ball. Hold it for one minute. Stretch the neck long. Keep the shoulders broad. Continue to draw the trunk muscles in as you breathe.

Proper core strength aids in preventing diastase, back pain, belly bulge, neck and should tension, and many other issues.

Find a good instructor and practice the basics regularly to gain insightful muscle control and core understanding to compliment any exercise activities. Then you too can strut around in tighty-whities with your shirt off being the manly man that you are…on second thought…keep that at home.

For more information, check out this Wall Street Journal article discussing the growing popularity and importance of core training.