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The Rocks, Pebbles & Sand of Movement


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You may be familiar with the Rocks, Pebbles and Sand Story (aka Jar of Life Story). If you are not it is a great little story that reminds us of what is important in life. Take two minutes and watch it here.

I will wait…

Obviously, the message that this story brings displays what is really important in life. Without a doubt.

After thinking about this story it can also apply to improve the way you move by prioritizing. Now that you know what this story is about I will break up how we move in 3 parts: rocks, pebbles, and sand. This is not an exhaustive overview…but it will give you an idea of prioritizing how you practice better movement.

Rocks

The rocks of movement are what we have to do to carry on with our everyday life. This can include:

  • Getting in and out of bed.
  • Going to the bathroom.
  • Walking with agility and balance so we don’t fall.
  • Picking things (or little people) up, carrying them and putting them in other places.
  • Getting into and out of the car (which can involve pulling & climbing).
  • Being able to turn our head to look for things.
  • Navigating uneven terrain along with inclines and decline.
  • Clothing and bathing ourselves.
  • Taking care of our children/family.
  • Carrying babies, pushing strollers and spending time on the floor.

Some that see this list may feel that it is mundane. If that is the case then these activities are not arduous or take much thought.  Or you or a family member may have problems doing this, there may be some compensation to perform them or at the most extreme – someone is helping them do it.

These rocks of movement are imperative to be able to do. A vacation is different when you are not able to get up, move, put your clothes on or other movements on your own.

Because these are the rocks of movement it is so undeniably important that we practice moving better so can either move better or with less discomfort…or continue to be able to do them.

Pebbles

The pebbles of movement can include what we do for a living or who we care for. This can include:

  • Sitting for long periods of time (don’t worry I will talk about this below)
  • Being on your feet for long periods of time.
  • Lifting heavy weight and placing it elsewhere.
  • Walking long distances
  • Professional/Amateur Sports
  • Manual labor
  • Carrying babies, pushing strollers and spending time on the floor
  • Caring for older individuals

This is what we do that can involve different ways of moving aside from everyday life activities. It can be a movement that we should practice so we avoid injury (like mobility or strength). On the flip side if we sit all day our posture will be affected. Also, the footwear that we are wearing can also affect us. We should be aware of the pebbles that should be developed so they don’t erode. We should also be aware of the pebbles that can negatively affect how we move and find ways to reduce that chance.

In other words, you have to think about what your pebbles are. Especially you have chronic pain or tightness in these pebbles it is time to assess how to eliminate them. Our pebbles are what we need to do so we can live a comfortable life however we define it.

Need an example? What if your job involves picking things up and putting them in various places. That not only involves your arms but your legs, core…yes your entire body. This video below also applies to the rocks! You reach to pick up things all the time.

Sand

The sand of movement can include what we do for fun or ways of movement that have a greater chance of injury if not performed correctly. This can include:

  • Sports
  • Competing in half-marathons obstacle course races and the like
  • Physical feats like climbing Mountain Everest

What do you do for fun? Golf? Running races? Adrenaline-fueled activities? You could still continue doing what you need to do in your life but this is what makes it so much fun. However, if you ONLY did these that is not good. Why? You should be strengthening your rocks and pebbles so you can reduce a chance of injury and perform at your best!

Think about it this way – if I only ran Marathons every month and nothing else I would not be at my best. Why? I would not be working on strengthening my legs, core and entire body for the event. Also, any pain and tightness coming from not addressing the mileage I am putting on my body will affect how I live my daily life and also my job. It is not fun when you are hobbling around the house or have to do your job is awkward because of a chronic it band tightness. At the worst, I may have to stop running marathons because I was not strengthening the foundation of my rocks of movement.

Wrapping up…

You may have different types of sand, pebbles, and sand in your life. The way you practice moving better for the rocks and pebbles is important. If you only take the time to pour all sand in your jar you are neglecting to strengthen your rocks and pebbles. Also, when it comes to improving movement is more than just strength, the ability to move, have the flexibility, coordination, and balance is just as important!

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Squashing the Myths About Exercise for Older Adults – Part 1


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Despite our cultural depictions of aging, we all have the ability to age well with the strength, agility and balance to maintain our quality of life and the activities we enjoy. Traditional exercise programs, and even many fitness professionals, often disregard the ability of mature adults and seniors to maintain and gain qualities like strength and agility.

Regardless of age, we should all make the time to move, exercise, or play. Let’s squash one of the myths that hold mature adults and seniors back from moving better:

  1. You will hurt yourself

This myth implies that mature adults and seniors are too frail and weak to exercise and moving will just lead to injury.

That is a just plain wrong. Yes, anyone starting a new exercise program should start off slow and set a foundation based on their current fitness level. Yes, consulting your doctor, getting your eyesight checked, being aware of the effects of medicines, etc. are important considerations. Lastly, yes, it is important to recognize any physical restrictions based on past injuries or current mobility challenges. These are factors to be considered at any age when changing lifestyle or starting a new fitness program.

The key is to recognize these factors and develop exercise options based on this awareness. For example, if walking places too much strain on joints, Nordic walking (i.e. with walking/hiking poles) is an excellent option. These poles actually facilitate an increase in oxygen consumption and energy expenditure by engaging the upper body instead of just the legs.

Contrary to this myth, improved fitness levels actually reduce the chance of injury. People with reduced mobility, tend to modify their movement based on fear or discomfort. Imagine walking on a narrow bridge over a swamp of alligators. How are you walking? Probably with shuffling steps in a hunched position. In this position you have a narrow base of support, walking is difficult and uncomfortable, and catching yourself if you trip will be difficult. Now, imagine a beautiful walk on the beach. You are relaxed with a more comfortable and confident gait. With a better range of motion, posture, and gait there is less of chance of injury or falls. Gait and balance issues are a major cause of injury in older adults.

One of the key contributing factors to reducing falls is exercise. Everyday life takes mobility, flexibility, balance, coordination, agility and power. Testing and training those functions in a proper fashion will lead to more confidence and ability to move throughout life with more ease.

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Exercise Without Assumptions – Train For Balance


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We rarely enjoy it when individuals make assumptions about us based on our beliefs, how we look or our age. When it comes to moving better and exercise don’t let assumptions about your potential hinder you. Regardless of your age, you should be training for a physical experience – life.  I strongly believe that age should not restrict someone from moving better. You can read more about it here.

Balance

When you walk, run, climb stairs, get in and out of a car you use balance. It doesn’t take actually standing on one leg during your day for your balance to be tested. Merely shifting your weight can be difficult if your balance has eroded. If you don’t take the time to test your balance regardless of your age – your ability to use your balance over time will decrease.

The good news is that you can re-train to improve your balance.

Consider changing your stance when you are doing some upper body movement that you enjoy doing. For example – curls or presses with two dumbbells are often done in a neutral stance. Your feet are about shoulder width apart and you are doing all the work in your upper body.

Consider changing where your feet are at next time you do curls or presses. A staggered stance – with one foot back will test your balance. Or an individual could do the exercise with a narrow footprint – feet close together. In both instances, your balance will be tested.  Often I have clients do is a rear lunge and then a press. Thus, I ask them to perform a rear lunge and stick it and stabilize before pressing the weights. Very quickly they will see how challenging it can be especially since they have to do it in steps and not just throwing the weight up. An option is to instead step back instead of a full lunge and driving the back knee down.

Especially as we age having good balance will keep you out of the hospital and greatly reducing the risk of falls. It is one thing to be able to do a 350 lb double leg press on a machine. This feat does not translate if the person has difficulty walking upstairs or stepping up onto a curb because their balance is not good.

What is good balance? Generally, good balance is being able to shift your weight, walk and do everyday life activities without an unsteady or unstable gait. Of course conditions like arthritis can affect how you shift your weight. If you do enjoy going for walks and feel as if you can’t anymore consider getting some walking poles.  You can still move better within your chronic conditions.

Test your balance in however you choose to exercise. It can be done by seeing how long you can hold a leg up. Just remember our bodies move in life as a unit. When you want to really test your balance you should be moving. This movement can include lunging or moving with weights. Just remember to mix things up and change your foot pattern.

Of course, consult your physician before starting an exercise program. Medications can affect balance so it is important to understand what the side effects can be from a qualified professional.

 

Train for life!

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The Fitness Triangle


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Draw a strong & healthy foundation for your life to rest on. Three important things are in play when moving better in life to improve your health or sustain what you have. Your mind has to be in the right place. Find out what really interests you. Also be consistent in moving, exercising, whatever you decide to do. Lastly, always mix things up and keep your body guessing.

Mind

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Where is your mind at? What motivates you? Taking the time to move better in life comes in many shapes in sizes. You can’t miss the countless gyms and boutique studios popping up. Depending on who you are – it can be welcoming or overwhelming. Follow that path if it attracts you & shop around for not only something that is good for your pocketbook but also makes you want to come back again! Join a group fitness class or get outside and join a hiking group. Sign up for a race & start training for it. Grab a friend to join you on your fitness journey.

Don’t turn that brain off from moving better those many other hours of the day when you are not exercising. Using your feet as a mode of transportation, taking a break from sitting at your desk and standing up is also so good for you. Do what you can with what you have – start with that.

Where is your mind at when it comes to what you are putting in your body? Moving well is only one piece of the puzzle. Be mindful of what you use for fuel. This does not mean an all-or-nothing take on what you eat…it means that you have balance. Seek out qualified professionals to help you if you want to get advice about what foods are good for you and how to compliment all the work you put in moving better.

Consistency

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Be consistent just like Forrest Gump…you don’t have to run though.

After you find what you like to do – DON’T STOP. The movement, exercise, activity that gets you blood flowing & raises your heart rate that you keep on doing is the one that is good for you.  Make it more than one activity. There is no substitute, pills or supplements for consistency. Be consistent about moving.

Think of an analogy of driving a car up a gradual incline. If you take your foot off the gas pedal the car will eventually stop and start coasting back. If you keep your foot just enough on the gas pedal you still are moving forward. You don’t have to (or should not) slam that foot down and floor it for your workout regime. You need rest days for your body to heal & rest!

Yes, this also means being consistent about what you are putting in your body too! You are only as healthy as what you are eating. Make sure that there is more of the good stuff coming in than the bad stuff. Also, Water…lots of it.

Variation

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Mix it up and go for a hike! Find a challenging trail & put one foot in front of the other.

Variation to your regime is the magic potion. You are consistent at moving every week – but are you doing the same exact exercise at the same exact pace/weight/stance/etc? If so eventually your body would get bored.

Think of eating your favorite meal every single day for 365 days. No matter how much you loved it, it would get old. Think of reading a article and each sentence was the same. Think of reading an article and each sentence was the same. Think of reading an article and each sentence was the same. Think of reading an article and each sentence was the same…

Got it?

Mix it up! Change your intensity. Change the speed. Change your stance. Change from standing in place and moving weight to moving with weight. Your workout routine should not be the same every week.

Of course there are other important things to keep in mind when focusing on a lifelong journey of health. Just keep in mind these three things on your journey to continue to build on that foundation that you have built. Drop me a line if you want a coach in your corner to help you set that foundation!

-Damien

 

 

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6 Important Things To Do In A Group Fitness Class


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Some individuals decide to go all in on group fitness classes as their choice of exercise. Others use a group workout as a way to mix things up in between their personal training sessions or their own workouts. However you decide to use group fitness classes to up your exercise game there are some tips on what not to do when you first start…or even if you are a veteran.

 

#1. Show up early.

Especially if this is your first class – get there early to meet the instructor and see what type of equipment that you will be using. Even if you are not able to go into the room because there is a class in session – you can get an idea about the class format, the flow of the class, music and energy level. Also, use this early time to meet the instructor and they will be happy to let you know what is on the menu for that day and show you equipment that you may have not used before. It could be a Silver Sneakers gym or another big setup. Either way you should still get acclimated.  Lastly, getting there early allows you to sign any paperwork that has to be done before your first class.

 

#2.  Let the coach know of any injuries or restrictions that you have.

Before class starts – always let the coach know that you have a sore knee, shoulder issues, some injury or for instance have broken something in the past. This gives the coach an opportunity before the class starts for a quick one-on-one chat about any exercises that you should avoid and what you can do instead.  If you are pregnant let the instructor know and what you can do. Often pregnant women know how to do alternative exercises, even so just let the coach know!

#3. Challenge yourself & give 100% effort.

One of the motivating aspects of a group class is the infectious energy that is in the room. This one of the reasons people love group classes because of a community that keeps each other going. Motivation is great. However comparing yourself to someone else and trying to do what they are doing could end you up injured. Allow them to motivate you to give your 100% effort. Use that!!  If your 100% effort is not matching their effort who cares? The instructor can introduce 1-ups to an exercise to make it more challenging for them. If you can’t do it yet – then use that as your motivation to come back next class and get better.

#4.  Pay attention as the coach demos the exercises.

The class has started and you are ready to kill it and get moving. There will be times during the class where she goes over what you are doing.  This is important. You may know how to do a squat or some other movement but pay attention to how the coach does it. He may have something he is specifically asking the class to do or is giving options that are useful especially if you are finding it challenging – or not challenging enough.

#5.  Ask questions before the class gets started.

If during the demo the coach does or says something that you don’t understand – ask her. If during the workout you want to know how to challenge yourself more without adding weight – ask her during a break. Of course, this is not a personal training session.  The coaches focus will be on the entire group & there are a lot of moving parts for her to juggle. Even with that in mind, questions to clarify how to do an exercise or a progression should be asked!

#5. If you know you will  – or do sweat a lot – bring your towel.

Sweating is a good thing. Sweating on equipment that a person in the class with you uses 30 seconds after you – is not. Don’t expect that the facility that you are checking out has towels. Be proactive!

Untitled design#6. Give out high-fives & fist bumps like they are going out of style.

Get some of that good energy flowing! Many friendships are started in group classes. There is a great community in group classes regardless of the type of workout or fitness level. You all may have different reasons why you are there but you came together to workout!

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How to Build the Foundation for A New Year’s Fitness Resolution That Will Work


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The opportunity of a new year, new starts and new beginnings often have us in an optimistic mood for what is ahead. It is great to have a resolution that includes fitness and your health. However, until there is an invention that transforms thoughts into effort – you have to put in the work yourself!

With all of that in mind here is a short list: Three things to forget & Three things to remember. These will help you set yourself up for success for this year.

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Three Things to Forget

  1. __ days to __

Forget those gimmicks that promise or promote instant results in a prescribed amount of days. A commitment to your health does not stop after 30 days. In an age of instant gratification fight that urge to jump on that bandwagon when it comes to your health. Shortcuts are not sustainable.

  1. Slogans Like: “No Rest Days”…”All Or Nothing”…”No Pain No Gain…”

It is imperative that you allow your body to rest, especially when you are getting back on the fitness train. Even when you are well conditioned, still there are days where one allows the muscles to grow & recover and the body to refuel in some way. If you are all or nothing, then a day of progress but not completion is failure. Internalizing that idea can lead to frustration and self-defeating aspects of that could make one just stop. Lastly, a biomechanically solid workout does not have to leave you barely able to move or in pain. In fact, if you are in pain every time you do workout…it is just a matter of time until you are on the injured list. A challenging workout is one thing, painful is another.

  1. Numbers Are All That Matter

Forget defining yourself solely by your measurements and weight. It can be an ineffective strategy.  Confidence, energy level, self-worth, ability to move better, better posture, feeling stronger… can’t be determined by just flipping a switch or getting a tape measure- and these are even more powerful. Fight the urge to succumb to the numbers. You are much more than that.

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Three Things to Remember

  1. Start with What Works for You

It is simple but true – the workout that you actually do is the one that works. You don’t climb a flight of stairs from half way up. Start where you are right now & work up to a more challenging workout. Set the foundation, get in the groove then when you are gathering steam then start taking the stairs two at a time.

  1. Plateaus & Bad Days Can Be Part of The Process

Factors like doing the same workout, food you consume on a regular basis, stress or sleep can contribute to being stuck on a plateau. It may also be a good opportunity to keep track of these and other things.  You will see a pattern in your behavior that affects your workouts.  Once you see that pattern you know how you can break out of that plateau or decrease those bad days from popping up. We all have days where we wonder if our brain is actually connected to our limbs and feel out of sync. Push through it as best as you can. Keeping track of things may shed some light on why…but sometimes it is just one of those days. Celebrate the fact that you did it (easier than said done on the same day but you can on the next!) & you did not give up.

  1. Walk Backwards From Your Goal…Leave Breadcrumbs

Instead of thinking in terms of your resolution to happen this year – think of it in pieces that will make up the whole. Breaking up the main goal into months and even weeks can make the chance to crush it more reasonable. When you look at the bite sized pieces it will make you re-evaluate, refine & even change your fitness resolution.

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Six Ways To Weave Exercise Back Into Your Life


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If it has been a while since you have seriously started exercising again it can be tempting to hit the ground running. Figuring out a plan of attack is a better way to set up yourself up for sustainable success. Below are 6 ways to weave exercise back into your life.

  1. Don’t restrict yourself to the stereotypical ways to exercise. Of course – going to the gym, getting a membership, attending fitness group classes etc. are all awesome ways to improve your health and move towards your goals. However, joining an intramural sports group, hiking group, biking to work or getting your hands dirty tending to your garden are all good ideas also. What works for someone else may not work for you, so explore the options in and out of a gym setting.
  1. Look at your week – find the time to schedule your activity. Hold yourself accountable to the times you set aside to exercise. If you are still paying that gym membership and have not gone for months – consider ending it. Use that money in another way that will move you towards your fitness goals. Also – work with the time that you have, then revisit your schedule in a month or so to see how you can make more time.
  1. Find a community. If you don’t already have a buddy or friends that can help welcome you back into the fray…seek some out. If you enjoy posting your workouts online and having others hold your accountable, then give it a shot. Start your own fitness blog & give updates. You will be surprised about how supportive others are & are inspired by your efforts. Offline or online find some sort of community, individual or fitness professional that will cheer you on and hold you accountable at the same time. You are not alone.
  1. Avoid defining yourself by being out of shape etc. Focus on your future of making exercise more a part of your life! You are taking ownership of your health and making an important recognition of its importance. Start making the right choices now. Be patient with your progress, exercise is not one size fits all!
  1. Recognize that exercise is an important piece of the puzzle. Exercise is a substantial move towards a fitter you. At the same time recognize other things that contribute to it like: stress, sleep, what you are eating on a constant basis. As you start getting into your exercise groove start try tracking what you are eating for a week, how much you are getting sleep and what your energy levels were. Turn to qualified individuals if you need guidance on those areas so you can see more gains.
  1. Stop Making Excuses. Until someone comes up with an invention for someone else to exercise and you receive the health benefits…you have to do it yourself! You know yourself better than anybody. If you know you don’t have the energy to workout when you get home after work – then do it in the morning. If you don’t like exercising outside – then get a gym membership and use it. If you work better under pressure – sign up for a race 4 or so months from now. You can do this. Be a fitter version of yourself.

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You got this! Welcome back!

 

-Damien

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Five Reasons To Incorporate Balance Training Into Your Workout


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Balance is more than just standing on one leg. It is important in so many activities that we do daily. Here are just five of numerous reasons why you should spice things up with some balance training when working out.

  1. It improves your joint stabilization. Stabilization is “the ability to maintain or control joint movement or position. Stability is achieved by the coordinating actions of surrounding tissues and the neuromuscular system.” Thus, to break it down you can be able to stay strong and steady when walking up a flight of stairs with a heavy bag of groceries in one hand. Or if playing sports, running etc. and you don’t have a good joint stability you can run the risk of tearing or stretching a ligament.

 

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Having some fun going for a hike up & over this terrain is much more fun when you have some good balance.
  1. We live in an unstable world. Even if you don’t consider yourself athletic – you still balance every day. Getting out of the car, walking up stairs, going for a hike in the wilderness are all instances of balance plays a part in your life. Sure, you may not be walking a tightrope – but better balance means better reaction time or better coordination. For instance – tripping over a crack on the sidewalk and catching yourself takes balance. Thus, you are more aware of where you are in space and can better react with good balance.
  1. It strengthens your core. An example would be a single leg deadlift – even without any weight you are firing off the stabilization muscles in the planted leg. Of course, the rest of the body is attached and you are focusing on staying upright. The muscles around your spine and abdominal area are activated also. Your core is much more than that 6-pack. Keep that core strong so it can support the spine, pelvis and joints. You bend better, you lift better you can shift things away from your body better. Play sports? Compete? You are a more powerful athlete or competitor.
  1. Stronger core =’s better posture. With better posture then it means that the deck is stacked properly. When bad posture creeps in the body is smart – it compensates. But when the body compensates then that is when the chance of injury or tightness will occur. Everything is connected in the body. Just got some new sneakers and noticing that your knees stopped hurting? That is an example of how the shoes affected your posture. Now imagine if it is something inside of you that is not as stable and strong.
  1. Fall Prevention. Yes, this is a risk for individuals when they are getting older. It was noted that in San Diego “one in three older adults (65+) falls each year.” Balance is one of the reasons for these falls. For that reason, it is important to improve and challenge your balance in various exercises. Any age group can benefit from this and it is important to keep on incorporating it as we get older. In addition, those who play sports that are moving in all directions also benefit from this as it substantially improves their athletic performance.

Sprinkle in some balance training into your workout regime. Regardless your age or your athleticism, it is an important component to a stronger, stable, confident and fit you!

-Damien