Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday Book Report: This Is Where You Belong

Earlier this week, I wrote a little bit about the contents of This Is Where You Belong:  The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick.  I did, in fact, finish the book, and the rest of it was just as good.

The main premise of the book is that connection to where we live helps us build happier lives.  It is an upward spiral in which our connection to home makes us happier, which makes us feel more connected to our home, which makes us happier, and so on.  Happy people, in general, are healthy people.

In addition to going outside and building our maps of our neighborhoods by walking as I mentioned in my other post, Warnick suggests buying local, meeting the neighbors, enjoying the things we would show visitors, getting politically involved, and volunteering as ways to enmesh ourselves in the web of our communities.

The book is full of references to other books and studies and the like, but what makes it work for me is that it also chronicles the writer’s actual experiment in loving the place where she happened to end up.  She tried it all out on herself, which is my favorite method of experimentation.  Some parts worked better than others; your results may vary.

In any case, Warnick provides a helpful recipe for plugging in rather than dropping out.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


My kids have a distant relative who was known for semi-oracular statements.  The story, as handed down through the family, is that Uncle Paul (don’t remember whose uncle he was or in which generation or even if he was an actual relative and not one of those family-friends-who-are-family) asked their grandmother, who was a small child at the time, if she wanted to know the secret to avoid death.  She did.  He leaned toward her and said, “Just keep breathing.”

He was right.

Breathe consciously in yoga or Pilates.

Breathe hard in running or swimming or cycling or skiing or sex or dancing or roller skating.

Breathe out as you lift weights and in as you lower them.

Hang out with people who take your breath away and then let it come rushing back as you rejoice in them.

Keep breathing.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

More on outside

Perhaps this is obvious, but in order to write book reports for Fridays, I have to read the books beforehand.  If all goes well, I will be posting a report on Friday about the book I have been reading that will talk about the whole thing and why it is good and why it applies to fitness.

But right now, I’m only halfway through the book.  I am too excited to wait to post two new reasons to get outside and exercise, as articulated in this book (tune in Friday to find out what it is!).

One:  nature makes us happy.  Studies show that being outside in nature improves our mood and our health.  We live longer, have fewer health problems, and generally improve when we visit the trees and rocks and waterfalls of our world.

Two:  walking (and to some extent biking) can increase our sense of connection to our community.  When we are out in our town, we notice things we don’t have time to see in our cars.  We get a sense of the terrain, like where the biggest hill is and where the restaurant aromas are most enticing.  We improve our brains by mapping our immediate world in more detail.  We meet the neighbors and learn, if not their names, the names of their dogs.

Go play!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Now that we are past the winter solstice, we are turning toward the light!  The world is literally growing brighter each day (at least for us folks in the northern hemisphere).  That means we have metaphorical momentum to burnish other parts of our lives.

Often when we go to yoga, our instructors invite us to choose an intention for the time we spend in class.  I am no yogi (more like Yogi Bear), but let’s choose to reflect on what we want to spiff up while we get our cardio done this week.  All that lovely rhythmic running and biking and striding and such provides an excellent space for clear thinking.

Maybe we want to eat foods that make us feel good in the larger sense.  Maybe we want to tune into what our bodies are telling us.  Maybe we just want a bikini.  Let’s figure out whatever it is that is going to make us feel like we can shine in the coming light of the world.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday Workout: Circuit with Renegades!

This week, we are applying what we learned last week:  renegade rows are fun and challenging!  Of course, we work all the body parts!  Three rounds!  Enjoy!

step up to press
renegade rows

kb swings
kb twists
kb 8s

mountain climbers
ball bench press

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Book Report: Bright Air, Brilliant Mind

Sometimes it takes me longer than usual to read a book.  Gerald M. Edelman’s book Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind was worth the extra time.  The whole idea of the mind-body connection pervades our culture.  This book takes a stab at explaining how mind arose in our bodies.  It is not light reading, but people interested in biology, evolution, philosophy, linguistics, and (some) physics will find it rewarding.  Also, the writer manages to be both erudite and entertainingly snarky from time to time.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Baby, it's cold

When it is cold out, getting out of bed to work out seems crazy.  For some of us, it doesn’t even have to be cold out.  Here are some thoughts about how to make it work.

Consider the inside workout.  One of the big advantages of working out in a gym is the controlled environment.  It doesn’t rain in there, or snow.  Wind chill is not a factor.  Sure, the scenery might not be as inspiring (well, depending on who is working out nearby!), but it beats freezing to death.

Wear layers.  This is one of those pieces of advice that is useful in almost all circumstances because it works.  We may want to start our workout in a jacket and peel our way down as our bodies heat up.  Don’t forget a hat and gloves if those help!

Drink water.  Yes, this is another of those perennial recommendations.  When it is cold, we sometimes forget to hydrate.

Soak in water.  When we do brave the elements and return victorious homeward, we can treat ourselves to hot water to soothe our tired muscles and rewarm our bodies.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Rules and Suggestions

It’s a gift-giving season.  Some of us, naturally, think of fitness gifts to give to our loved ones.  I would like to offer one rule for fitness gifts and then five suggestions.

First, the One Rule of Fitness Gifts:  Do not give them to people who do not want fitness gifts.  There is nothing more passive aggressive than giving a treadmill to that sedentary relative who lives to binge watch cooking shows while scarfing popcorn.  It doesn’t help them.  It doesn’t show love.  It provokes shame and resentment.  Also, that relative may show a surprising burst of speed in jumping up to strangle us.

Now on to the suggestions:

1.     Workout clothes.  We all need them and we all like to look spiffy and feel comfortable working out.  This can include footwear.  Also consider specialized clothing for the skier, swimmer, or caber-tosser of your acquaintance.
2.     Gym bag.  Gym bags do eventually wear out.  Find a roomy one with enough pockets and space for shoes.
3.    Music.  Nothing is more motivating than music.  Headphones also count in this category.
4.     Fitness tracker.  Yeah, this one is more expensive.  No one really NEEDS a tracker, but trackers can be both motivating and fun.

5.     Company.  Go work out with that friend or relative.  Take a class together.  Go hike or swim or ice skate or ski or bike.  Everything is more fun with a buddy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stickie has a book!

Here in the Department of Shameless Self-Promotion, I have created a booklet from all the blog posts featuring the Amazing Stickie, the stick-figure fitness model.  Stickie demonstrates and I explain a variety of exercises for upper body, lower body, abdominals, and whole body/aerobic work.  My clients at Recess are getting copies for Christmas, but while supplies last, anyone else can have one (message me about coming by to pick one up or with an address for mailing!).

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday Workout: 12 Days

It is that time again.  Once a year, need it or not, we do the 12 Days of Christmas workout, stolen fair and square from the amazing Michelle and slightly modified.  Here’s how it works:  we begin by doing one push press.  Then we do two goblet squats and one push press.  Next, three overhead presses, two goblet squats, and one push press, and so on through all twelve “days.”  We try to keep our rests between “days,” but really, any way we can survive this workout is totally fine.  And yes, I do know that we end up doing 42 burpees before it is over.  We are giving ourselves the gift of a fit Christmas, or, alternatively, an excuse to spike the eggnog.

1 push press
2 goblet squats
3 Overhead press
4 1 leg squats each leg
5 deadlifts
6 burpees
7 pushups
8 renegade rows
9 mountain climbers
10 jump lunges
11 kb swings
12 plyojacks

Thursday, December 15, 2016

I was 24 when this picture was taken...

This kid is 24 today.  I work out because I want to be there for all the rest of his birthdays.

Why do you?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Float like butterfly... unless this is a moth

I lift weights because I want to be powerful.  The news is full of things that seem uncontrollable, that I can’t change.  Sometimes that is true.  Other times, I just need to remember that I can do things.  And weights help me remember this.

Over time, I can do more.  I practice.  I can lift heavier things than I used to with better form and less fatigue.

I am not the only one.  We can all use to get more powerful.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Writing is like fitness, and vice versa

“Okay.  Your kids are climbing into the cereal box.  You have $1.25 left in your checking account.  Your husband can’t find his shoes, your car won’t start, you know you have lived a life of unfulfilled dreams.  There is the threat of a nuclear holocaust, there is apartheid in South Africa, it is twenty degrees below zero outside, your nose itches, and you don’t have even three plates that match to serve dinner on.  Your feet are swollen, you need to make a dentist appointment, the dog needs to be let out, you have to defrost the chicken and make a phone call to your cousin in Boston, you’re worried about your mother’s glaucoma, you forgot to put film in the camera, Safeway has a sale on solid white tuna, you are waiting for a job offer, you just bought a computer and you have to unpack it.  You have to start eating sprouts and stop eating doughnuts, you lost your favorite pen, and the cat peed on your current notebook.

“Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write.  In the middle of the world, make one positive step.  In the center of chaos, make one definitive act.  Just write.  Say yes, stay alive, be awake.  Just write.  Just write.  Just write.”

Natalie Goldberg wrote that in her amazing book Writing Down the Bones.  Yes, it is about writing, but it might just as well be about working out.  There will always be reasons not to work out.  There will always be things, big and small, that want to take our attention away from our healthy practices.  They will still be there when we are done working out and we will be better for having taken care of ourselves.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Workout: Reboot the circuit!

I’ve been enjoying experimenting with these shorter circuits.  I hope everyone else is, too!  Go for four or five rounds.  If you don’t have a kettle bell, a dumbbell works fine for the swings.  If you don’t have a resistance band, substitute body weight squats.

1 min cardio

KB swing
plank to side balance
reverse fly
plank straddle jumps
band squats
femur arcs

Thursday, December 8, 2016

This picture is a pile of frogs and has nothing to do with the post

Let’s talk about celebrating.  The theory is that celebrations make us feel good.  So we eat too much and drink too much and stay up too late and the next day we feel… not good.

Let’s try celebrating by doing things that actually make us feel good, like laughing and running around and ice skating and drinking one cup of cocoa and giving people gifts that make their faces light up.

We can feel better all the time that way.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Please tell me!

A long time ago, now, I worked as a coordinator of a service-learning program.  Service-learning combines cognitive components with real-world experience, which allows each to enrich the other.  Doing community service is certainly always valuable; reflecting on the underlying problems, seeking to understand the people involved, soliciting input and feedback, and applying all that stuff to the service can really change the world.

When I recently decided to open the studio for meditation and to offer free mat Pilates on Friday, I forgot one of the things I used to know when I was actively involved in service-learning:  the community needs input.  So:  What can I or should I offer to you, my community, from my studio?  Do you want free mat class?  Do you want access to meditation space?  What times and days do you feel the need?  Is there a need?

Please let me know so I can spend my resources wisely!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Sometimes I forget.  Working out is not just about working out.  While sometimes the process itself is fun, the point is that working out gives us stuff in the rest of our lives.  I remembered when I was out on my bike.

Technically, riding my bike counts as working out.  In real life, it is just joy.  It is being in the sun, feeling the wind, seeing the birds and dogs and people and trees and water.  Without working out, I would not be able to enjoy that feeling, or I would have to be limited by my body’s capability.  With working out, it’s all play.

Let’s remember what we work out for.