Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Design and Build

I have the luxury of wearing workout clothes all day, every day, except for special occasions.  This means I am always ready to hit the gym.  Also, it means that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what would be best to wear while sweating.  I’m going to talk about it anyway, because not everyone gets to go to work in play clothes.

On some level, it doesn’t really matter what we wear to work out.  If we can move and we can avoid revealing parts we would rather not show, all good.  However, a few tweaks can make a big difference.

We have to wear shoes that work for us.  Some of us have bodies that prefer barefoot-type shoes.  Some of us need more support.  We need to figure out which kind of body we have and plan accordingly because foot problems (ask me how I know!) travel up the body and impede our ability to work out at all.

In general, I am not a fan of specialized things.  That said, the specialized fabrics that workout clothes now come in are awesome.  I’m not just talking about the magic stretching power of Lycra.  I mean the shirts and pants that breathe and don’t turn into cottony water weights that chafe and drag on us.  It doesn’t need to cost a lot to get workout clothes that suit the purpose better than the old t-shirt from the bottom of the drawer.

And it is not bad to have workout clothes that make us feel good.  If we can look in the mirror and see ourselves in something becoming while we are becoming stronger and more powerful, so much the better!  It’s all part of taking care of ourselves.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The After-Holiday Plan

Not that anyone I know might have this problem, but what do we do to get back on track if we happen to have spent the holiday weekend, well, celebrating?

First, as The Hitchhiker’s Guide says, don’t panic.  Panic will only cause a surge in stress hormones, which, among other things, tell our bodies to keep All The Calories.  This will not help.  If we are tempted to panic, we should perhaps keep in mind the other important advice from the Guide:  know where our towel is.  That is, take a hot bath, or a swim, or do some other thing that is both calming and foodless.

Second, we need to do our cardio.  It burns calories.  That is what it is for.  It also improves our mood, our brain function, and our ability to sleep.

Third, we need to lift some weights.  Not all the weights.  Not all in one day and never again.  But we do need to do it in order to change our body composition and to ramp up our metabolisms.

Finally, we need to eat the good foods, the ones that help us love our bodies, the ones that help us keep a clear head, a good digestion, and a healthy heart. 

If we really really over-celebrated, it might take a week or so for the new plan to get us feeling better, but we can do this.

(The photo is advice from a sidewalk in Berkeley, which is not necessarily a reputable source, but I think the advice is pretty good anyway.)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday Workout: Few Exercises, More Rounds

This week’s workout is another one with few exercises, so we’ll do four or five rounds.

1 min

side lunge
curl to press
crouch jacks/plyojacks/etc
roll out abs

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thank you!

I am blessed.  Thank you, everyone, for being in my life.  My family, my friends, my clients, you all bring me so much joy.  May this day and all your days be full of good things.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Do it anyway!

When we are in the midst of holiday preparations or traveling, it is a challenge to fit in our workouts.  We need to do it anyway.

For one thing, we need to remember that we are important, too.  Taking care of ourselves is a prerequisite for taking care of other people.  It gives us an opportunity to set a good example for our kids (or maybe the other adults around us who could use a little nudge in a good direction). 

Additionally, we will have more energy and sharpness to use as we work and play on the holiday.  Who doesn’t want that?  Cardio will help us sleep better and manage our stress.  Weights will help us keep our metabolisms on track.  Pilates and yoga will help us stay centered and peaceful.

We can do this!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How to Holiday

This week, for most adults, begins the onslaught of holiday food (those of us who started at Halloween got a head start).  If we do not want to end up in January wondering what the heck happened, we have to have a plan.  Here are some suggestions.

Don’t contribute to the problem.  We like to give food gifts, but we can choose healthier ones, like spice mixes or pickles or whole grain muffins instead of cookies and candy.  When we bring something for the big dinner, we can choose to bring vegetables or salad without the super fatty and sugary touches.  Don’t push seconds.  Choose small plates.  Freeze the leftovers right away so they are not there, lurking in the fridge for that moment of boredom.

Manage emotions.  This is easier said than done when we mix crazy relatives and high expectations.  However, it is always a good idea to take a walk, or play some backyard football, or take the kids to the park.  Movement does wonders.  Making sure to take care of ourselves also helps; if we need to hop in a hot bath and tell no one to bug us unless things are on fire, so be it.

Have a taste, unless that is a trigger.  If Aunt Mildrid made that special pie you have loved since you were tiny just for you, it is all right to have a little.  We work on our fitness in order to enjoy life, so enjoy that small piece.  Unless, of course, that piece acts like a gateway drug and suddenly you are shooting up powdered sugar in the kitchen at midnight.

Laugh.  These are holidays, after all.  Find the good parts and savor them.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Monday Workout: Thankful for our bodies!

This week’s workout has some good-for-us compound exercises to keep our heart rate up and our whole body working.  If you do not have a medicine ball, you can do the lunge twists with a dumbbell.  If you do not have a kettle bell, you can use a dumbbell for the over yets as well.  (See here for how to do over yets).  Three rounds!

step up to press
ball flies

med ball lunge twists
ball bench press
over yets

lateral raises

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Book Report: Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence has been around for a while, but I didn’t get around to reading it until now.  In some ways, this is a meta-book, drawing together information from a lot of different researchers, some of whose work I have read in other contexts. 

Perhaps it is because the ideas have already seeped out into the culture or perhaps because they seem intuitive, but I didn’t think there was that much exciting in the book.  Essentially, knowing how to recognize and manage our emotions allows us to function in society to the best of our other abilities; we unlock our other intelligences by using our emotional intelligence.

From a fitness perspective, this concept speaks to engaging the mind-body connection.  We recognize our emotions in part through how they feel in our bodies.  Tuning into our bodies and using our bodies to enhance or soothe our emotional state will create a better starting point for our other activities in life.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Door number 1

Time for a list of things that induce happiness, which reduces stress, which increases health.  Ten things!

1.     Going outside!
2.     Singing along with the radio, in the shower, or with friends.
3.    Hot water.  May combine with tea and consume, or bubbles and soak.
4.     Bubbles.  Blowing them compels breathing, which is always good.
5.     Hugs.
6.    Knock knock jokes.  Or puns.  Or banana peels.  Whatever it takes to make laughter.
7.     Babies, human or animal.
8.     Art, visual, performance, textual, etc.  Make it or check it out.
9.     Sweat.  If achieved through chores/yardwork, bonus points for achievement.  If achieved through exercise, bonus points for health.  If achieved through sex, double bonus points that require no explanation.

10. Gratitude.  If things could be worse, that means there are things to be grateful for, and things could always be worse.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Sometimes when we work out, we fall into pits.  Not literally, unless we are doing some sort of extreme obstacle course training, in which case I am not part of the we we are discussing!  Metaphorical pits are just as dangerous to our fitness goals as literal ones.

Not surprisingly, the most common pits are at opposite ends of a spectrum.  When in doubt, choose the middle road.

One end might best be described as the pit of despair.  We can’t do anything right.  We will never achieve our goals.  We pretty much suck at everything we are doing.  Everyone else in the entire universe is better, stronger, faster, more coordinated, and cuter.  Nope.  Not true.  We can always improve.  When we work hard, good things will happen.  True, the first thing that happens may be that we develop some extreme patience, but that is a good thing.  When we fall into the pit of despair, we need to use the Ladder of Doing Something.  Anything we do is better than nothing, because the bottom of the pit is a depressing place to be.  Walk five minutes.  Do one pushup.  Do a forward bend and try to reach your knees (no, not your toes; that’s for a day when you are not in the pit.).

The other end is the pit of comfort.  It’s nice there.  We are nice.  We recognize that we are so nice that we don’t feel like we have to do much of anything.  This pit is sneaky.  We may not even recognize that we are in it because it is so cozy there, doing the same easy exercises over and over again.  The way out of this pit is the Ladder of One More and One Higher.  Do the extra rep.  Add a pound or two or five to the weight.  Try the advanced version of the exercise.

We are both awesome and terrible at the same time.  We can offer solace through effort to our terrible selves and motivation through striving to our awesome selves.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Join me?

I might need some patience in this post because my ideas are sometimes not as coherent as I’d like them to be.  Lately, I feel like it is more important to say something, even if I don’t get it quite right, and correct it later rather than say nothing because it might not be perfect.

We live in a divided and divisive society.  Conflict is everywhere, in families, among friends, even between our own bodies and minds.  Conflict, like stress, is not necessarily bad, unless we deal with it in ways that hurt ourselves or others.  At best, conflict is a challenge that gives us an opportunity for growth.

One of the reasons I love to work in fitness is that I find the strength that builds in our bodies empowers us in other areas of our lives.  When we become more mindful and flexible and strong physically, we also grow mentally and spiritually.  It’s a holistic process (I lived in Berkeley for 20 years, so I am allowed to use the word holistic.).

I also believe that as we grow, we have a responsibility to help others grow, too.  We can choose to connect and to learn together and to build.

End of the manifesto part.  On to the practical.  I may not be able to save the world, but I can open my studio.  On Friday mornings at 7, I will be teaching mat Pilates to anyone who comes.  (Message me if you don’t know where my studio is and all that stuff…)  We can take an hour to be mindful together while moving.

On every weekday morning, I’ll be in the studio meditating between 6 and 7.  Anyone who likes can join me.  I’m not an expert at meditation.  I have no formal training and no certifications.  I may be playing some guided meditation CDs or I may be playing meditative music or I may just be sitting there quietly.  I have some pillows and such for sitting, or bring your own.  I don’t have a lot to offer, but I can offer a space and a time for anyone who would like to share.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Monday workout: Slam and punch

This week’s workout includes two fun pieces of equipment, a medicine ball and a kettle bell.  If anyone happens to have any aggression lying around, this workout will help channel it into something positive:  between the ball slams and the punches, our imaginary demons will end up smashed to smithereens!

Do three rounds.

ball slams

kb swings
kb twists
kb 8s

good mornings

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Book Review: Margot Fonteyn

I think that ballerinas are bad-ass.  (Male dancers are, too, of course, but that is not as relevant to the current topic.)  They have to be both incredibly strong and incredibly flexible.  They need to balance in improbable positions, maintain a strong sense of musicality, and make everything nearly impossible look essentially effortless.  Also, they get to wear satiny shoes and tutus.  In this context, it is no surprise that when I ran across a copy of Margot Fonteyn’s Autobiography for $.99, I bought it.

Her prose is deft and her story interesting, although I get the impression that she liked pretty much everyone, or at least had good enough manners not to say anything nasty or competitive.  She certainly had amazing opportunities created by her hard work to see the world and meet many powerful people.

I admit I am a little obsessed right now with the question of the responsibility of public figures in sports/entertainment/arts when it comes to social issues.  Given that, I was dismayed at her account of her decision to perform in apartheid-era South Africa and by her adulation for Imelda Marcos.  However, I have the luxury of forming an opinion after history has spoken.

The photos are breathtaking.  Then again, I could look at dancers all day.

If you are looking for a fairy tale, this book is up your alley.  (Do fairy tales ever happen in alleys?)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Little by little

Let’s talk about the small stuff.  Sometimes it is harder than the big stuff, but here are five small things that can create positive change in our lives.

Change the chair.  Desk time happens for all of us.  If we swap out the chair for an exercise ball for even some of the day, we will notice the difference in our posture, our core control, and our stress level (because who can sit without bouncing every once in a while on a giant ball?).  If that’s not an option, try standing, or at least stretching in place every hour.

Trade in the drink.  Substitute a glass of water for any one other beverage during the day.  We can save calories, reduce our caffeine levels, increase our hydration, and enable our bodies to flush out the bad stuff.

Embrace the tofu.  Maybe not literally: that would be messy.  The fewer animal products we consume, the better the results for our health.  One day a week, go veg.  If that’s too much, try one meal.

Go the long way.  When we come back from the store with all those bags of groceries, we can make lots of trips back and forth to bring them all in.  We can alternate upstairs and downstairs chores.  We can choose the lunch spot based on walking distance rather than cuisine.

Breathe.  In.  Out.  Repeat.  Nice and slow, nice and deep, all day long.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

This is one of my favorite pictures of my kid

Often, I think, there is a sense that mindfulness is serious business.  We have to concentrate, darn it!  That’s true, but also incomplete.

Sometimes I find it helpful to recognize the silliness of things.  (Fine.  Most of the time.)  When we are moving mindfully, we open ourselves to the possibility that we are graceful, but also the possibility that we look like contorted frogs.  In the latter case, laughing makes sense.

Holding the body in continual tension causes us lasting discomfort.  Nothing breaks up that tension (or works our abs!) more than cracking up.  Let’s tune in to the funny side of things today.