Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Who are you? It helps to know!

How do you learn?  This is an important question for anyone seeking positive changes, especially in fitness.  A similar, but related question, is what are your particular kinds of intelligence?

One way to answer the first question comes from David Kolb’s learning styles.  (A quick web search can find you an assessment to test yourself!)  He found four:  diverging, assimilating, converging, and accommodating.  I don’t think the names describe the states all that well.  Essentially, he places people along one axis from thinking to feeling and another from doing to watching.  Divergers learn by feeling and watching; assimilators learn by thinking and watching; convergers learn by thinking and doing; and accommodators learn by feeling and doing.  When you know how you work best, you can maximize those kinds of experiences in your learning process.  In fitness, this might mean an assimilator would want to watch a demonstration of a new exercise and think through exactly what the body is doing, what muscles are working, and how to progress through each step.

Howard Gardner provides a way to answer the second question.  He proposes seven types of intelligence:  linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.  (Again, a quick web search can help you test yourself!)  When you attack a new task, if you do it from a position of strength, you are likely to have more success.  A person with strong musical intelligence, say, might use the music of an exercise class to imprint the motions into her or his brain and body, while a linguistic person might need to talk him- or  herself through the steps.

There are so many great tools out there!  Let’s use them!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I met my goal; can I help you with yours?

I did it!  I finished my NASM Behavior Change Specialization!  I have new tools that I can use to help clients meet their goals.  Heck, I have new skills to help them set those goals in the first place!

If you’re already working with me, let’s take the opportunity to check in on where you are and where you want to go.  If you are just considering what you might like to do, let’s talk and see if I can help you along your journey!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Monday Workout: Holiday? What holiday?

We’ve been doing a lot of short circuits, so it was time to get back to the 30/20/10 model.  I made the squats a 10, so if you want to continue working heavy after last week, it will work.  We can all benefit from some shoulder stability, so we get to do YTA, too.  It’s a surprisingly difficult exercise with great benefits!  Three rounds.

bench press
squats (can go heavy)

jump lunges

ball woodchoppers
ball slams
ball rescues

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday Book Report: A Leg to Stand On

Oliver Sacks’s book A Leg To Stand On tells a great story.  It’s a story of personal triumph over adversity, including a near-death adventure, a giant bull, and swelling classical music.  And it is a great exploration of proprioception at the same time.  Sacks, as a neuropsychologist and doctor, brought unique skills to bear on an exploration of his own major injury and the resulting loss of recognition of his leg.  The surgical repair went well, but somehow he could not feel his leg at all.  It vanished from his sense of his body.  He does, eventually recover both full use of his leg and his leg does rejoin his body-concept, but it is a fascinating and frustrating process.

What he learns, among other things, is that our bodies define themselves in action.  Our movements make ourselves.

Even if I hadn’t been interested in the subject itself, I think I would have enjoyed the book because he is a smart, literate person with a flair for language and a poetic sense of the world.  I recommend the book!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

In which we investigate clues from literature...

This is a picture of lavender.  Every time I see it, I think, “Rabbit tobacco,” because I spent many, many hours reading Beatrix Potter with my kids when they were small.  In The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, the aforementioned bunnies eat some lettuces, which have “a very soporific effect.”  Who says children’s literature can’t use interesting words?  The resulting nap almost results in bunny pie, but the bunnies do get rescued in the end.

I am not writing this to encourage the reading of Beatrix Potter, although that is a perfectly good idea.  Rather, I would like to point out that what we eat affects how we feel.  If we are lucky in our lives, we will never be in danger of becoming a pie.  Nevertheless, it might be a good idea to notice how we feel based on what we eat.  Maybe we will discover that we can feel more energetic or calmer or happier if we include or avoid different kinds of food.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Remind me...

I absolutely believe that mindfulness is a Good Thing.  But sometimes mindlessness can be our friend, too.  When we build a habit, a real one, we don’t have to spend a lot of energy making ourselves do whatever it is.

This is the theory behind exercising first thing in the morning, right after using the bathroom and brushing our teeth.  All of a sudden, there we are, finished with our cardio and we’re just about awake.  We didn’t think about it.  We didn’t have to talk ourselves into it.  We just put on our shoes and went, on autopilot.

Not everyone is a morning person, so maybe the autopilot needs to kick in on the way home from work, making the car travel to the gym on the way home, so that when we come out of our freeway daze, there we are, ready to work out.

Do whatever works!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hot off the press...

Sometimes working out when it’s hot seems like way too much trouble.  It’s not.  It is still good for us to move and work and stretch.  However, there are a few ways to make it more bearable:

Do it early or late:  Avoid that middle of the day boiling period.  Go before the sun gets up and enjoy the stillness, or after the sun goes down and we can all breathe again.

Take it inside.  This might mean working out in the air conditioned gym, or doing our walk at the mall.

Get wet, inside and out.  Sprinkler tag anyone?  Swimming, paddle-boarding, surfing, and water polo are also good choices.  And it is super duper extra double important to drink water during the workout when it is hot out.  Dehydration is Very Bad and will make us feel like we have been run over by six bulldozers and an elephant.

Embrace the heat?  If all else fails, this might be the time to decide that the yoga practice is really Hot Yoga.  Maybe Hot Weights haven’t caught on yet, but we can be trend-setters.

We can do this.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday Workout: Heavy duty!

This week we’re going to do some heavier squats.  Heavy weights are a challenge in an interval workout, so we all get bonus points.  Four rounds.

1 min cardio

heavy squats
mountain climbers
tricep kickbacks

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Book Report: The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project is my kind of book.  I like the whole idea of projects where a person takes a year to do some thing or other.  I like lists.  I fantasize about charts.  And who does not want to be happy?  (Put your hands down, Shoe Gazers.  I don’t believe you.)  As a person with depression, I am always looking for ways to fight the monster, although the book specifically says, perhaps on the advice of lawyers, that it is directed not at people with clinical depression, but at average humans who would simply like to be happier.

There is lots of research stuffed into the text.  The anecdotes are amusing.  One could simply go forth and do what Rubin did and it would probably make a good amount of difference.  The more intriguing possibility is to take what she did and customize.  She chose a focus for each month, beginning in January with working on having more energy (getting enough sleep, exercising, acting as if, etc.).  Some of her foci might not make sense for different people; those of us who are not parents of small children don’t need to work on our parenting skills.  I haven’t checked it out, but there is also a blog with online resources.

The book also came at a good time for me.  As I’ve mentioned, I’m in the process of doing my Behavior Change Specialization for continuing education.  It is almost June, an excellent time to check in on how my plan for this year is coming along (remember that vision board?).  In the remaining days of May, I’m going to be getting my ducks in a row to Happiness Project and Behavior Change my way through the rest of the year.  Anyone want to join me?  If so, let’s talk and figure out how we can work together.  (It should be obvious, but just in case, I’m talking about this as a personal project and not a work project, even though it intersects with my work interests in general well-being.)

Let’s get happy.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

But don't flip off the freezer...

In general, I would argue that we need more politeness in the world rather than less.  A little social lubrication goes a long way toward preventing riots and mayhem and freeway shootings.  However, I think there is one way the politeness habit does us a disservice.  We feel we have to respond.  And that can get in the way of mindful behavior.  Go with me here…

We all have or know of someone who has a toxic relationship.  At a certain point, the only way to deal with the mess is to get out of it, block the number, move away, get the restraining order, whatever is necessary.  No matter what stimulus the toxic person offers, we have to ignore it because nothing good will come of responding.  But every time, when the phone rings or the text comes or whatever, we have to fight our politeness training that says we have to answer.

Now let’s apply the principle to a more metaphorical relationship.  Let’s imagine we have a toxic relationship with ice cream.  There we are at the store and the ice cream speaks to us.  It would be rude to ignore it, right?  We are trained to reply to stimulus.  When we are mindful, we can choose not to answer the ice cream.  We can blow it off, no matter what promises it makes about how this time it is going to be different.

Maybe ice cream will stop liking us.  I think we can cope with that.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Because it is efficient!

Most of us don’t have a lot of spare time.  We are busy, productive, creative people.   We thrive on being efficient.

It might not seem like it, but exercise is efficient.  Here’s why:

Being sick takes too much time.  Exercise keeps us healthy and prevents chronic disease.  Maybe we don’t love to spend time in the gym, but it beats the heck out of the hospital.

It cuts out the stress.  Everything goes better when we are calmer and nothing makes us calmer than getting all that aggression out in the gym.  Meditation can be tricky, but with yoga, you get to move at the same time!  Align the chi and burn calories!  What’s not to like?

It creates more energy.  Exercise lifts mood, improves metabolism, and gives us more oomph!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Stages of Change

One of the things I love about my job is that I get to keep learning things.  It might be obvious that I’m constantly reading things to increase my knowledge base.  Additionally, I am required to do some formal continuing education every two years to keep my personal training certification up to date.  Last week, I started my Behavior Modification Specialization, which I expect to give me more tools to help clients be successful in reaching their goals.

We all have changes we would like to make or that we should make.  One of the things we have to figure out is where we are on a scale of readiness to change.  The model I’m learning suggests that there are five:  precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.

In the first three stages, the work that goes on is mostly about education and consciousness-raising.  Action and maintenance are where the change really happens and where it becomes part of our lives forever.

We need to think about where we are now.  Do we need more information?  Do we need to consider options?  Or do we need to get moving?  Wherever we are, we can work together to get better!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday Workout: Small muscles are important, too!

This week we’re getting in some basics.  Our deltoids, generally, can’t lift a whole lot of weight, but they are crucial to our shoulder health and our vanity when wearing warm-weather tops.  Good mornings, similarly, don’t often involve the most humongous of weights, but strengthen and tone the whole back of the body.  Four rounds.

1 min cardio

ball slams
ball flies
good mornings
lateral raises
Russian twist or barbell twist

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Book Report: Extraordinary Minds

Howard Gardner’s Extraordinary Minds provides an interesting discussion of what makes for excellence.  Gardner is the man who brought us the concept of multiple intelligences, a welcome concept to those of us who don’t thrive on monoculture.

He posits four major kinds of extraordinary people, Masters, Makers, Introspectors, and Influencers, each with a particular focus.  He illustrates each kind with a case study, of Mozart, Freud, Woolf, and Gandhi, respectively.

While he states that, obviously, we can’t all be extraordinary by definition, he does suggest that a commitment to excellence can bring us all closer to being extraordinary along with three core practices:  reflection, leverage, and framing.  We live in challenging times; it behooves us to consider what we might need to rise to meet them.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Incomplete was your training!

You get what you train.  This sounds obvious because it is obvious, and yet we forget.  If we train our muscles to get bigger, we get bigger muscles.  If we train our bodies to be more flexible, we bend better.

There are limits:  It would take an act of God to make me a basketball player.  I’m not made out of whatever it is that gymnasts are made out of (superballs?).   But, the point stands.

What do you want?  Who do you want to emulate?  Do you want to be like Serena Williams? Or Yuan Yuan Tan?  Is your goal more Dwayne Johnson or Haile Gebreselassie?  Let’s train for THAT.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

They have an event for that, right?

My son made me a sewing box in shop class a few years back.  It is beautiful, solid wood.  And it weighs about forty pounds.  (I am a pretty good estimator of stuff like that.)  My ironing board, which I stole fair and square from my mother, who stole it fair and square from her mother-in-law, is solid, sturdy, and heavy as sin.  I keep my fabric in plastic tubs on the top shelf of my office closet, which can be reached only by standing on a lower shelf, twisting around, swearing loudly (that part might be optional, but I wouldn’t know), and heaving awkwardly.

This is why I work out:  so I can be strong and agile enough to sew.

I am half joking.

I have made the point before and I will make it again, I am sure.  I never waste a good point.  Fitness is not an end in itself.  We work on fitness so we can do other things we really want to do, whether that is running through fields of flowers with our beloveds or hauling down the big mixer to make cookies with our kids.

For the record, I intend to win the Olympic event of carrying a sewing box around spiral stairs without whacking too many shins.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I get to pick up T. today, so thoughts on driving!

Because I am exceptionally lucky, I do not have to drive every day.  I might pick commuting as my least favorite part of contemporary society, except for the usual racism/sexism/agism/ablism stuff, and rudeness, I hate rudeness.  The reasons I do not like driving pretty much boil down to this:  it’s uncomfortable and it’s bad for us.  Since my Tuesday is going to be spent driving, here are my favorite tips for how to make it less horrible.

1.     Bring a tennis ball.  Or a lacrosse ball, or a fancy yoga tune-up ball.  Placed between your back and the seat, it can remove some of those tension knots and improve posture at the same time.  Under one cheek on the seat, it relieves hip and butt tension.  Please note:  there is no throwing of balls in the car.  Do not make me turn around.
2.     Bring a duck.  I’ve written about the duck before.  The duck is a curved plastic stick with a duck head shape at one end.  It hooks over your shoulder and releases the pressure points in that spot where you really love it when people rub with their thumbs.  The duck I have cost $1.50 at the Daiso store.  It is worth the investment.
3.    Sing.  This is not about the power of music, although that is also good for transforming a chore into an adventure.  It’s not even about entertaining the drivers around you with your patented arm motions.  It’s about breathing.  If you are singing, you are definitely breathing and breathing leads to All Good Things.
4.     Bring rations.  Water and snacks can turn what seems like forty years of wandering in the desert into a quick jaunt with scenery.
5.     Clean your car.  It’s the last thing we want to do when we finally arrive.  It’s no big deal to leave those wrappers there.  We might need that scarf/jacket/hat tomorrow.  Do it anyway.  Making your habitat nice makes you nicer.  Trust me.

6.    (This one is cheating.)  Only drive to good places.  If you want to go or if you want to see the people there, it will be a better drive.