Monday, August 21, 2017

Thursday, August 17, 2017

David Bowie says it better than I do...

Things change.  (Apparently, I am full of useful observations this week…)  What this means is that we are in a constant state of adaptation, at least when we stop jumping up and down in frustration about how everything is shifting, again.  When we can accept that change happens, we have a chance to see it as an opportunity.  We can embrace the change and learn new things.

Sometimes the change is an injury.  Sometimes it is just that we are older.  Positive changes like getting stronger or lighter can also create tumult, growth, and more change.

Let’s choose more growth.  Let’s choose to dance with change rather than fight with it.  If we all do it together, it will be more fun.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Try all the things!

In breaking news, we discover that all of us are different.  Shocking, I know.  This means that when it comes time to figure out how fitness is going to work, we each have to do our own math.  It’s all right; calculators are allowed.

One of the variables is how much structure we like.  Some of us want a class with a teacher.  Some of us would rather show up at the gym and see where the day takes us.  Maybe we do better working with a friend or a trainer.  Maybe we are the strong, silent type who prefers solo long distance running.

Another variable is what we need.  We all need cardio, weight training, and flexibility work, but the balance between those elements varies with our age, fitness level, preference, and present circumstances.  If we are training for a marathon, our needs are different than when we are coming off an injury.

Other variables might include how we approach nutrition, whether we’d rather be inside our outside, and whether to blast metal or get out the show tunes.  The good news is that we get to experiment.  Try all the things and see what works!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Why we do it

One of the things I like about Pilates is that it makes me think about where my body is the rest of the time.  When we spend the time in Pilates lengthening our spines, keeping our hips square, and aligning our shoulders, it’s good practice for regular life.

We don’t (most of us) work out for the sheer love of sweat.  We do it to make the other things we do work better.  Weight training gives us the strength to attack the feng shui problem in the living room by moving all the furniture around.  Pilates helps us use good body mechanics at work.  Cardio improves our mood after traffic.

When we have fun doing the workout, too, that’s bonus!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Workout: A few tweaks

We all have favorite versions of exercises, but sometimes we need to vary the style.  I get stuck on bent over rows, so this week we’re doing bench rows with kickbacks to encourage ourselves to work asymmetrical exercises from time to time.  We’re taking our friend the squat and adding the overhead option to make it more challenging and giving our arms something to do during our lunges with the curls.  Four rounds.  Have fun!

1 min cardio

bench row/kickback
overhead squat
plyojacks/jacks/mod jacks
lateral raise
lunge to curl
pretty princesses

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday Book Report: The Technological Society

When I was a junior in high school, I concluded that the purpose of the English curriculum was to make us all despondent and suicidal, the reading list including such cheerful works as Camus’s The Stranger and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.  For bonus points, in French that year I read Sartre’s Huis Clos (that’s No Exit for you non-French-taking folks) and a few other choice pieces of literature about doom, gloom, and sometimes murder.  I was reminded of this general French tendency to despair in reading Jacques Ellul’s book, The Technological Society and have come to the conclusion that many French writers’ books should come with a pack of Gauloises and as much red wine as necessary to dull the pain.

Not that the book was not worth reading.  Despite the fact that it was written in 1964, it has a lot of relevance to our current situation as creatures in a society driven by technology.  I can only imagine what Ellul would make of our Internet age.

His central argument is that technology (or technique, in his preferred usage) is the primary force in our societies.  It is no longer a tool that humans use to improve conditions.  Instead, it shapes people and society according to its own particular needs for maximum efficiency.  He contends that we are, essentially, helpless to combat this overwhelming force because there is no longer any place where one can truly go off the grid.

That first part is fairly convincing.  He musters a lot of good thinking and research to back up his contention that technology wins.  I’m not so sure about the second part where we can’t retake our souls from the machine.  I would like to think that we are not without hope.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

We Have Some Ironing to Do

This just in:  we are all getting older (unless we are magic or dead).  To keep from feeling like it, we should consider lifting weights.

As we age, our bodies lose muscle mass if we don’t encourage them to build more.  Less muscle mass translates into a lower metabolism, reduced strength, and, often, balance challenges.

Furthermore, weight-bearing exercise preserves our bone density.  We do not want to be fragile older people.  The statistics on mortality after hip fracture do not bring joy.

The stronger we are, the longer we will be able to be active and independent.  Pump now to go farther!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Take your hamster on the (habi-)trail?

I have a tendency toward hamster-head, a condition in which the small animal that is my brain runs constantly in a circle, never quite getting anywhere, but unable to stop.  I am pretty sure I am not the only one.

So far, the best strategy for getting my hamster under control is hamster-body, otherwise known as exercise.  Getting good and breathless improves mood and focus.  It promotes healthy sleep.  Also, when all I can think about is how much my thighs burn on the five millionth squat, I have no choice but to stay in the present moment.

A tired hamster is a good hamster.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Stretch Goals...

We, culturally, spend a lot of time sitting.  Some of it is the nature of our work, or, worse, where our work is located.  And then, after work, we get lured in by a great new television series, a blockbuster film, or even a nice chat over drinks with friends.  What do we get from all of this?  A heck of a lot of stiffness.

I suggest a two-pronged approach.  No, not sticking two prongs under our behinds, although that might work…

1.     When possible, stand up and move.  Take a stroll with those friends.  Go to a concert and dance like no one is watching.  It might be extreme to use a spin bike as a decorative element, but in my living room, I have one placed where I can binge watch cop shows with slightly less guilt.
2.     Stretch.  Stretching should be our transitional object.  Getting in the car?  Stretch.  Getting out of the car?  Stretch.  Done with dinner?  Stretch.  Stuck in line?  Stretch.  Tools help.  I have a point-pressing duck and a lacrosse ball in my car.  I travel with yoga tune-up balls and sometimes even rollers.

If we do these two things, when we get to our workouts, we will find that our bodies move better.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday Workout: Remember these?

Incline presses are sneaky.  They are just that little bit harder than bench presses, so they give us a new challenge.  We’re continuing to work on oblique core stuff with the single arm clean and press and the quadruped.  Four rounds!

1 min cardio

1 arm clean and press
incline press
bench dips

Thursday, August 3, 2017

In Out Repeat

Cardio exercise, among other things, teaches us to appreciate breathing.  Nothing like a good, solid, heart-pounding interval to make a person notice the lungs working like champs.

Those of us who feel stressed or anxious can use cardio to help us.  When we raise our heart rate and breathe heavily during exercise on purpose, it teaches us to tolerate that feeling for those times when we are experiencing the same things due to bad circumstances like panic attacks.  Our bodies learn to recover and, by tuning in, our brains can, too.

Focusing on our breathing no matter what we are doing improves our consciousness.  Sometimes we breathe shallowly, sometimes deeply.  We breathe quickly or slowly.  We can choose the breaths that serve us best.

And, of course, we want to keep on breathing.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Real Life?

It is the time of year when I often think about how convenient it is that weights are shaped the way they are.  I think this because it is the time of year when I have to help move things that are not shaped like weights.  Mattresses may not be all that heavy, but they sure are awkward.  Ikea boxes seem to be made of special frictionless cardboard designed to slide right out of my hands.

This whole concept is the thrust behind functional fitness.  Workouts that incorporate objects that are more like things we meet in real life or that mimic motions we need to use for ordinary purposes have practical use.

I don’t have any plans to incorporate fifteen reps of mattress schlepping into a workout any time soon, but the work we do gripping things in different ways, perfecting balance, and using unstable surfaces will help us meet life’s actual challenges better.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Get in Line!

One of the things that I love about Pilates is that it helps us focus in on our alignment.  Alignment, along with core control, is key to maintaining balance and avoiding pain, which are both Good Things.

Some questions to ask ourselves to encourage alignment:

What are my shoulders doing right now?
Where is my pelvis?  Is it tilted forward or back?  Is one side higher than the other?  More forward?
What about my head?  Am I looking up or down?  Do I always tilt it one way or the other?

First we notice, then we correct.