Tagged: balance

Use Your Senses

One of the keys to successfully achieving your fitness goals through resistance training (weight lifting) is to have proper form and tempo. I find that many of my clients have very limited body awareness when it comes to either isolating a muscle/muscle groups, or knowing where their body’s limitations truly are.

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To help someone achieve better body awareness, and thereby better body toning and fat loss (through resistance training), I often coach my clients to exercise using senses other than visual (eyes/sight) or kinetic (touch). The way to do this is simple, you close your eyes, and breathe!

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Okay, it might not be quite that simple, but allow me to clarify. As you perform any exercise – let’s say standing dumbbell biceps curls – you make sure both feet are evenly spaced and that you are balanced in your disbursement of weight to both feet (i.e., not having one foot placed in front of the other, or leaning slightly to bear more weight on one foot).

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Then you close your eyes, and slowly curl the dumbbells up (by bending the elbow) and then slowly back down to starting position – al the while breathing in with the up, and out with the down. Repeat this for the requisite amount of reps (i.e., 10-15 repetitions). As you conduct the exercise in this manner, it is essential that you pay attention to how your body feels, what muscles are contracting, what muscles (if any) are straining, how your spine feels, and when your muscles feel fatigue.

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By keeping your breath to a slow and even pace, there should be less tension within your core and your focus can easily stay on the muscles that are supposed to be utilized in the exercise. Also, by keeping a slow and steady pace, while having your eyes closed so you have to FEEL instead of SEE your form, you’re more likely to have better form which will result in quicker results and less risk of injury.

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I recommend trying this approach with at least one standing exercise, one seated exercise, and one supine exercise (lying on your back) all of which conducted with dumbbells (vs. machines). This way you can fully benefit from better body awareness and control as you move the weights without assistance and without visually watching your form.

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So next time you’re at the gym or at home with your dumbbells, give this a try and note any new understandings you experience about your body and how to use your muscles. Your fitness goals will thank you!

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Be A Flamingo

With the second week of January upon us, I thought my readers and dutiful clients would enjoy a challenge that will change up your workouts and keep you from plateauing. I call it the Flamingo workout. No, you don’t parade around in pink feathers preening while you stand in ankle-high water. But you DO stand on one leg!

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The simple beauty of this concept is that while performing almost all of the exact exercises you currently utilize, you can strengthen your core, improve balance, delivery extra tone to your legs, and burn more calories. It works like this: any and all exercises that can be executed standing up (vs. sitting on a bench) should be done so on one leg. Example: standing biceps curls (whether dumbbells, barbell, or cables) can be “flamingo-ed” as you stand on one leg for 10 reps, then 10 more reps while standing on the other leg.

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“But what about exercises where you must to be in a supine (on your back) or seated position” you ask (like flat bench press, or seated lat row)? Then you become a one-winged Flamingo by holding only one weight or one machine arm handle or cable and challenging your core to keep your torso level and balanced (preferably with your legs in the up or out in the air as well). As for leg exercises, there are a myriad of single-leg focused exercises to choose from that will incorporate this concept: i.e., single leg touch downs, super-skaters, step-back lunges, etc.

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The most important aspect of the Flamingo Workout is balance. If your ankles are weak or your core just doesn’t support you, start slowly, and be willing to tap your foot down as a balance check when needed. Some may think it’s easy to stand on one leg when they try it without any weights, but introduce one 15 lb. dumbbell into the equation and many a stable “flamingo” will fall over!

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With practice soon enough you will find improvement in all the areas this benefits (balance, strength, stability, and muscle tone). So the next time you are standing around curling, pressing, pushing some weights around, do so on one leg and you will take your workout to another level.

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Neutral Perspective

As a life coach I find that my most used strategy in helping a client create a better and happier situation for themselves (whether relationships, career, or their emotional health) is to guide them to see a problem from a different perspective. We tend to approach all problems from the same angle with the same emotional perspective that is our “go to view” based upon our baggage and inherent personality traits. Quite often, that approach results in a failure to change the situation for the better.

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Although it’s difficult to see a situation through foreign eyes, it is essential to breaking patterns that are detrimental to your life. I call the strategy “neutral perspective.” In a sense it’s about seeing the FACTS (factual evidence is generally indisputable) from an unemotional viewpoint. Once you look at the issues that are tangible and real and remove your own issues from the equation, a clear solution always presents itself.

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A long time ago I heard a psychologist on the radio share a wonderful modern-day fable that perfectly demonstrates neutral perspective. It is the story of Three Men and a Naked Lady (bet you didn’t see that coming)! It goes like this:

Three men are sitting in a car at a stop light. Suddenly a completely naked woman walks in front of their car through the cross walk.

The driver views her with contempt for so brazenly taunting him and deems her a sinner and whore.

The front passenger views her with lust and admiration, knowing with certainty that she would welcome his advances and that perhaps he should follow her.

The back passenger though at first quite shocked, realizes that something is amiss and this poor woman needs help. He jumps out of the car, drapes his coat around her, and offers her a ride. She is beyond grateful. Turns out she was a kind and very wealthy woman who after being kidnaped and robbed, managed a daring escape albeit without her clothes. After accompanying her to the police and seeing to her safe return home, a week later the woman repays the man’s kindness with a lovely dinner and within a year they are married and live happily ever after.

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This is a perfect example of emotional vs. neutral perspective. The first man felt inadequate in his relationships and had a negative view on women in general. The second man had learned to cover up his insecurities with arrogance and false bravado. The last man was emotionally balanced enough to look at the tangible facts in a situation and act accordingly. He saw a naked woman with bruises on her arms, crying and looking quite scared. He knew this had nothing to do with him.

So whatever it is in your life that is bringing you strife, stress, and/or heartache, perhaps it’s time you viewed the situation with neutral perspective. Once you can see clearly what the problem truly is (through factual evidence), a solution will clearly present itself. Then you just have to face implementing that solution – which is very often not easy but if the stakes are high enough to you, anything can be made better!

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If you are interested in some life coaching help, http://www.danelifefitness.com.

NO Shortcuts!

Working out at the gym yesterday I caught a glimpse of an infomercial selling the most ridiculous fitness-related device I’d ever seen: the “Miss Belt.” A wide velcro “compression” belt designed to squeeze your fat into place so that you’ll get “the perfect waistline in seconds” and give you an “hour-glass shape.” All for the cheap price of $19.99 + $7.99 S/H.

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I literally stopped my workout and started laughing. I looked around, and several women giggled with me but a few others looked intrigued. This reminded me of the fact that so many are still looking for a shortcut, a quick remedy, an easy fix, a way to look and feel better without having to do any exercise or change your nutrition.

What is really infuriating about this product is that it messes with our society’s already confused idea of what is the “perfect” body type.  This belt contradicts the current desired body type — that of slim, skinny, and flat stomached — by offering to reposition your body into a curvy, Mae West-type hour-glass shape.  Worse yet, they show women ranging from fat to slender all enjoying the ease and comfort of this product and they even suggest that you can confidently wear it OVER your clothes (not hidden underneath) and look up to two sizes slimmer.  I’m sorry, who are we deceiving here and why? I won’t even get into the question of how does your body look and feel after hours of wearing this unflattering corset.

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Women and girls are confused enough about their body image, and this throws it all into chaos in my opinion. I hate to break it to you again, but there are NO shortcuts. If you want to have a healthy percentage of body fat, and a decent level of strength and stamina then you have to make the commitment to eat all things in moderation, exercise regularly, and actively seek to eliminate gratuitous stress from your life and environment.

Until everyone is willing to take responsibility for their physical condition (or lack there of), corporations will continue to make millions of dollars off the desperate and/or lazy selling us ab toning devices, fat-burning DVDs, and body slimming belts.

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Save your money – adjust your nutrition, and make a firm schedule of 30-minutes of exercise three to four times a week and you’ll get to your goal. It’s that simple and easy. Write to me when you’re ready to make that change. Until then, turn off that infomercial and walk away from the TV!

Deal With It Or Dump It

Who’s got baggage – and I’m not talking about luggage as you head out on a trip – I’m talking about unresolved issues or relationships that you tote around for days, weeks, and even years?  You know, those feelings of anger, depression or disappointment about something or someone that you just haven’t gotten over?

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Do you chronically complain to your friends, family, and co-workers about said issue, while never do anything to resolve it? Do you re-hash conversations and actions, constantly poking at the internal scabs? Are you in a relationship or friendship that drags you down, yet you remain intent on fixing what probably cannot be fixed?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. But the more important question is what do you do about that baggage? It’s simple my friends – deal with it, or dump it.

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Staying stuck on hurt feelings or problems results in only one thing – staying stuck. By choosing to deal with your feelings or a problem (i.e., face them, find a solution, and take action) you will bring a slice of peace to your life which reduces stress and puts you in a healthier state of being. If the situation or person is something/someone that simply can’t be dealt with – then just dump it or them. As harsh as that sounds sometimes the best solution is to walk away and remove yourself from the detrimental situation or relationship.

The excuses that will blast into your brain at the thought are normal fears because change is scary, and finances, when involved, are always a valid concern. But ultimately (forgive the trite adage) where there’s a will there’s a way.

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Start slowly if you need to; take small situations and just deal with them or dump them. Have a heartfelt conversation to clear the air, or start saying NO when facing something negative that you tend to involve yourself with out of habit. Stop being afraid to simply state your feelings and needs.

As for “dumping” a person, obviously that’s tricky but with positive motivation behind you it’s not as hard as you think. I’m not taking about simple evading tactics (not answering calls, texts, or emails), I’m talking about letting a person know that your relationship/friendship is not functioning on a healthy level, and if they’re not willing to meet you half way to fix it, then you are no longer going to participate in that relationship.

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A lot of this comes down to your willingness to just LET GO. So many of us are “control-freaks” who simply refuse to let anything go even when it’s not working. We’re certain that somehow someway we can get it right. We don’t want to be quitters after all. Yet sometimes the best choice is to quit, to walk away, let it go but not see that action as a failure. It took me many years to learn that, and now I just let the crap go and/or walk away when I realize I’m swimming against an unrelenting current.

For those of you who find it hard to not focus on the problem – work on shifting your focus onto something positive that you can control, like exercise, nutrition, or just filling your time with only people and environments that have a positive affect on your life. I am well aware that all of this is easy to say and not necessarily easy to do. But nothing worthwhile is, and I can attest first hand that with practice it gets much easier.

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So take stock, and if there’s something dragging you down – deal with it or dump it.

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Exercise and Senior Citizens

As a member of the Baby Boomer Generation, I am pleased to see that on the whole we are a generation maintaining our physical fitness levels far better than our parents did. However, fitness for people over 60, whether yourself or your parents, is still being sorted out as to what is enough, what is safe, and what is necessary to live a long and healthy life.

I have worked with a lot of clients over the age of 60 and the one thing all have in common is reduced flexibility, strength and endurance. For me the key is not to attempt to get them toned or muscular (“lean and mean”) but rather to simply help them regain confidence that their body can support their lifestyle.

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If golf and travel (i.e., long walks as a tourist) is their goal, I work on improving their balance and lower back strength. If keeping up with the grandchildren is their focus, then I work on cardio endurance and flexibility (got to be able to get down on the floor with the little ones right?).

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My mother is a great example of my approach to senior fitness. At 78 she suffered a minor fall at home, and although no major damage was done, she lost her confidence that she would walk with stability, and more importantly, that she could get herself up off the ground. She cancelled her annual culinary trip to Europe (her passion) because she felt only my Dad could pick her up and he did not attend her annual trips.

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I was not willing to let her lose the ability to enjoy such a simple passion, but I was well aware that she disliked exercise. But I pleaded my case, and as I live out of state, I found her a local pilates trainer who spent six months working with her on floor stretches and core strengthening. The result, my mother can now get herself up off the ground, and has regained leg strength and balance, as well as her physical confidence. The following year, off to Europe she went. Now in her 80’s she performs the pilates exercises every day along with 10 minutes of elliptical. We weren’t trying to alter her body to any dramatic effect, just enough to help her keep up with her chosen lifestyle.

So if you have parents or loved ones who are giving up on their passions because their bodies just can’t keep up, lovingly nag them to try gentle, once a week exercises and movements like water aerobics, beginners yoga, pilates for seniors, etc. and in a very short time they can regain enough physical fitness to enjoy their hobbies, grandkids, or independence.

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Now of course nutrition plays a huge role in maintaining healthy insides as well. Hopefully they can follow a low-fat, un-processed clean and lean approach to food, keeping in mind that with moderation, they can still enjoy their comfort foods.