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Posts Tagged ‘fitness’

PostHeaderIcon My Experiment: Applying Yoga breath/Pranayama to Running and Athletics

I like to do hill sprints occasionally to really get my heart rate up. I consider it power and strength training for my heart. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with how changing the manner in which I breath effects my performance.
What truly inspired me was a study I read about in the book “Body Mind and Sport” by John Doullard.
This study consisted of teaching athletes classic yoga pranayma breathing and having them apply it to their sport. This usually took a few months to teach because the athletes had to learn to exert themselves while only breathing through the nose and with very deep diaphramatic breaths.
This study was inspired by top athletes like Roger Bannister who broke the four minute mile. He described his experience as euphoric and not at all torturous. He didn’t feel as though he was working hard, but as if he had found a perfect flow.
I observed this once while watching Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt competing. His sprint looked effortless. His mouth was closed. There was no sign that he was over exerting himself. When it was over, he had so much joy, he ran more laps, waving to fans and celebrating. There was no sign of exhaustion, and yet he beat a world record. Most people in the world couldn’t run that fast if they killed themselves doing it.
What John Doullard’s studies showed was that those who mastered yoga breathing even while performing a seemingly intense, athletic feat felt less stress. Everyone who participated in the study could still perform with high skill. They just didn’t feel like they were working hard. The recovery rate was faster. In fact, many felt they could keep going and they didn’t feel tired after the training if they applied yoga breathing.
So I tried this for myself. First I did the smaller hill which usually takes me between 27 to 30 seconds to complete. I stood at the bottom of the hill and cleared my mind. I started breathing the way I do in yoga class until I felt I had the long, slow and deep breaths down. Then I bolted up the hill. I found that if I could keep the long breaths going, I brought my time down to 26 seconds which is an amazing improvement for a runner. I also realized that it didn’t feel like I was running fast at all. Perhaps it was because I was breathing slow and not panting. The slowness of my breath made me feel as if I were running at a more even keeled pace.
I tried this on the longer hill as well. This hill usually takes me 50 seconds to 1 minute to complete. When I focused on the yoga breathing, I was able to complete it in 46 seconds!

160917_001Another book that inspired me to experiment, not just on how hard I exercise but on what my mindset is when I exercise is “Power vs. Force” by David R. Hawkings M.D. Ph.D. This book is based on thousands of studies using applied kinesthiology to test strength. The book breaks down which mindsets give us the most strength. For example, the mindset of shame makes us weak. If we were to push on a person’s arm who feels shame, their arm would fall right away, but if you were to push on a person’s arm who feels joy, that arm is full of strength and energy. This book concludes that after testing thousands of people, that joy and universal love (that stems from compassion not infatuation) has the greatest energy.
I decided to test this theory on a whim as it was a very stressful week for me and I had so much on my mind. I was running my usual pace when I decided to try clearing my mind and focus on something more expansive than my every day worries.
I managed to quiet all the noise in my head. I don’t remember how I did it. Perhaps my own curiosity motivated me, for I wanted to see if my sprint time would improve if I achieved a  higher state. I think I connected with the spirit of the hawks that built a nest in that area to lift me up. Focusing on the beauty of nature, put me in a different state, and I swear my time improved by at least 3 or 5 seconds! Some things came to mind. I recalled that my kung fu instructor who said that everything happens for a reason and I was able to rise above my worries and realize that its all happening the way its supposed to.

I invite all of my readers who have experience with yoga and pranayma to take what you learned inside the yoga studio and start applying it to your workouts and your life. After all, what use is practicing meditation if we can’t use it to improve all aspects of our lives? Instead of seeing exercise as torture, see it as a meditation, an opportunity to tap into your higher power. Then see if you can apply these breathing and focusing strategies to career and relationships. Lately, I’ve been training more clients and teaching more classes than ever but I’m learning to breath through my work, to focus on the moment and to start applying my practice to my life.

To read more about the benefits of meditation, click here:

Meditation (A running into reality)

To read more about the benefits of breath control, click here:

Don’t hold your breath

For more on applying a positive mindset to fitness, click here:

Yoga, Joy, Gratitude and Prana

 

PostHeaderIcon The Limitless Pill

I once heard of a culture where a preventative medical practitioner is paid a wage by the patient in order to keep the patient healthy. When the patient gets sick, the practitioner doesn’t get paid. So the idea is not to save a patient once they are already ill, but to simply prevent illness. I thought this was an interesting take on health until I realized that this is what I do.

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As a fitness/yoga instructor and personal trainer, I am paid to keep my clients and students healthy. When they are too ill to train with me, I am not paid, at least in most cases. While there are medicines and surgical procedures that can cure many illnesses, they don’t always work.

Yet the proper exercise and nutrition regimen has been clinically proven, time and time again to prevent and sometimes cure most of the deadliest illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and certain cancers. Being fit lowers the risk of many diseases such as Alzheimer’s, depression, erectile dysfunction, fatigue and chronic pain. This fact is backed by countless of scientific studies. People who exercise have been cited in many studies to have a greater chance of being in a good mood, doing better on the job, and being more intelligent and alert.

It would take pages of citations for me to list all of these studies so here is a reference summarizing many of these studies from the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. You can click this link:

Lack of Exercise is a Major Cause of Chronic Diseases

Our society is fascinated by the idea of a magic pill, such as the one found in the movie and TV Show “Limitless” that makes us smarter or that cures all things. There is no panacea for all illnesses yet exercise and nutrition has been proven to work for most illnesses without any side effects.

Of course some exercises work better for some ailments than others. For example, I wouldn’t have someone who suffers from herniated discs in their lower back to take up parkour. Still, there are other types of movement that have proven to help ease the pain of people who do suffer from herniated discs. There seems to be a stereotype that fitness specialists are just here to torture you and make you puke. Yet, if you look at my class schedule you’ll see that on top of training, I also teach chair classes for people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease and water arthritis classes which is full of people who not only have arthritis but who also depend on wheelchairs and walkers.

The medical community has stated that exercise is important for general health, as important as brushing your teeth to avoid getting cavities. Yet, why do people not do it? In fact, why do people spend so much money on medication, surgery and the sheer cost of suffering from a disease due to inactivity when they should be devoting their efforts to getting on an exercise program? It is no secret that exercise is the best thing that most of us could possibly do for our health. In fact I’ve helped many clients get healthy enough to stop depending on drugs which has saved them thousands of dollars.

I’d like to end my blog with a question posed by Dr. Mike Evans in the video I cited below, “Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23 and a half hours a day?” Just taking 30 minutes out of each day to move can not only save your life, but increase your standard of living significantly. He also states that of all preventative measures, movement is the one that will give you the biggest return on your investment. Make a commitment to your health with a disease preventing exercise regimen if you haven’t already.

23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?

for more motivation on how to make that change check out this post:

If You Don’t Stand for Something, You’ll Fall for Anything

Also, click this link to view some motivational posts Motivational posts

PostHeaderIcon The Switch Trick: How to Lose Weight Without Counting Calories

Happy New Year everyone!

As I work with people, I realize how difficult it is for some to keep track of how many calories they consume so I have been trying to think of a simpler approach to weight loss. I came up with this method which is actually based on many studies on habit change and what we know about food.

I call this The Switch Trick:

I have always said that calories count and that if weight loss is your goal, you must burn more calories than you consume, but measuring calories can be a chore so here are some mind tricks to help you get around that. I actually use this approach myself and it has helped me lose weight in the past and maintain it every since.

Habit Change: The most comprehensive research on habit change teaches that you can’t just stop doing something that is a long standing habit. You must replace that habit with something else and believe in your ability to change. This can be done with food. For example, you have gained weight this year because you got into the habit of eating cookies around 2pm. Do the switch trick. Replace the jar of cookies with a basket of apples or any other snack that has less calories than the cookies such as low fat string cheese, carrots, celery, non-fat yogurt, non-fat turkey meat, etc. At first, you will crave the cookies but over time, your body will adapt to the new habit. As a result, you will lose weight because you are consuming less calories.

Sometimes we gain weight because we eat when stressed. We have candy bars on our office desk. Replace them with peaches or anything that is healthier and has less calories. Sometimes we get emotional and buy ice cream. Replace it with low fat frozen yogurt. Sometimes we go for a drive and grab a high calorie Frappuccino. Go for a walk instead and get some iced green tea. As hard as it is to lose weight, I’ve seen many people succeed by replacing many unhealthy habits such as drinking alcohol and binge eating with starting an exercise program. After some time, exercise becomes addicting but its a healthy addiction. Find something that suites your personality and that you think is fun and replace unhealthy habits with this new hobby.

Many studies have shown that foods high in fiber, protein and water help us feel fuller. These foods include fruits, vegetables, non-fat lean meats, non-fat greek yogurt (greek yogurt contains more protein than regular yogurt), and whole grains. Studies have shown that only 5% of adults consume the recommended allowance of fiber anyway and this nutrient is vital in helping us feel satiated, keeping down cholesterol levels, aiding in digestion and feeding probiotic bacteria necessary in fighting disease.

Also, replace fruit juice or soda with water or whole fruits. Whole fruits have a lower glycemic index (the sugars in them are burned more gradually because the fiber in the fruit helps to regulate them). The sugar in fruit juice can spike blood sugar levels. Plus, the fiber in whole fruits contains more nutrients and will help you feel fuller than simply drinking juice.

When eating out, order something different. Replace pan fried foods with grilled or roasted foods. Replace creamy sauces with low fat tomato sauces. Replace french fries with a salad, white rice with brown or a bread roll with a bowl of sweet fruit. Most restaurants are happy to accommodate

Now here is the hard part: Write down the new foods on your grocery list and make sure you buy them instead of the old ones.

For more information on nutrition, check out these nutrition blogs:

NUTRITION BLOGS

I’ll be doing a nutrition for weight lost seminar on February 4. For more information, click here:

SPECIAL EVENTS

PostHeaderIcon Don’t be Fooled by Labels

I am pleased to announce that I have passed my exams and am now a certified fitness nutritionist specialist! I hope you don’t mind if I start posting more blogs on nutrition as well as exercise and yoga. Proper diet and exercise go together and it is not possible to be truly fit and healthy without a combination of both.

That being said, there is a lot of information about food  that is not based on sound scientific principles and they are mostly shared with the intent to sell a particular supplement or diet. Some dietary information is shared because it worked for one particular person but it may not necessarily be the right diet for other types of people. Since I have no other motive than to help people reach their goals in the most healthy way possible, I hope to give you the most unbiased information on nutrition I can.

I’m writing this post on reading labels because nutrition and food labels can be very misleading and if you aren’t an expert on the subject, you are likely to garner the wrong information from them. Also, studies have shown that many people do not reach their goals simply because they don’t know what they’re doing. They might think they are eating something that is good for them when it actually is not. Proper education on what is in the food you buy is integral to success.

For example, the following illustration shows a package of ground beef that is only 20% fat. This may not seem like a lot until you realize that the percentage is not based on calories but on weight. If you look at the part of the label that says “calories that come from fat” you see that 270 of the calories comes from fat while the entire serving has a total of 290 calories. This pound of beef is not lean at all!

I took this picture at the grocery store…..

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Here are more facts to consider when reading food labels

Health Claims:

Many labels have large print that says they are “heart healthy” or “trans fat free” or “high in calcium” or some other vitamin or nutrient. These labels can be very confusing or misleading, making us believe that an item is very healthy when it may not be. This was brought to to the attention of the food and nutrition board in 2011 when food such as sweetened cereal, macaroni and cheese and ice cream had a smart choice label on it which was supposed to mean that the food was healthy for the heart. More legislation is trying to be passed to make food packaging more honest but it is an on going process. The best way of knowing if what you are eating is healthy is to get educated on proper diet and learn to read the nutrition section of the label and the ingredients. Do not judge a food by the front of its label.

Trans Fats:

Another example of mislabeling is trans fat. A label might say “free of trans fat” when in fact, it does contain trans fat or hydrogenated oils. The reason the food might claim to be trans fat free is because, by law, they only have to reveal a certain amount of trans fat on the label. If its less than .5 grams, the company can get away with saying that it is trans fat free. It may not show up in the nutrition label but it will be on the ingredients list. Trans fat and hydrogenated fats or oils are the same thing. They are the least healthy form of processed fat and can contribute to coronary heart disease, damaged blood vessels and high cholesterol. Often a label will say trans fat free, when it does contain hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list so watch out for this trick.

Whole Grains:

Also look out for labels that claim to be “whole grain.” A package may say this on the front of the label but when you look at the nutrition label, you might find that the fiber content is actually quite low. Look at the ingredients list. The most ingredients are always listed first and the minor ingredients are listed last. If the first ingredient is “whole grain” then you are getting just that. However, if the first ingredient is enriched white flour or something else and the whole grain is farther along, listed after white flour and other sugars, then you probably aren’t getting as much whole grain as you think you are.

Amounts Per Serving:

When looking at a nutrition label, look at the “amounts per serving” first. You might choose a box of crackers have very few calories but then you find out that one serving is only 2 crackers when you usually eat 10 crackers for each serving. This changes things. When comparing labels, always keep in mind how much a serving is because one brand might have 10 ounces as a serving while another has 20 ounces.

Fat Free:

Another thing to watch is when one unwanted ingredient replaces another. Say, you are on a low calorie diet and you see a package that is “fat free,” you might think that package has less calories. However, when I read labels, I often find that the fat free packages contain more sugar in them. Because of the added sugar, the calorie content does not change. In general, if the food is processed or cooked with many ingredients  like a box of pastries, bread, soy milk etc., extra sugar may be added if the fat has been taken out. However, if you are buying whole foods such as meats or milk, the fat is skimmed off without sugar additives. Always read the nutrition label and ingredients list just to be sure.

Rich in Vitamin Claims:

Many times a product might claim to be rich in a certain vitamin. For example, a cereal box might claim to be rich in vitamin D but when you compare nutrition labels, you learn that all products of cereal have the same amount of vitamin D added to their product. Many advertisers will pick out a fact that is true for all products, but make it seem like they are the only product that carries it.

This illustration is taken from the Ace Fitness Nutrition Manual, 2013

 

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PostHeaderIcon Voodoo, Beliefs, Health and Society

One of my favorite English teacher’s in high school once shared that her grandmother was a voodoo witch doctor who apprenticed her in the art but she walked away from it. When we asked her why, my teacher said she couldn’t stand to watch people get sick and die because of a voodoo curse. “Do voodoo curses really work?” we asked and she said that they did through the power of suggestion.

There are many documented cases of people dying of curses from all over the world and a few more studies to back them, which I will site below. These studies have been used to explain the nacebo effect which happens when people are told about the harmful effects of a drug or disease, and this causes them to experience those effects. We know that if we believe that something will make us better, even if it is only water or a sugar pill, there is a much greater chance that it will. This is known as the placebo effect. The nacebo effect is the belief that something that is harmless will harm you and that placebo effect is the belief that something that has no healing properties will help you. Nacebo creates negative consequences and placebo positive ones. Basically, our beliefs are a huge indicator of how well we heal or how ill we become.

Another example of the nacebo effect was an incident at a ball game where someone got horribly ill and everyone believed it was the food. The whole audience started feeling nausea and even vomited, believing that the food had poisoned them. When the news spread that the cause of illness was not the food, everyone felt better.

Clifton Meador, a doctor at Vanerbilt School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, documented many cases of the nacebo effect including the one of Sam Shoeman who was diagnosed with end stage liver cancer in the 1970s and was given only months to live. When he died exactly at his allotted time, an autopsy showed that the tumor never spread. “He didn’t die from cancer, but from believing he was dying of cancer,” Meador stated. “If everyone treats you as if you are dying, you buy into it. Everything in your whole being becomes about dying.”

There was a study published in 2007 in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine by Irving Kirsch and Giuliana Mazzoni of the University of Hull in the UK. They asked a group of students to inhale some air that they were told contained a “suspected environmental toxin,” linked to headache, nausea, itchy skin and drowsiness. Half the students watched a woman inhale the air and supposedly develop the symptoms. The results showed that the students who inhaled the normal air and were told that it was a toxin were more likely to get symptoms. The ones who watched the woman get symptoms were even more likely to get symptoms themselves. This result has been compared to many mass psychogenic illnesses in which word of a virus gets out and people get sick without being exposed to it.

Many studies involving control groups where people are told about the side effects of a particular drug resulted in them getting side effects whether they took the drug or a control.

These studies and many more posed some ethical questions in the medical community. “On the one hand people have the right to be informed about what to expect, but this makes it more likely they will experience side effects,” stated Mazzoni.

Reading about the nacebo effect resonates with me because I see it often in my profession. After personal training and teaching fitness/yoga for over a decade, I’ve observed many patterns of belief.  Some people have the strong and unwavering belief that the body is adaptable and that it can heal and get stronger. Others let the fear of exercise lead them to believe that it will hurt them which keeps them from sticking to an effective regimen. Fear of illness or injury can be a self fulfilling prophecy. I’ve also seen people overcome great obstacles and perform skills that were once deemed impossible due to their belief in themselves.

To read my article on beliefs and learn examples on how empowering beliefs can help us accomplish what others deem impossible, you can click here:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=57

I’m tackling this issue again because, at this point in my career, I have been using what I have learned about programming and changing people’s habits to help me change my own beliefs and habits.  I’m realizing, it is my job to prop up the people who don’t believe in themselves and so their new belief in success will lead to just that.

Often, people have thanked me for being the only one who believed that they can change. It helps me to look back at my own life and remember the teachers, friends and family members who put me down or destroyed my drive by telling me that what I wanted to accomplish was impossible. Then I think of all the people who believed in me and how they changed my life.

I asked myself, who do I want to be? Do I want to be the teacher who once told one of my students that her belly fat was a part of age and that she couldn’t get rid of it? Yet, after taking my class for a month, the belly fat came right off. Do I want to be like the trainer who told me that a woman can’t do pull ups especially one who only has two fingers? Yet, I just did 30 pull ups unassisted the other day. Do I want to be like the physical therapist who told a few of my clients that it would take them months and months to heal? Yet, after a few weeks of training with me, they regained their range of motion in a much shorter amount of time.

The truth is there are doctors who won’t perform surgery on people because they can sense that the person’s belief in death will make him less likely to survive. There are teachers who have given up on trying because they think that the children just don’t care. There are trainers who turn down clients just because they feel they don’t have the right mind set. Many of us are taught to do this. But one day, I asked myself, “If I only train people who already have the mindset for it, what good am I? What about the people who really need it?”

There have been times when I have had to be honest with someone and tell them that they can change even if they didn’t believe it. I could tell that what I said hurt them greatly. Then, weeks or months later, they came to me and thanked me for changing their mindset and being the catalyst for them to find the path to health.

What touches me most is seeing new comers come to my class, struggling with the learning curve that often comes with starting up a new fitness regimen. Instead of complaining that they are taking up more space in the class or assuming that they are part of the wave of people who only come for the new year and leave after a month, I have seen my students tell them that they have gone through the same learning curves. I’ve seen my students offer support and encouragement to newcomers overcome with fear and apprehension.

This gives me hope that no one is hopeless. A society’s culture is simply a shared system of beliefs. We are fighting a war against obesity and chronic diseases, fueled by a fast food, inactive and stressful culture. Many of us have won the battle and have created new habits of health and well being. It is up to us to create a new culture, one that embraces positive change, healing and support.

So I ask you, do you want to be a voodoo witch doctor and curse people with your doubt? Or do you want to be the healer that motivates them with hope? What can we do to help change the beliefs of a generation?

For a more studies on how our subconscious fuels our beliefs and habits and how we can change that with awareness, click here:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=700

For a list of my blogs in the category of motivation, click here:

http://heroestraining.com/?cat=5

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Memoirs of a Chubby Kid Who Wanted to be an Athlete

Some people may look at me and think, “She doesn’t know what it’s like to struggle like I do. She’s already in such good shape.” This wasn’t always the case. When I was a chubby kid, I had all kinds of self image issues. I injured my back three times in my life. I’ve also dealt with a knee injury, a hamstring injury, and a groin injury. Like many moms, I dealt with an awful laceration when giving birth to my large son, while the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. I know what it’s like to have never been fit. I also know what it’s like to lose the ability to move and have to start over from scratch.

The hardest part of my job is teaching group fitness classes that cater to mixed levels. I give many options and modifications in my classes. It’s still difficult for a beginner, who has never taken a fitness class before, to do the easier modifications while those who have been doing it for years are doing harder moves. “Just do the beginning move,” they hear the perky instructor say, as if it were no big deal, as if it’s not a blow to the ego to realize that one is not as fit as everyone else.

I know how you feel. Actually, most of us do. Some of the greatest athletes were beginners once, eating everyone’s dust as they struggled in the back of the herd. It’s okay to be a beginner. To be a beginner is exciting. It means you are doing something you haven’t done before and there is nowhere else to go but up.

I still recall my first week of high school. I spent the summer working out at a gym for the first time in my life. I wanted to take the next step and lose more weight so I joined the cross country team. Everyone else on the team was so fit. I struggled, barely being able to run. I wanted to be able to run like them, but I couldn’t. They could run for miles and miles. I barely jogged and walked the warm up.

On Friday of that first week of school, a boy who knew my older brother teased me and said that my brother told him that I joined the team to lose weight. That day, after practice, I cried. The stress of my first week of high school had built up inside me and I let it all out.

The main thing that gets me, when I look back at this memory is the horrible feeling of embarrassment I had for wanting to lose weight. It was true. I didn’t want to be the chubby one anymore. I was tired of the fat jokes. I was tired of being slow. I wanted to be thin. What was wrong with that? First I was ridiculed for being overweight. Now I was being ridiculed for wanting to do something about it.

I’m sharing this memory with you now because I want you to know that you are not alone. There were times when I felt overwhelmed and wanted to give up. It’s a perfectly normal feeling, especially if you are new to something. Think of the first time you started a new job. In a way, the physical part is easy. The psychological part, the part that is dealing with the stress of change and the reactions of those around us is the hard part.

By the end of my first week of school, I had blisters all over my feet. My coach told me to purchase running shoes but I told him the sneakers I already wore were brand new and that my parents couldn’t afford new running shoes.  I guess my coach got tired of seeing me kick those shoes off because of my blisters, preferring to run on the football field grass. One day, he pulled me aside. He said that he liked my spunk and that if I kept trying, even though I could hardly jog, I would get better. He gave me a check for 100 dollars to spend on running shoes. He told me that it was scholarship money.

I couldn’t believe it! It seemed like so much money and I never spent that much on shoes before. I bought my first pair of Nike running shoes with that money and they felt amazing. It made me feel like a real athlete.

I probably would have quit if people like Coach Martin hadn’t supported me, letting me know that not giving up is better than winning right away. On my first cross country meet, I almost finished last. There might have been one or two girls behind me. I learned what it was like to literally eat someone’s dust. A whole herd of girls ran ahead of me, kicking dust into my face, mouth and eyes. Before I knew it, they were out in the distance and I was alone in the back with a few of the stragglers. At some point of the 5k course on hills, a new group of girls passed me. Yes, another race started and I hadn’t even finished the first one. Struggling up “pukes peak,” a steep hill at the end of the race, was shear torture. Still, I didn’t give up. My goal was to finish the race and I did.

I ran cross country throughout high school and discovered martial arts in the meantime, something I could get really good at. Over the years, I discovered more movement modalities such as yoga and pilates. I learned that exercise isn’t just about weight loss and muscle gain. Exercise can be used to achieve relaxation, rehabilitation, energy and healing. Over the years I have helped athletes, seniors, kids, beginners and elite practitioners, all with their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

I want everyone to know that there are so many fitness modalities that can help you in your journey to being healthy and strong. You just have to start looking. Try walking, running, dancing, martial arts, yoga, weight lifting, aqua classes, chair classes or many more. We are all on our own journey, a journey that will make us explore our bodies and minds. It will make us come to terms with what we can and can’t do, and what it means for us to be healthy.  I hope to offer to my support, no matter what your set backs and accomplishments might be.

For more personal stories and struggles check out:

Be Kind For Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=502

PostHeaderIcon But Will You? (Accountability)

Over the years of being fitness professional, I have focused my attention more and more on the psychological aspects of achieving success in health and fitness. I realized that it doesn’t matter how knowledgeable a person is if he/she doesn’t put that knowledge into practice. I think back on all the people I have known who clearly understood that eating that second serving of ice cream and falling out of their fitness regimen was not good for them, yet they still did it.

So, the question remains, how do we hold ourselves accountable for our actions? How do we ensure that we will do what we set out to do? Just like anyone else, I find it difficult to balance healthy eating with my professional goals and raising a family so I have learned many creative ways to hold myself accountable. I’d like to share some of these findings with you. If these methods worked for me, they might just work for you.

Make a commitment or promise: This is a very simple shift in mindset that has changed my life. I stopped being wishy washy about the things I set out to accomplish. I started making strong promises and commitments. There is a world of difference between saying that you “might” work out or show up to a fitness class if you feel up to it, and promising to be there. When you make a commitment ahead of time, you will set your alarm, wake up, get ready and be there whether you feel like it or not. We can’t let our every day moods dictate what we do in our lives. We need to be in charge of our own destiny. If we don’t commit, we won’t get there. That’s the bottom line, so make a commitment to being the person you want to be.

If you can’t hold yourself accountable, find someone who will: This is where I started getting creative, for it is one thing to let myself down but letting someone else down is something else altogether. Oprah lost weight by hiring a personal trainer who went with her everywhere she went and told her what she should and shouldn’t eat. I did the same thing but for a much cheaper price. I hired my son who is now eleven. I was getting chubby as my busy life was causing me to eat out too much and indulge on deserts that I mistakenly thought I “deserved” due to all my hard work. I knew I needed to stop this. I told my son that I would pay him five dollars for every pound I lost. Of course, if I gained and lost a pound, it didn’t count.

My son latched on to this idea like a pit bull. Nothing makes children happier than the opportunity to turn the tables on their parents and to make money on top of it. My son was relentless. He never let me eat junk food and he forbade me from ordering desert. If I ate too much, he made sure I worked it off. The waitresses thought he was so mean for stopping me when I tried to order a brownie a la mode at Denny’s but he didn’t care. He loved telling me what to do. I lost seven pounds since we started this. The best news is, my husband joined the program and lost seventeen pounds so far. Now my whole family is eating healthy which has changed the whole culture of our household. There is less junk food around and we are all dedicated to eating healthy. My son has gained a new awareness for health as well. It was a win win situation all around.

My son isn’t the only one who holds me accountable. You do too. Yes, you, my readers hold me accountable. My students and clients hold me accountable. My job is to motivate others and if I can’t do what I expect you to do, then I am one big hypocrite. So thank you, for being one of the main motivators for me to be super fit and healthy. I have benefited so much from your support.

This is very important as our friends and family members can sometimes pressure us to eat unhealthy and skip our workouts so we can spend more time with them or so they have someone to drink and eat chocolate with. If this is the case, it is very important to find people who support you in your goals. I tell my son that he is my “angel” because he is the angel on my shoulder telling me to eat right. Of course, I consider him my angel for many other reasons.

Here are some other things you can do to get others to hold you accountable:

Write blogs, form groups, find a workout buddy, hire a coach or make a strong promise to someone else. Sometimes I give people deadlines and if I don’t get something done by then, I ask them to contact me and get on my case. If this happens, I feel bad and make sure I get it done.

For a great example of how to use social networking support to hold yourself accountable, check out my guest blogger: http://heroestraining.com/?p=604

Write it down: Not long ago, I was reading a fitness journal. In it, a study was conducted that showed that if you write down what you eat, you are 50% more likely to lose weight. This method worked for me. As a matter of fact, I had been trying to lose weight after having a baby for four months and I didn’t start seeing results on the scale until I finally wrote down what I ate. I have my clients do this. Most of them don’t realize how they eat until they do this. Writing it down makes a record of your progress and it holds you accountable. You may not realize that you eat more calories than you should or that you starve yourself for hours, lowering your metabolism until you write it down.

Write your goals down as well. There is something profound about a written contract. It sets everything in stone and shows that you are not just thinking about it. Write down your actions in your diary or date book. Write down your workouts and rest days. Set your weekly and monthly goals, Make notes, have a check list. Update it on your blog or social networking site so your friends can hold you accountable. It makes a huge difference.

Ask “how can I” questions: This is something I learned from Anthony Robbins that I find to be so life changing. I learned that the mind is capable of amazing things but if we focus on the wrong things, we waste a lot of time and energy. So, when you want to improve your life, ask questions that are proactive. Instead of asking yourself why the government sucks, or why you weren’t born with a slim waste, or why can’t ice cream be good for you, or why we can’t be more beautiful as we grow older, ask yourself questions that directly relate to what you can do to change your situation. I notice that people waste a lot of time on what they can’t change.

I call these “how can I” questions. How can I write to my leaders so I can improve the current laws? How can I slim my waist now? How can I find a level of health that will make me feel younger? Once we stop blaming the world and start taking responsibility for our actions, change becomes easy but we have to know that it is us that makes the difference, not our friends, our government, our employers or our families. What can I do? I will do this. I have found that when I do something proactive to make a change in my life and in the world, the world follows suit but we can’t expect it to work the other way around.

Meditate on your character: Here is something I did which really turned my life around. I asked myself what character traits I needed to change in order to see a positive change in every aspect of my life. In the beginning of the year I made a list of these character goals:

Slow to anger

Better discipline and attitude towards work

Perseverance

Reliability, keep my word

Honesty and tact

Practice selflessness

Practice humility and support for others

I meditated on these character goals, realizing that if I can improve these aspects in myself, my fitness, relationships and career will all get better. I realized that life isn’t handed to you with a magic pill. Without perseverance, for example, we can’t succeed in anything. After four months of making these character traits my new years resolution, I have seen positive improvements in every aspect of my life.

So ask yourself what beliefs and character traits you need to change in order to help you get to your goals. Ask yourself how you can get there. Make a promise and commitment to get to those goals and find creative ways to get others to hold you accountable.

PostHeaderIcon How To Prevent Injuries and Maintain Longevity

Now that the New Year has started, some of you will be coming out of a hiatus due to holiday stress or illness. Others will be setting New Years goals by starting up a new fitness routine or athletic endeavor for the first time in a while. This puts you at high risk of getting injured. During my career as a fitness professional, I have many students and clients tell me about their injuries. Most of these injuries could have been avoided. A few years ago, I wrote an article about what to do in case of an injury. If you already have an injury, see a doctor and read this article by clicking the link below:

WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF AN INJURY

Today I am writing an article about how to prevent getting injured in the first place. If we can prevent injuries, we will achieve our fitness goals faster because injuries often cause us to stop our routines or exercise with less intensity. While planning out your fitness goals, keep these injury prevention tips in mind:

Leave your ego at the door:

Before you start your work out, resolve to leave your ego at the door. I’ve seen the ego monster trick many people into getting injured. Humbly ask for help if you don’t know how to use a piece of fitness equipment. Do the safer modification in a group fitness class if your gut tells you that the other move is too advanced, even if it hurts your ego. Don’t pile on more weights than you can lift just because you want to impress a sexy woman who is in the same room. Trust me, she’s not looking at how much weight your lifting. Don’t compromise form in order to get the fastest time in the crossfit class. All of these things can get you hurt. The truth is, people don’t care what you are doing. They are worried about their own workout, so put your ego in her place and use common sense.

Always use proper form, especially when dealing with weights:

I have a rule that keeps me safe: If I can’t lift a weight with proper form, I don’t. Bad form puts your spine and joints in a weak position and adding weights to bad form will exasperate muscle imbalances, causing chronic stress and injuries. If you can’t squat with proper form, work on your muscle imbalances first, before you add weights. Find out why you can’t do it with good form. Maybe you have to achieve more flexibility in your shoulders. Maybe you can do a squat with good form, but once you add 100 pounds, your knees start to go way over your toes. That’s when you know that you’ve reached your limit. Give yourself time to get stronger before you add more weight. Maybe you can do 10 squats with good form, but after 11, you start to slouch. Then you know that it is time to take a break at 10. As soon as you lose your form, your muscles have given up and your joints will start experiencing wear and tear.

Achieve mastery one step at a time:

We learn to walk before we can run. When implementing fitness into your life, don’t attempt to run five miles on your first day, if you’ve never walked a mile in your life. Take into account what you are capable of doing and gradually add to that. If you are smart, your goal is to get fit for life. Set long term goals and take it one step at a time. This will prevent injuries and burn out. It will also make you more likely to stick to a fitness lifestyle permanently. After all, if you do it for only three months, you will go back to being unhealthy as soon as you stop. Add a bit more every two weeks to one month at a time.

Always warm up and cool down:

Years ago I got injured because I was a receptionist at a small yoga studio. I was allowed to check everyone in and take the last yoga class, but I had to walk in a few minutes late. I got an adjustment to my down dog before I had even warmed up. I got hurt. It may not seem like a big deal, but jumping into heavy weights or high intensity moves before your body is ready can get you hurt. If you don’t understand the science of warming up, please read my post on proper warm ups here:

WARM UP FOR INJURY PREVENTION AND ENHANCED PERFORMANCE

Balance–Always work the opposing muscles:

Our muscles tense up and get shorter in order to move our bones. For example, our biceps will shorten in order to flex our elbows in a bicep curl. When this happens, our triceps will lengthen and relax because it is on the other side. If we keep doing bicep curls without doing triceps extensions, we will have short and tight biceps and weak and long triceps. This is why we should work both muscles. If you do bench presses without doing rows, you will have short and tight pectorals which will cause your shoulders to turn in and may lead to a hunch back. Therefore, always do rows in order to strengthen your upper back and provide flexibility to your pectorals. If you always do abdominal crunches without working out your lower back, you will have tight abdominals which can cause your lower back to round excessively due to having a long and weak lower back. These imbalances can cause chronic pain and injuries, so always strengthen and stretch the opposite muscle groups.

Balance your fitness:

Speaking of balance, make sure that you aren’t overdoing it in one area of fitness and completely slacking in another. Our bodies need stability in order to protect our ligaments and joints. Therefore, only stretching without strengthening and stabilizing can cause loose ligaments and weak joints. However, only strength training without stretching can cause muscle stiffness and stress. Cardio and aerobic fitness helps circulate our blood, increasing our ability to recover. It also gives us stamina and strengthens our heart. In order to stay balanced and healthy, we need to balance out our fitness.

Learn to differentiate muscle pain from joint pain:

A gold medalist once said that our muscles protect our joints. Once you feel that your joints are in pain, stop. This means that your muscles have given up and you are just putting stress on your joints. If you run without overdoing it, the cartilage in your knees will actually get stronger. However, if you push through joint pain, you will hurt yourself and wear out the cartilage in your knees and hips. I have been applying this rule to my life for years. This is also a great tip because most of the complaints I hear from students regarding injuries are joint injuries due to overuse. Overuse injuries can be avoided if we stop when we are supposed to.

Vary your training:

I stated earlier that we achieve mastery one step at a time. Try not to stop at step one or two. If you do the exact same exercise for many years, you could still get hurt. Maybe the first time you did a particular routine, you felt massive changes in your body, so you kept doing it for years. Then one day, there is an emergency that requires you to move in a different way. Since your body has been programmed to move the exact same way for years, you get injured. The brain and the body are connected by a vast system, but habit can cause some connections to disappear completely.

I also suggest you practice functional moves so that you can use them in everyday life, such as learning proper technique for picking things up off the floor so you don’t hurt your back. Learn to use your muscles in different planes of motion because you just might need to move that way during an emergency. I have had students thank me many times because the moves I taught them have helped them in emergency situations. As I get older, I become more reliant on cross training because my body can’t handle doing the same moves everyday. Moving in different directions gives some of my muscles opportunities to rest while I work out others. Remember, the fitter you are, the less likely you will be severely hurt during an accident. So in order to keep from getting hurt, stay fit.

Weigh the risk of competition:

Many people get hurt during competition but some will say that it was worth it. Before you are about to break your ankle while crossing the finish line in tenth place, weigh the risk of competition and know how far you are willing to go to win. A professional athlete makes millions of dollars putting his body on the line and has the best orthopedic surgeons at his disposal. You have to ask yourself if finishing that marathon or getting beaten up in an amateur cage match is worth the risk of injuring yourself and being out of commission . Ask yourself why you are competing. If you join a marathon to lose weight but break a leg and gain all the weight back, is it worth it? Maybe winning a competition is a life long dream that you are willing to sacrifice everything for. Only you can decide what is best, but definitely premeditate on the risks before you go in the field. Then you will know if it is okay to risk it all and when to ease off and let someone else take the spotlight. Of course, if you want to reduce your chance of getting injured during competition, train smart. Strengthen your muscles so they are ready for the abuse they are about to take. Don’t compete without practicing and training like an athlete. I’ve seen many weekend warriors break bones or wreck their bodies because they competed without training for the event.

Don’t forget recovery:

Make sure you are getting enough nutrients for growing muscles and for recovery. Make sure you are giving your muscles adequate rest and time to adapt, and that you are getting enough sleep in order to avoid overuse injuries or fainting episodes caused by fatigue or low blood sugar.

For a short post on recovery, consistency and why some people practically kill themselves but still don’t improve check out this link:

WHY AM I NOT IMPROVING

PostHeaderIcon Be Kind, For Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle.

Today, I took a yoga class with Chaz Russ and burst into tears in happy frog pose… again. The first time this happened, I was taking a hip opening class with Vinnie Marino at the Wanderlust Yoga and Music Festival.

The trauma I hold in my hips, thighs and lower back stem from abuse, fear, poverty, anger and athletic injuries in the past. Some of these issues go back years and are invisible to me until I focus all my attention on those areas. When I indulge in my own practice, and experience my own pain, I become more compassionate towards everyone else living in this world who ever had to suffer. I become so grateful that I found the yoga path and that I share the same room with people who are going through the same thing. Years ago, I thought I was alone.

There is a famous quote that has been attributed to Plato and John Watson (aka, Ian MacLaren) that goes: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

This quote is my mantra of teaching. It is also the hardest part of teaching. I know that people come to class expecting to suffer. I know how hard it is to have a body that might have been neglected or traumatized by injuries, aging or disease. The courage that it takes to focus on something that most people choose to ignore is immense. When we challenge ourselves with any fitness regimen, we have to face our greatest weaknesses. We have to fight the demons and the shadows that put us down because we aren’t as energetic as athletes, or strong as superheroes or beautiful as supermodels.

When I say, “isn’t this fun?” while teaching a class. It’s a bit of a Zen koan. I am poking light at our suffering. After all, I wouldn’t want to make things worse. Also, I’m sending you a subliminal message that will hopefully make you want to come back. Yes, I know it’s not always fun but if I can shift your awareness for a moment by saying this, sometimes your grimace turns into a smile and when this happens, it makes my day. I think there is a reason why the pose that makes me cry is called “happy” frog. These funny names are chosen to make light of our struggles. Even though we have to face ourselves and our suffering, we don’t necessarily have to dwell on them.

A woman once told me that she was cycling up a mountain and really struggling to get to the top. She said that when she reached the peak, she heard my voice in her head saying “wasn’t that fun?” I was so pleasantly amused by this story. I am happy that she heard me say this over anything negative.

That being said, I still understand that we are all fighting our own battles, whether mental or physical, outward or inward, in public or in private. When you come to me with your questions and ask me about the trauma you experience in your body, I am grateful because it makes me realize that I am not alone in dealing with my own trauma.

Ian MacLaran expressed this state of compassion well when he said:

This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.

I shall put my heart on my sleave share an excerpt from my diary. This was written a couple of years ago, after experiencing a huge crying fit during Vinnie Marino’s hip opening class:

He had us sit with one leg bent back and the other straight to the side and we had to fold into the center.  I don’t know why it hurt so much.  Probably ’cause I actually hurt myself a while ago, long story.  I found myself adjusting myself a lot and then it happened.  This uncontrollable sobbing just spewed from me.  It wasn’t sorrowful.  I hadn’t just dealt with loss.  I honestly can’t say what it was that made me cry but I cried and cried and continued with the class.  I’ve cried before in yoga. I cried once during shavassana after doing a heart opening workshop.  But this was half way through an hour and a half class, and the funny thing was, I couldn’t stop crying.  I was in a class of a hundred, in a huge tent overlooking the mountains.  Everyone was in their own world on their mat.  I didn’t stop crying until the end of class.

The teacher just gave us the poses and let us experience them.  He played very specific folky music with very significant lyrics.  Almost as if the songs were guiding us through.  I remember lyrics that dealt with letting go, with being okay with who we are.  One song said, “I know you’re in love.  I can see it in you.”  He didn’t have to explain anything.  The crying didn’t stop and I was okay with it.  I was breathing deeper than I ever did in my life as I struggled through the poses, yet I wasn’t struggling.  I was letting go of something that had wanted to be released for a long time. I once wrote in a blog that we are in love with everyone we have ever been and change is hard even if we are changing for the better, but its okay.  We’ll change when we’re ready.  I would deepen my poses, then ease off, then deepen them.  I kept breathing and experiencing everything and I felt that nothing else mattered than that moment and the crying was ecstatic almost.  I couldn’t be happier.

At some point, the teacher made us do happy frog and Danny started sobbing too.  I don’t know if it was because I was.  At the end of the class, I learned that other people had cried and Danny also didn’t know why he cried.  It just happened.  This was one of the most profound yoga experiences I ever had because it was completely out of my intellect.  It was pure acceptance and experiencing.  The only thoughts that went through my head was that I’m okay and that everyone is okay.  It was complete non-judgment and I loved everyone in that moment and it was okay if they were ready or not ready and it was good enough if they tried and I thought of my friends who were struggling with one issue or another and I thought, “they’re okay.”  No one was at fault for anything.  I also thought that we could all put our energy towards self destruction or doing things that would lead to growth, like yoga.  I felt cleansed after that.  That was the true beginning of my vacation, a real shift from my everyday tasks.

PostHeaderIcon Warm Up For Injury Prevention and Enhanced Performance

A proper warm up can not only prevent injuries, it can enhance your athletic performance and bring greater strength and fitness gains. I often hear older enthusiast tell me that they have to warm up more as they get older. However, I have been reading many studies on young athletes revealing that a proper warm up can decrease the chance of overuse and severe injuries.

A proper warm up consists of the following factors:

Kinesthetic Awareness: Use your warm up to help get you into a workout mindset. If your workout requires complex choreography or multiple muscle movements, use this time to rehearse those movements at a lighter intensity. Use this time to help the body memorize doing the movements correctly so you will not injure yourself when you add intensity or speed.

Mobility: Keeping your specific workout in mind, make sure that you have moved all of the joints that you will be using. If you are warming up for a field sport, then you will have to move those muscles in all of the planes of motion that it will be going. Your joints will release synovial fluids that provide lubrication. If you put pressure on your joints without warming them up, you can get joint injuries such as tendonitis and bursitis.

Stability: Many warm up movements are done specifically to engage your stability muscles. Our stability muscles contract in order to protect our joints and spine. During the warm up, we often activate these muscles in order to brace our joints. This is done in running and contact sports as well as in yoga, pilates and dance. People don’t always realize how important it is to activate the core while stretching in order to protect our tissues from over stretching or hyper extending. Activating the core also helps protect you joints from shock while running, jumping or weight lifting.

Circulation of blood, oxygen and heat: A “warm up” should gradually make you warm. It should increase your temperature. You should feel heat inside your body and even break a sweat. This will bring more blood to the muscles that you will be using, increasing reflex speed, elasticity and force requirement. This also lowers the risk of a heart attack and reduces stress to all of the systems in the body.

Muscle Fiber Recruitment: This factor is most important during resistance exercises. Injuries can occur if you lift the heaviest weight you can lift on your first repetition. The muscles tend to recruit cells one level at a time so make sure to warm them up with lighter weights, establishing the proper movement of the muscle, before you add the heavier weight. Other forceful movements such as running require proper muscle fiber recruitment. I use form drills such as skipping to teach my muscles to recruit the right muscles for the strenuous task of bounding off and landing on the ground. I find that when I do these warm ups, my knees hurt less when I run because it establishes kinesthetic awareness, stability, muscle fiber recruitment and circulation. I run with better form which improves my performance.

Handy Warm Up Tips:

Don’t overdo it:

Some work outs require longer warm ups than others. Just make sure that you don’t spend so much time and energy warming up that you have nothing left for the rest of your workout, especially if you are warming up for a competition.

Watch the stretching:

Depending on the type of training you are doing, static stretching may or may not be appropriate at the beginning of a work out. Some studies have shown that athletes such as baseball pitchers have a greater risk of throwing out their shoulders if they stretch too long before a workout. This is because excess stretching can cause the ligaments to relax which will take away from stability the joints need to protect the shoulder from over extending. Also, do not hold a stretch for so long that your body cools down due to lack of movement. Mobility exercises that move a joint though range of motion may be more effective than a static stretch

Remember that one of the goals of a warm up is to raise heat in the body. In general, it is not recommended to hold a stretch for over ten seconds BEFORE a workout. However, static stretching for at least forty-five seconds is highly encouraged during a COOL DOWN which should occur at the end of a work out. Stretching at the end of a workout lengthens out muscles that have been shortened from strength training. It helps release lactic acid build up that causes soreness, helps release stress and lowers the chance of heart attacks. Remember to cool down gradually, slowly lowering your heart rate before static stretching.

Make sure your warm ups match your workouts:

I’ve seen this scenario a few times: Someone who danced ballet for ten years decides to take up running as a sport. They use the same warm up for ballet as they use for running because it is the only warm up they have been taught. Doing this can interfere with proper running form because dance moves are different for running moves. This scenario can be true for people who use martial arts warm ups for swimming etc… Make sure that the warm up you are doing matches the specific workout you are going to do. Many warm ups have been scientifically studied to help reduce injuries in specific movements so it doesn’t hurt to do some research. In fact, in today’s information explosion, it is pretty easy to find out what these warm ups are via the internet. Also, I have saved myself a lot of time learning specific warm ups for specific workouts because I stopped using moves that aren’t necessary. Remember that this post covers warm ups in general but the types of warm ups you do really depends on the specific movements you are preparing to perform.