Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Benefits of Rolling

I recently picked up a new foam roller which is designed for myofascial release.   "Myo" refers to muscle and fascia,  in the most simplified way, can be imagined as a 3D net or web of connective tissue. The most superficial layer is underneath our skin, covering our muscles and stretching over our entire body. Fascia also runs to deeper levels and essentially helps to keep everything in place.

If I could carry my massage therapist in my pocket I would because I believe massage is the best form of myofascial release but unfortunately massage is not always a viable option.  That's where self treatment through foam rolling comes in. Whether its through injury, repetitive movements or even lack of activity and flexibility we develop "knots" and pain in certain areas of our body that eventually compromise our movements and range of motion.  With the foam roller we basically use our body weight to roll over sore muscles. And if done correctly the result is heavenly.

When I was new to foam rolling I started off with a basic inexpensive roller and found it served it's purpose but wore out quickly with consistent use.  There are various types and densities available but most recently I purchased the RumbleRoller.  The RumbleRoller comes in two densities - Regular (blue) and Extra Firm (black).  Many rollers have a smooth surface but what I like about this product are the large and dense bumps.  As you roll over the surface it feels as if you are kneading your muscles so it's not a smooth ride.  This is especially great on trigger points.  I do caution you though that it can be painful so it may not be for everyone.  The roller also comes with a picture instruction guide which is informative and helpful. 

There are arguments and theories about whether or not we should stretch before exercise. Through my personal experience I feel better and notice greater range of motion when, prior to exercise, I roll over trigger points and hold for a few seconds until I feel some release.  I then continue with a dynamic warm up.  When muscles feel tight an imbalance exists so rolling allows for more balance when muscles contract and relax during a workout.  Engaging in exercise with compromised form may be an injury waiting to happen.  I always stretch post workout and I often get on the roller later in the evening when there is some time to relax.

Working on the roller is not always easy and can be challenging for some as it does require arm strength for certain exercises.  Body composition is also a factor.  I recommend that you always try the roller before you buy it. The idea is to feel better once you're done so knowing your body and understanding what we call "good pain" and "bad pain" is important.  Bruising is not a good thing.  Like most things, if you continue to do them on a regular basis they will become easier and you will feel better overall.

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness./gena. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Exercising With The Medicine Ball, Ropes, Water Log and Sand Bag

Working with both the sandbag and water-log is a full body workout and great for strength, endurance and power.  As the water travels back and forth you are forced to use your core to maintain good form and balance. Similar to the water log, the sandbag is also unstable. As the weight shifts, lifting, stabilizing and lowering make for a challenging exercise.

If you've ever worked with ropes the muscles in your hands and forearms might feel like jello within minutes. They certainly help strengthen your grip and rope battling moves are great for conditioning. The sheer weight of the rope is enough to get you sweating. Your upper body will feel the work and you will definitely feel your heart pumping as you toss the rope back and forth and make rope waves. Good form is important to avoid lower back strain.

Finally the med ball comes in various sizes and can be used for an endless amount of exercises. By adding this weighted ball to any move you instantly increase the difficulty of the exercise, engage abdominals and work on balance and coordination.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Intervals on the Stairs

With nothing more than a few minutes and a set of steps you can get an awesome heart pounding interval workout! Do each exercise for 20-30 seconds. Rest up to 30 seconds between each exercise. Repeat the cycle from 10 - 20 minutes in total. Enjoy!

Monday, August 6, 2012


Trust. It's a big word. Not for lightweights.
We trust in people.
We trust in ourselves.
We trust in God. The light. The universe.
We trust in our bodies.
But trust carries risk. When we trust do we assume that things won't change.
People won't change.  Our beliefs won't change.  Our circumstances and needs won't change.
Life won't change.
And change is one thing you can trust. Trust that it will happen.
Or should that not matter when it comes to trust.
Is trust absolute.
If I train I trust my body will carry me through.
If I respect my body I trust that it won't betray me.
If  I'm faithful to the habits that are necessary for a healthy and vibrant body I trust that the result will be just that.
But I'm aware.
Aware that my body may not carry me through. My body may betray me.
But nevertheless I continue to trust.
Trust in the pounding of my heart against the walls of my chest.
Trust in the discomfort of challenge.
Trust in the sweat that drips down my back and the weight that suddenly comes off my shoulders.
Trust in the movement of my arms and legs and the strength I see when I look in the mirror.
Trust in the dedication. Trust in the lessons I've learned and the person I've built.
I trust in exercise and all its amazing side effects. This is one thing I know for sure.

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness/gena.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stability Ball Exercises Glutes and Core

Yes summer is here and that gives us lot's of reason to stay on top of our workouts! I love exercising outdoors and today I had some fun working glutes and core on the stability ball. Give it a try let me know how you do!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Muscles and Air Miles. They're Similar.

Muscle. You work to build it and continue to work to keep it so if you don't respect it, it won't stick around. Further, we believed that as we grew older we would experience a decline in muscle simply as a side effect of aging. Not so say recent studies by Dr. Vonda Wright. We've all heard the old saying Use It Or Lose It. We hear it about our brains, our Aeroplan miles and yes, our muscles. If you've done any sort of resistance or cardiovascular exercise you might have noticed that once you stop so do many of the benefits. Simply - the benefits seize from a lack of use. Imagine that.

So this study by Dr. Wright is supported further by a group of scientists from the University of Western Ontario who had similar findings. This is definitely something to get excited about. Until now we've expected to lose muscle at about the age of 40 but according to these findings we don't have to become heavier and weaker. It seems that a very important factor had generally been ignored when studying the decline of muscle with age: subjects had generally been sedentary. This is not the case today as we often hear of amazing feats by those in their golden years. So how do the muscles of our older active adults weigh against those who are decades younger? Well after performing a series of strength and fitness tests and also conducting MRI scans ''...neither leg muscle size nor strength declined significantly with age among the subjects, suggesting that regular training had warded off the muscle-wasting effects of aging. The sample MRIs showed virtually indistinguishable quadriceps in a 40-year-old triathlete compared with a 70-year-old triathlete. In contrast, the quadriceps of a 74-year-old sedentary man were shriveled and enveloped in fat...”

So of course this got me thinking. When it comes to our physical abilities and expectations should we stop looking at our age? What if we removed the expectation that we will continue to decline with the suggestion that what you can do at 40 you can do at 70, 80 and beyond! Think of people like octogenarian Ed Whitlock and centenarian Fauja Singh who are setting world records. Perhaps we simply need to put ourselves in environments to succeed with the only pre-existing notion of - You Will. It's Possible. Age is Just a Number.

Ernestine Shepherd, 73
But of course as wonderful as all this is there is a caveat. Although the legs of these individuals were almost indistinguishable, there was decline in other regions of the body. It may suggest that no one type of exercise alone will give you the best results. Variety is just as important as full body resistance training. Just consider that 73 year old grandmother, Ernestine Shepherd, is bench pressing 150 pounds, curling up to 20 pounds and runs 80 miles per week. So hit the gym, grab some weights and the next time you find yourself blowing out candles know that the number of candles say one thing but your muscles say another.

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness/gena.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Interval Training, At Home Full Body Workout

Do each exercise for 30-45 seconds
Rest up to 30 seconds between exercises
Run through the sequence x5

The Push Up. Everyone Can Do It!


I love basic movements that work multiple muscles and offer major benefits – without equipment. Which brings me to the beautiful push up. Yes I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I'm certain you will appreciate this functional move once you get a handle of the biomechanics. And I like to think you'll remember me when you're 92 and strong enough to push yourself up out of bed.

The push up works the pectoralis major which is basically our chest muscle. In addition to our chest muscle the front of our shoulders and back of our arms work together. While these muscles are working, the front of our arms, thighs and abdominal region are also working to offer stabilization during the movement.

There are variations of the push up to accommodate all levels of fitness so EVERYBODY CAN DO A PUSH UP!

Positioning: Hands should be slightly wider than your shoulders. Ensure your shoulder blades are apart and that you are not caving in through your chest. Your lower back should be flat, your abdominal tight. Your body should be straight from top to bottom – imagine a plank – so that you are not bending or caving in at the waist at any time. As you lower your body your elbows will move away from your body. Try to keep your elbow and wrist aligned at the mid point and follow through. Do not extend the neck or lead with your head.  Inhale on your way down. Exhale on your way up. If you are not able to perform the push up on your knees you can stand by a counter, desk or wall.

Get moving! Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness/gena.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Crazy? Maybe. Defeated? No.

"What 's this worth? What the hell are you doing?" I asked myself as I let out a moan of what I could only translate as defeat.  I generally don't make a peep when I run. I don't hear my voice for hours. Think what you want in silence but when your thoughts are assigned a voice it's a whole different game. The psychological warfare gets ugly.  So as I looked at the final hill on my route I resigned to having my head examined.  After all I was soaked, freezing and numb from pain.  I'd been running through snow, ice and -22 windchill for over three hours.  It also doesn't help when drivers give you the universal "CRAZY!" sign.  If I skipped the hill I could make a left and be soaking in my tub within 12 minutes versus 40 minutes if I stayed the course.  And then I paused and grudgingly asked "Am I defeated?!  Am I giving up?!" I didn't hold my head up. I didn't look mother nature in the eye. I didn't get my second wind. I just put my head down and ran that bloody hill and the rest of the route.  When I got home, on the verge of breaking down, I heard my voice say out loud - "I wasn't defeated, I didn't give up...."

In that moment I had myself fooled by the weather, my exhaustion and my innate battle.  It was the first few weeks of marathon training. Physically I wasn't where I wanted to be. I fooled myself into thinking that I should give up.  I got in my own way and bought into my own bull#$*!.  Somehow that moment skewed my judgement and everything I could accomplish.  Yes, doubt and fear are always lurking and the danger of giving them a voice is that they infiltrate your thoughts, your attitude and your outlook.  If you don't give them the power you will never be powerless.

So are you focused on your goal? Are you facing your challenge? Are you winning your battle?  It doesn't matter how big or small. Perhaps it's a change in eating habits, a new workout plan or your first time joining a gym.  Perhaps its not even fitness related but rather your work or your relationships.  Whatever it is I think many of us have experienced moments where we are fooled into believing we should just give up. But when we give up we have nowhere else to go. Stay the course, you will always have somewhere to be and the road will always be open, no matter the weather. And if someone gives you the "crazy" sign just smile and move on.  You will never be defeated.

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness/gena.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hold On! It's Only February!

So here we are into February, the perfect time to assess our progress towards the goals we set at the beginning of the year. If you're like many you may be cringing at the thought because what research tells us is that by the first week of the year 1/4 of us have given up on succeeding with those resolutions and 40% abandon them all-together by the end of the month. Any time we experience failure the associated feelings can be those of defeat, sadness and low self esteem. But hold on! Its' only February! There are several months ahead to work it out! It's important to understand that just because we say we want to change, change won't happen. Changing habits is a work in progress so a “now or never” approach can be counterproductive. Because of this it's also helpful to acknowledge that sometimes “failure” is part of the process. Few things worth changing happen over night. So what can you do to help yourself along the way? Here are some suggestions:
  1. Get out of your way. That's right. Sometimes we are in the way of our own success and sabotage our efforts through negative self talk, cynicism and undermining thoughts. These constant thoughts that go through our minds must be recognized as just that. Thoughts. They are not you, they don't define you. You don't have to solve them, get over them or hide them. Just acknowledge them, let go and focus on what you can do at the present moment. That in itself can take you a step closer to your goal.
  2. Ask the right questions. Are your goals realistic? Don't base your goal on other people's abilities and success. In regards to weight loss and fitness we are not all designed the same. What worked for someone else may not work for you. If your expectations are unrealistic you are setting yourself up for failure. To be ambitious and optimistic is one thing but to be unrealistic is another.
  3. Abstract doesn't work. Be specific. Telling yourself that you will lose weight and get in shape is hard to measure and surprisingly not so simple to define. What does being in shape really mean to you? It's better to make a clear and precise statement like “I will go the the gym three times a week.”
  4. Have a plan and surround yourself with the tools and support you need. Investing in a few sessions with a personal trainer to learn proper form and execution will save you time and keep you safe. Can you find a friend to be accountable to? Friends and groups with similar goals and interests can carry you through the days where motivation may be low.
  5. Use daily acts to measure and celebrate your progress. All the little accomplishments and choices you make over the days will contribute to the end result. Are you now able to get up the stairs quicker or without being winded? Did you grab some fruit and yogurt instead of a candy bar? Are you able to carry more groceries? Lift your toddler with more ease? Has your posture improved? Do you have more energy? These are all valid and important accomplishments and take you steps closer to your goal. Know that you will always feel better before you actually start to see a difference in your body. Don't underestimate these simple things.
  6. Never give up. Period. Those who succeeded reaching their goals never gave up no matter how many attempts it took. It takes time for habits to stick.
Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness/gena.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Congratulations Judi - Winner to our Year End Challenge!

Congratulations to Judi who is our Year End Plank Challenge Winner! During the challenge Judi reached a time of 2:30 and most recently upped that to 3:05!  Well done!  Think you can't? Think again. Judi, who is a 60 year old working grandmother knows it's never too late to get in shape. She picked up her first dumbbell in her forties and has continued lifting ever since.  In addition to resistance training 2 - 3 times per week Judi stays in shape with yoga and cardiovascular work.  Is it easy? No. Between work, family and home, time is always a challenge but through exercise we gain the strength and energy to live life.  Congratulations to all those who participated and reached a new personal best - some great accomplishments in just minutes a day!

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness/gena.