Heads (and Chest) Up: The Easy Power Move Everyone Should Know

There’s one simple move that can instantly improve how you’re moving while helping you look and feel better, too. In fact, it’s so simple that it’s widely neglected. It requires no special gear. And you can do it standing or sitting just about anywhere.

The secret is…Lift your chest.     

Stand up straight and really lift that chest, so your shoulder blades come together behind you, your shoulders are pulled back, and your arms are hanging loosely by your sides. No leaning back! Your feet should be at about hip width and pointing straight ahead.

A whole-body realignment  

Notice what happens right away:

Your gluteal, thigh, and calf muscles tighten, and your tummy flattens. In fact, your entire core engages.

Your back moves toward its natural, S-curved shape, and your whole body is more aligned.

Your hips open, and your pelvis is appropriately aligned and “tucked,” rather than tilting forward.

Your chest cavity opens, too, giving your lungs room to inflate more fully.

You stand measurably taller, gaining as much as an inch or more in height.

Make it a habit

Now try to keep your chest lifted as you walk or move. If you tend to carry your head forward, think about keeping your neck back and your chin up, so you’re looking straight ahead (imagine an invisible string that is pulling you up from the ceiling through your spine, neck and head).

This is what good posture looks like! Learn how to “stand proud,” and you’ll engage those important core muscles a lot more often. Make it a habit, and you will be less likely to stress your knees, hips, back, or shoulders while lifting or turning. You’ll also feel stronger, more confident, and more in command. So if you want to be fit, “just move”—and lift that chest while doing it.

Image: Havey Productions

By | 2018-04-19T18:01:22+00:00 April 19th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Heads (and Chest) Up: The Easy Power Move Everyone Should Know

Why I Love the Gym (and You Might, Too)

Call me crazy, but my workouts are some of the best times of my week. I didn’t feel that way on day one, it’s true. But as soon as I started seeing progress, the gym became my home away from home. Here’s why:

It gives me a time and place to focus on improving how I move. It’s like a laboratory where you gain insight into your strengths and weaknesses and figure out what your body needs in order to be more balanced and functional.  (Ideally, you do this with the help of a skilled trainer who brings expert knowledge and an objective eye to the effort.) That work continues outside the gym. As you improve your patterns of movement in your workouts, you can apply that learning to all your other activities. Over time, those new and better ways of moving become embedded in your muscle memory.

It offers many ways to be challenged. The gym is a chance to show myself what I can do.  It also lets me gauge my progress in a variety of ways. How good is my movement form? How close am I to the full range of motion for a given movement? Can I do more repetitions, or throw in some harder variations? When I’m able to do a demanding exercise after working on it for a while, it gives me a real sense of accomplishment. It also makes me feel I can do whatever I set my mind to.

It’s always an energy boost. For one thing, it’s energizing to be around other people who are actively working to become more fit. Talk to gym regulars about what keeps them coming back, and they’ll often say, “Because it makes me feel so good.” As scientists now know, when your heart is pumping, your blood is moving, and your muscles are working, it benefits your body on a cellular level. It also improves brain function and stimulates the release of endorphins, your body’s natural “feel-good” chemical.   There’s simply nothing like the glow you feel after a good workout!

Image: Bryan Black Photography

By | 2018-04-13T19:38:29+00:00 March 29th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Why I Love the Gym (and You Might, Too)

What Does “Fitness Is a Way of Life” Mean, Anyway?

                                                                                    Photo: Masterfile

We often think of fitness as one more thing to slot into our busy schedules—something to squeeze in between everything else going on. With so many competing priorities, it’s no wonder we feel we “don’t have time” for exercise.

Maybe the answer isn’t to lament your crowded calendar, but to look at fitness in a different way. As the inventor Buckminster Fuller observed, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

So let’s stop seeing fitness as one more entry on the to-do list. Instead, let’s make it a way of being that weaves through all the hours and days of  our lives. Here are some tips for cultivating that mind-set:

Be body-aware.  Get in the habit of noticing how your body is feeling and moving. Observing where you’re tight is a cue to stretch. Similarly, spotting weaknesses or movements you avoid tells you what you need to work on. And every now and then, check in on your posture while sitting, standing, or walking. Over time each of these body connections will reinforce the others, and your body’s need to move.

Think beyond the gym. There’s no end of ways to have active fun. If you don’t have a favorite, try something new.

Turn tasks into opportunities. Chores can double as exercise, especially if you’re conscious of movement form as you do them. Work those back muscles as you sweep or rake. Stretch as you put the groceries away.  Squat to trim the plants in your garden.

Take the stairs. (You knew I’d say that.) Park a few blocks away from your appointment or shopping, and walk. Do calf raises as you’re standing in line. Every little bit helps cement the fitness habit.

Use TV and phone time.  Commercial breaks are built-in chances to stretch and move. And if you invest in a wireless headset, you can move around or even go for a walk while talking on the phone.

Get in a groove.  Ask anyone who’s over 50 and in great shape. Odds are, they’ll say being physically active is as much a part of their day as brushing their teeth or checking email. To foster that mind-set, establish a workout schedule you can stick to; then stick to it. Those early weeks are the hardest. But after two or three months of success, exercising will be your standard operating procedure, too.

By | 2018-02-15T21:03:05+00:00 February 15th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on What Does “Fitness Is a Way of Life” Mean, Anyway?

When Motivation Flags: 7 Tips for Sticking with Your Program Anyway

How you handle times when you don’t feel like working out can mean the difference between meeting your fitness goals and giving up. Know that when it comes to staying motivated, the heavy lifting is mental.

  1. Rely on habit, not willpower, which is less reliable. Keep an exercise calendar so sessions are “appointments with yourself.”
  2. Chain habits you’re building to an established routine. For instance, decide to stretch every day right after your morning shower, or reserve the slot just before lunch for your walks.
  3. Adopt a mindset of success. No matter what your starting point, you can get fit if you stick with it and have realistic expectations. Target small, steady advances that add up to big changes over time, and don’t worry about weaknesses. Work on things you can control, and adapt to the rest.
  4. Reinforce helpful character traits. No need to scold yourself or dwell on “shoulds.” Instead, remind yourself of who you are and aspire to be—someone of action, strength and resolve.
  5. Use the power of visualization. Picture yourself becoming a stronger, more limber version of yourself. Or imagine tapping into the mojo of a figure who inspires you—an Olympic athlete, the Rock, or Wonder Woman.
  6. Do something rather than nothing. When tempted to skip your workout, give yourself permission to do something else physically active, or scale back your routine. Once you get moving, chances are you’ll feel ready for more.
  7. Boost the fun factor. If solo workouts feel like a chore, get energized by a fitness class or small-group sessions with
    a trainer. Do something outdoors, or try something new: Pilates, kayaking, dance class, water aerobics… you name it. Motivation isn’t problem if your exercise is an activity you want to do.

 

Photos: (top) Mircea.Netea/Fotofolia/Adobe Stock, (bottom) karelnoppe/Fotofolia/Adobe Stock

By | 2018-04-13T19:40:55+00:00 January 24th, 2018|Mind-set|Comments Off on When Motivation Flags: 7 Tips for Sticking with Your Program Anyway

The Upside of Aging

There’s no telling exactly when it will happen. But sooner or later, the day comes when you start up a staircase or bend down to reach for something and it suddenly hits you: I’m not young anymore. You look in the mirror and wonder, Can that really be me?

The ageism in ourselves

We can’t help but be aware of what is lost with the passing years – not just youthful energy and good looks, but also that exuberant sense of all the paths still open to us. Society’s conceptions of aging, plus our own, conspire with the calendar to shut down our sense of possibility.

But what if we started thinking more about the ways that age enables us, rather than limiting us—even when it comes to our bodies? I’m convinced age can actually be an advantage in the pursuit of fitness. You can more deeply appreciate your body’s innate wisdom, its miraculous capacity for self-healing, and all the things it can still do after decades of uninterrupted service. Every time I work out, I’m grateful to be here at 77, and still kickin’ it.

Acceptance is another capacity that may grow with age. Surprising as it may seem, studies show that both men and women feel best about their bodies around the age of 75. As the years roll by, it’s easier to let go of vanity and focus on more important and practical goals, like staying mobile and pain-free. We also become less prone to bravado, and more careful to avoid injuries that could sideline us.

Then, too, with peak career and family demands behind us, we may have more time to devote to health and well-being. We may also find greater motivation. Science has discovered that being active helps us lower the risks of a life-threatening disease, feel younger, preserve brain health, and be more resilient in the event of an illness, among other benefits.

Making the mental shift 

Evolutionary biologists tell us humans are wired to be far more aware of the threats and obstacles around us than of our assets and opportunities. Negativity comes easily, but finding the positive takes a conscious effort. That’s especially true if you feel age as a constant burden.

You can be free of that negative baggage if you think of the arc of your life as your own creation. Where you go from here is up to you. So let’s make 2018 a year to stop fixating on things we can’t do, and start celebrating all the things we still can do to make the most of our lives.

Photos: top, Galina Barskaya/Fotolia/Adobe Stock; bottom, Masterfile

By | 2018-04-13T19:39:30+00:00 January 11th, 2018|Mind-set|Comments Off on The Upside of Aging