One of my secrets to getting the most out of my exercise sessions is being intentional about doing exercises with multiple benefits.
Here are some examples:
1. Hip circles - Think “Hoola Hoop” in slow motion. As you slowly circle your hips, you are not only warming the hip joints, you are also easing tension from the lower back and really using the abs (as long as you truly imagine that hoola hoop staying right up on your hips!).
2. Strengthening Yoga poses like the Warriors - These great poses stretch and strengthen the legs simultaneously. Also, the Forward Fold and Downward Facing Dog stretch all down the backs of the legs while giving the lower back a stretch. But that’s not all! Getting the blood to flow to the brain gives the heart a little rest and the brain a boost! AND think about the blood flow to the face! It’s like giving yourself an energizing mini facial while you hold these two inverted poses.
3. Spinal twists - I practice a lunging twist (Prayer Twist-yoga pose) and a twist when lying on my back. The obvious benefit to these wonderful stretches is to the spine, keeping it flexible and supple. But, there’s more! When we twist the torso while exhaling deeply, we also give the lungs a beautiful benefit of literally “squeezing out” all of the excess air, allowing the lungs to be replenished with a new deep breath of oxygen. In other words, twisting is Great Energy for the lungs. The third benefit of the twist is targeting those oblique abdominal muscles (the ones on our sides) which we use when we twist - a great added boost! I almost forgot! There is actually a 4th benefit to a spinal twist. When we twist it massages our intestines which aids in digestion.
4. Cardio machines - When I am on an elliptical or a treadmill, I make a point to incorporate hill repeats. Try adjusting the elevation to 10% grade for 1 minute and then come back to 0% for 1 minute-5 times. You will be giving the heart and lungs an added boost while REALLY strengthening the butt and front thigh muscles! This works on a stationary bike too but I choose not to work out on a stationary bike because I get so much more out of an elliptical trainer and a treadmill. It goes right along with the multiple benefit concept. Yes, both stationary bikes and elliptical trainers are good if you need a lower impact workout than running on a treadmill. BUT on an elliptical trainer, you are up off of your butt so you get a weight bearing benefit which we all know is so beneficial to our bones. AND you get to move those arms! This, again, is giving you multiple benefits! In addition to hill repeats, I also add intervals of higher rpm’s. In other words, I simply move faster for a minute or 30 seconds and then slow down for the same amount of time and then repeat this for the length of my workout. I call this “speed play” which is a traditional workout method for runners and since I used to be one, I use this idea of speed play when I am on a cardio machine. Not only does it get my heart really pumping and my legs and lungs burning, it makes the time go by really fast! It’s amazing! Before I know it, 20 minutes has just flown by. And when we work out at a higher intensity, (this means getting out of your comfort zone - if even for 1 minute or 30 seconds) we not only burn significantly more calories during our exercise session but the calorie burn continues for hours after our session ends. Finally, both hills and intervals lead to a much higher fitness level than simply keeping your session at an easy, relaxed pace. Yes...interval/hill training gives us many benefits!
5. Cardio - not on machines! I get how monotonous and boring a cardio machine can be. I happen to be a crazy gym rat and really like to work out on these machines. But, getting outside for some cardio is GREAT! Here are some multiple benefits to working out outdoors:
-Sunshine! I’m not suggesting NOT wearing sunblock by any means but even when protected with a hat and sunscreen, sun is a natural mood booster! Vitamin D is provided by the sun too, but only 10 minutes max should be spent in direct sun when NOT wearing sunscreen in order to get vital vitamin D from the sun and still avoid sun damage.
-Fresh air! Feeling the breeze, hearing the sounds of nature and breathing in the outdoor air is, again, a mood booster and we almost always feel energized after a walk outside.
-Walking, running or riding a bike outdoors is a great and simple way to add to the benefit of sunshine and fresh air. However, I do believe that if your joints, bones and muscles allow, a run or power walk definitely beat a bike ride. Here’s why: Both running and walking give us a weight bearing, thus, bone strengthening benefit along with the cardiovascular benefit. AND you move more of your body to run or power walk. The added arm swing exercises your entire upper body while burning additional calories. On a bike, we are pushing those pedals, but we are also seated and NOT getting the good weight bearing that we get on a run or a walk and the arms are not moving. I am certainly not arguing against a bike ride which strengthens legs, heart and lungs and is a great workout. I am pointing out that both walking and running are more efficient and effective multiple benefit workouts than riding a bike.
6. Here is my favorite relaxing position that actually has multiple benefits. I try to do this daily because it feels so great. I lay on my back and elevate my legs up against the wall and simply breathe for 10 minutes. Here are the multiple benefits from this simple form of relaxing:
-The veins in the legs get a rest. When standing, sitting or even laying down, the veins are working very hard to pump that blood back up to the heart, but elevating the legs gives the veins a little bit of anti-gravity help which improves circulation in our legs. This can help us avoid varicose veins and blood clots.
-While breathing and relaxing we quiet the body and the mind which can help us feel less stressed about this crazy world we live in.
-The legs become invigorated when we elevate them. With that blood flowing easier, the legs receive a natural little burst of energy!
Try these multi beneficial exercises, making an exercise session much more effective and efficient!
We need some high intensity in our exercise routines to burn more calories and increase fitness levels. But just as important as the high intensity is the easy, “in your comfort zone” exercises. Done with intention, these exercises are the actual “key” to being fit. Don’t forget to gently stretch and move your joints through their natural range of motion while breathing with intention. And adding a relaxing leg elevating 10 minutes to your day will give you more benefits than I listed. It’s from the “comfort zone” forms of exercising that we get the Great Energy to venture beyond our comfort zones.
Sept. 4, 2018 - Just Because IT costs money doesn’t make IT worth it!
It is not necessary to pay money for a lot of "things" that many people are convinced should cost money. I've been around a lot of health minded women who place value on "things" according to how much these "things" cost. For instance, I was once in on a conversation about back and hip pain and that in order to alleviate this pain one must see a chiropractor. And that the chiropractor would, in addition to adjusting the spine, give some exercise ideas since movement is the key to controlling back pain. In seeing the demonstration of the exercise I exclaimed, "That's a lot like the T'ai Chi I teach!" I went on to try and elaborate a bit on the subject and was met with angry looks, rolling of eyes and scoffing at what I was trying to share. I had been shunned and I felt angry. But it only got worse. Later with the same group, I overheard the conversation which was all about how to increase one's circulation in the legs in order to offset unsightly veins. I really don't have any unsightly veins (I'm 52) but I did when I was pregnant. I had read that elevating the legs daily can increase circulation and even reverse varicose veins in the legs. So, I got into this habit of elevating my legs for at least 10 minutes per day. WOW! It really worked! And I did not have to pay a penny. I felt I had to share my experience due to the fact that one woman was telling another woman that she paid a massage therapist $100 to give her a very special leg massage to help offset and alleviate varicose veins by increasing circulation...That's $100 per week! She also claimed that this was the only method that worked and that, although it was expensive, it was worth it! So, I chimed in with my opinion on the subject only to be met with more scoffing, "Oh right! You naturally have perfect legs, so just shut up!" My anger got the best of me at this point... I said something like, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME! YOU THINK ALL OF THIS COMES NATURALLY! I GAINED 35 POUNDS WITH MY 4TH PREGNANCY! AND DEVELOPED VERY PAINFUL AND UNSIGHTLY VARICOSE VEINS! I WORK VERY HARD EVERY DAY TO BE FIT AND HEALTHY! ALL I AM SAYING IS THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PAY $100 TO A MASSAGE THERAPIST! THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO ACHIEVE RESULTS WITHOUT PAYING SO MUCH MONEY AND I AM LIVING PROOF!" At that I walked away and have never brought up the subject again with this particular group of women. However, I feel the need to blog about what I feel passionate about. I am 52 years old and I have kept fit and healthy without expensive diets, chiropractors, exercise equipment, personal trainers, etc., etc.! The list goes on and on and that's why it's a multi-billion dollar industry. So, now the "thing" with this same group of women is meditation and how it's important to pay for proper training! I find this so absurd! Why should I pay money to someone to train me how to sit quietly and notice my breath? And when my mind wanders and I am aware of it wandering, I go back to noticing my breath. That's it! It takes a lot of practice to actually quiet the mind but that's all it takes...practice! To pay someone to teach you how to meditate is, in my very humble opinion, a waste of money. There is a discipline involved with meditation that won't happen just because you found an expensive teacher! It must come from YOU! It happens when YOU are determined to continue with a meditation practice even when it feels like a waste of time or that it is doing nothing for you. It requires a daily intention to just sit and breathe and to practice loving kindness with yourself even when you cannot quiet the mind. The important thing is to keep practicing! Meditation is wonderful because you can practice it anywhere! There will always be distractions but learning to relax and breathe through them is a wonderful feeling. And of course there are many ways to meditate. T'ai Chi, Yoga, coloring, knitting - just to name a few. Find your way but PLEASE, don't pay a penny for it!
January 12, 2019
If you think spending anything over $20 for a yoga mat (they can cost over $100!) will give you an enhanced yoga practice, you've been duped! And you've helped make a company who relies on gullible people like you richer. In the 25+ years that I have been practicing yoga, I have never spent over $15 on a yoga mat. And I practiced yoga for years without using a yoga mat. The fitness industry is full of these kinds of gimmicks. Please don't fall for them! You can be very fit without spending a lot of money. I am living proof. At 52 I know that I am more fit than most other adult women (who are not professional athletes). I just know how to work out effectively. I buy cheap workout clothes at Walmart and I buy running shoes on sale - never spending more than $60 on shoes. I don't buy GPS watches. I am a minimalist who has a few rules when it comes to exercise. As long as I follow these rules, I continue to stay fit and, even with aging improve,my fitness level.
Here are my rules:
1. Make it count - don't just go through the motions. In every single move and every single minute of your exercise routine, make sure you are progressing. Every element should have a purpose.
2. Include flexibility, strength, cardio and relaxation in your daily routine.
3. When strengthening, make sure you are pushing to failure in your sets. But, at the same time, practice correct and safe form so you don't injure yourself. If you don't push to failure, you won't gain significant strength and you're simply wasting your time.
4. When doing a cardio workout, get more bang for your buck by adding another element such as hill repeats on a treadmill or increased resistance on a bike or elliptical. Now you have given yourself added strengthening benefits while being much more efficient with your time.
5. Also in a cardio workout move as much of your body as you can so I suggest using arms on the elliptical, swimming and perhaps rethinking whether the bike is the best way to get the best cardio workout??? You are not getting a weight bearing benefit on the bike-sitting on your butt- and you aren't moving your arms...hmmmm...I think running, brisk walking, elliptical and swimming are all much better choices for getting the most bang for your buck.
6. Increase energy for the day by waking up 30 minutes before you need to and moving gently through your joints' range of motion...beginning with the neck and working down to the ankles. Simply move your body gently within your own comfort zone and be aware of your breath as you move. You will be amazed at the energy you will gain from this simple routine! It will enhance your entire day...working, exercising and sleeping!
Jan. 24, 2019
Sometimes I want to sing that Taylor Swift song at the top of my lungs...”The Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate... I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake shake, baby, shake it off!
I get looks of disdain in a workout setting, like the fitness center here on campus, and the YMCA. The looks are always from women. I know exactly why. I am very fit. When I exercise, I make it look easy and it pisses other women off. Very few women are kind to me in a work-out setting. But the women who are kind are of a certain breed. And that goes for the ones who aren’t kind as well. Let’s start with the kind ones. These women are self-assured and confident women who don’t compare themselves to other women and who don’t care what others think. They also don’t get caught up in being jealous or threatened. I appreciate these women so much but there are far more of the others. That is very sad to me. The other type can only feel good about themselves when they like their own outer appearance. If someone comes along and threatens that, that good feeling starts to slip and they don’t like that at all. So, the way to deal is to find reasons to hate the someone who just knocked them off the podium. And, wow, do they like to make sure I know it! I will look these women in the eye and smile and say hello and I will get no response back...no hello, no smile, no recognition what-so-ever. It’s happened again and again to me throughout my adult years. I don’t get that! How do you see that someone has just smiled directly at you and then you decide to NOT smile back??? It’s beyond rude. I think it borders on mean or even cruel. So, what is going through the mean women’s heads? I have some insight. I have been told by my own family members - women, of course -that I am lucky to be so naturally in shape and not have to work at it at all. And that I can eat anything I want and never gain weight. So, this is the conclusion that the mean women come to...that I have it easy and it’s disgusting that I flaunt around, showing how fit I am while THEY have to work so much harder than I do and not be in as good of shape as me. They find it so unfair!
Well, I am truly sick of this. I’ve had enough!
HERE IS MY TYPICAL WEEK:
*Wake up 1 hour before you need to (that’s 5:30 am on the weekdays) and go through Great Energy routine (Gentle T’ai Chi exercises that warm the entire body) ending with meditation while elevating legs. This routine sets me up with Great Energy for the whole day!
*Breakfast is fruit and nuts and coffee and maybe even a croissant with jam! I may also have a half bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter. I eat bananas even though a mean woman once told me that they make you fat.
On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I workout at the YMCA:
I typically do a 6 mile elliptical workout consisting of high resistance intervals that last anywhere from 1-2 minutes.
Next I cool down with a 30 minute Pilates routine that stretches the whole body and strengthens the core
Next I swim a mile. So, that equals 10 miles of running, (I always convert my cardio workouts into running miles because I am a runner at heart), three days per week. Hey, mean women! Do you still think I am just NATURALLY in good shape?
On Tuesday and Thursday I workout at home and at the fitness center on campus:
At home, I have a stability ball routine that I started 14 years ago...after my 4th child was born. It is grueling but it is short and sweet and it gets the work done! It includes various versions of pushups, squats, back extensions and balance exercises. After I strengthen, I do a yoga flow routine and a short Pilates routine (this home workout takes 45 minutes.)
At the fitness center I workout on the elliptical or the treadmill or a combination for about an hour. I include hills and high resistance for extra leg strengthening. I rarely workout on a stationary bike...I consider it a waste of my time. I finish my workout at the campus fitness center with 15 dips and 10 pull-ups using my entire body weight - no help from machines or stools. So, to all of you who ask (sometimes in a friendly way and sometimes in a not-so-friendly way) “How do you have such muscular arms? It’s from body weight exercises like push-ups,dips and pull-ups. You don’t even have to do that many...just make sure that by your last one you can barely get through it or you simply can’t. THAT’s how you gain real strength.
On Saturday I have on off-day. I do my wake-up routine and yoga and Pilates.
On Sunday I allow myself a long run which used to hurt my knees afterward, but I have rehabilitated my knees to the point that my long Sunday run does not hurt them! I also do a very gentle yoga routine on Sundays.
My lunches consist of a lot of vegetables. Because I love them! My dinners consist of whatever my foodie husband and I have planned. Sometimes we eat meat, sometimes we eat vegan. We generally drink wine and I always have a little sweet after both lunch and dinner. I eat whatever I want...that much is absolutely true. But I absolutely do not eat all that I want or whenever I want or however I want. I am disciplined and I think about each and every bite I put in my mouth. It’s not always healthy but it usually is. It is always exactly what I want! And it is completely satisfying. Eating this way didn’t come naturally. It came with a daily mindful practice. This lead me to a way of eating that frees me from the munchies and from emotional/stress eating.
So, really, it’s my Great Energy routine each and every morning that gives me the energy to workout at the intensity that I do and helps me to always eat mindfully.
I am blessed to know what I know but don’t for a second think I don’t work hard for what I have. I work each and every day to achieve what I have at age 52. So, hey! All you mean women! You could do just what I do and be just as fit and healthy. After seeing for yourself what it takes, day after day, are you sure you want to??? I didn’t think so.
I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake shake, baby, shake it off!
Feb. 18, 2019
So, last week I overheard a yoga instructor who has never taken a t’ai chi class describe it as “different”. And her tone didn’t make t’ai chi seem “good” different but rather, “bad” different. This, of course annoyed, nay, angered me. She was answering a question from one of her students who seemed to be considering taking my Great Energy t’ai chi class. The student was saying that she had never taken t’ai chi and was asking her yoga instructor if she had. That’s when the instructor said, “No...it’s...different...”. I really should just shrug it off. I’m glad that I am only teaching one more class at this studio where unfriendly yoga instructors teach. This is not for me. I like environments that are open and kind and inviting. I so appreciate the yoga studio in Clarksville, AR and the Pilates studios in Gastonia, NC and Saint Paul, MN. There, I was treated with kindness and respect and there was such an openness to the Great Energy classes that I developed and taught. Thank you to Michael, Megan, Joel and Rachel. Rachel and Joel, you are TRUE yogis in every sense of the word! Michael and Megan, you are so good at what you do! You both are my mentors and I learned so much from you. I just can’t thank you enough! And, of course thank you for your belief in me and in Great Energy!
July 1, 2019
Great Energy leads to Great Intimacy
When I started learning T’ai Chi nearly 20 years ago, I had no idea of the impact it would have on my life. I just knew that after that first class I felt good and I wanted to try another class. And so I did along with about seven other people. Slowly but surely the class dwindled down to one...ME! And so for another few months I was the one and only student taking this class - lead by an instructor who simply wanted to share with others her love and knowledge of T’ai Chi. Having this one-on-one instruction was invaluable to me. I was a sponge, soaking it all up! At the time I was a yoga instructor and I was also coaching a college cross country running team. T’ai Chi became a wonderful addition to both my yoga classes and my teams’ running workouts. After two years of learning from my instructor, I began practicing on my own. It was an extraordinary compliment to the intense running workouts I had been doing for years. Yoga was also a wonderful compliment. Both of these mind-body workouts gave me the meditative quality that proved to enhance not only running but also my crazy life. At the time, I was in the midst of having my 4 children and feeling often like a single mom. My husband, bless his heart, was a college athletic director and working on his doctoral degree, leaving him little time at home. I often asked myself, “how do you have the energy to be a full-time mom, part-time coach and yoga instructor?” I was managing this life with energy to spare. I didn’t know how to explain that it was the yoga and t’ai chi that I practiced every day that somehow gave me the energy and extra time to manage this very crazy life. It didn’t even make sense to me! In fact, I would feel guilty for taking this “me” time when it felt like I should be giving it to my family or my team or my students. I just knew that giving this daily “gift” to myself was a way to be more energetic and more productive. And it got even better when I let go of the guilt. I realized how important it was to all the people who relied on me to continue to give this daily gift to myself as life ebbed and flowed. T’ai Chi was the constant for me, even when life threw its curve balls. And that’s exactly what life does...it unexpectedly changes and we have to learn to adapt. Life becomes complicated with careers, marriage, children and, God forbid...pets! The person I once was, before kids (bk) is lost somewhere deep inside me and I can’t for the life of me find her. But, I have found that with the daily practice of Great Energy (the t’ai chi practice that I created) I can find the soul of that young woman. I can feel young again. The scary part is looking in the mirror when I feel so young. My old-looking self is living inside my young-feeling self. But, I guess that’s my point...what matters most is how you feel on the inside. And that youthful energy actually does radiate outwardly.
So, think back to when you really felt young and beautiful and...sexy. Think back to when you really wanted to have sex AND were having good sex! Yes, I have moved on to a taboo subject for women...SEX! WE JUST DON’T TALK ABOUT IT! But, guess what? It’s part of life. In fact, it IS life! Without sex we can’t create life! But, honestly, sex is more than life. It is a basic instinct, a primal need and without it, humans (yes... both men AND women) stop living fully. So, let’s just face it...we need to have sex and not just when we’re young but as we age. In fact, as we age, if we continue to have good sex, we will keep ourselves feeling younger and more alive. So, how? How are we supposed to have great sex when we are so over scheduled, and stressed by our own busy life, our partner’s busy life, our kid’s busy lives...everyone depends on us - women, wives, moms - for so much! The LAST thing we want to make time for is sex! NOT feeling sexy! NOT in the mood! But wouldn’t it be great to feel sexy again? Wouldn’t it be great to WANT to have sex!? So, the first step is to put on something sexy that feels and looks beautiful, right?? Actually, I think that is the second step. The first and most important step is to want it...to be horny! Feeling sexy gives off an undeniable energy/sexual tension that transmits what’s inside of you to what you are wearing. And then, that beautiful lingerie that you bought for yourself thinking it might help you feel and look a bit more sexy actually does! You see yourself in the mirror and, thanks to that great feeling inside, you see “sexy” in your reflection. You like what you see and you know your partner will too. It’s all a good partner really wants anyway...He/she wants YOU to feel the sexual energy that is going to lead to amazing sex. And like I said, it starts from inside and then is heightened by the best fitting, feeling and looking lingerie possible. Of course, I am talking about Activintimates. It may just work out for you to simply put on this wonderful line of lingerie. It’s quite possible that you will feel sexy immediately from how great it feels and looks on you. But, let’s say that wearing the sexy clothing isn’t enough for you. You need to feel horny and no amount of money spent on sexy lingerie is going to do it. So, how? How can you get that feeling back? Like I said earlier, a daily Great Energy practice has helped me feel young again. It’s helped me find my libido again!
A simple practice of Great Energy which takes 5-10 minutes is all about increasing energy flow. And our energy center (Dan Tien) is in the lower region or our abdomen. If you place your hands, one on top of the other, over the place right between your belly button and pelvic bone and you simply breathe you have found your energy center! And a Great Energy practice helps to get the stuck energy free flowing again. That same energy that we were born with and that WAS free flowing at birth, slows or stops due to stress, illness, injury... life! So, with a daily Great Energy practice, energy slowly starts to flow freely again and we can feel like our young selves again! I know it works because it’s worked on me. I am 52 and have the best sex with my husband of 28+ years. Because of GE it’s even better sex than we had in our 20’s! Give it a try! See, if after a few weeks of a daily 10 minute practice, you notice a change. And who knows?? You might even feel great energy after your very first 10 minute Great Energy session!
“We don’t stop having sex because we grow old...we grow old because we stop having sex.”