I’ve seen it so often. Women find out their pregnant, start feeling the effects of it, and quit coming to the gym or their classes. When I see them again postpartum, they feel huge and out of shape.

 

Now, let me preface this by saying that I’m not throwing rocks. I know how debilitating some of pregnancy’s “side effects” are. As one who has experienced hyperemesis through two pregnancies myself, it can be extremely difficult to lift your head to do a daily task (other than hang out with the toilet) let alone get yourself dressed for a workout.

 

I’m also going to say that working out is the¬†only thing that saved me from 1) losing my lunch (and my mind) completely and 2) turning into a couch potato. Even though by eight weeks I could no longer do my usual workouts due to the severity of my nausea, practicing and teaching Yoga and Pilates really, really helped me maintain a healthy weight, keep down the nausea, maintain strength and flexibility and a strong core (essential for delivering babies), and mental clarity.

 

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Pregnancy is a wonderful new adventure, and the perfect time to clean up your routine. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting something new or increasing your goals. It means making small, healthy changes that benefit you and the baby and your household. Gentle, consistent exercise is the main way to keep pregnancy side effects at bay. It helps maintain muscle tone and bone strength, increases adherence to healthy behaviors and therefore a healthy weight, increases circulation and oxygen to the body (and baby), increases positive mindset and mood while decreasing anxiety and depression, and also reduces all the side effects of pregnancy such as swelling, excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, insomnia and exhaustion.

 

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This sounds wonderful (and is!) but I always provide a word of caution. Whenever pregnant, make sure you consult your physician and/or OB about your routine. Each pregnancy is unique and needs to be well attended by both you and your doctor. Complications and contraindications can occur at any time, in which case you must curtail or change your regimen to meet doctor’s orders. Never go against them (seek a second opinion if you don’t agree with the decision) for your own sake and that of the baby.

 

Most of all, enjoy the journey. Be gentle with yourself. You are venturing down a new path–yes, even those of us who have multiple children, it’s still new because there’s another one coming ūüėČ Take care of the important things, learn to let the little things go, and laugh a lot. Children are precious and fun…and I bet you’ll feel better when you do!

I just heard you groan. You’re thinking,¬†But you just told me that dieting does not necessarily help me lose (or gain) weight. Yes, yes I did.¬†Dieting does not help maintain healthy body weight. In fact, more and more research suggests that dieting actually harms your basal metabolic state, making you prone to regaining even more weight than you’ve lost and having a hard time losing it (again). (Please excuse the advertising at the end of the article linked. It’s the research surrounding¬†Biggest Loser that fascinates me most. Here is also a great article by IDEA.)

 

So, the bad news is that yo-yo dieting can slow down your metabolism and a slow metabolism means that you are prone to working harder for fewer results. And then there are genes, which do account for a certain (if small) percentage toward whether or not we are naturally inclined toward thin or not-so-thin. But here is where the good news comes in!

 

Epigenetics. It’s a word most of us have never heard of before. Translated as “control above genetics,” this is the study of how environment plays a role in “turning on” and “turning off” our genes. Food is one of the main environmental factors we have in our lives and it perhaps plays one of the biggest roles in how our genes function (exercise being another main player).

 

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It seems that Hippocrates was right when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Scientists have discovered that bioactive compounds like phytonutrients and antioxidants play a huge role in turning on genes that help us lose and maintain a healthy weight. Healthy lifestyle and diet choices can change the expression of at least 500 genes! This is great news for those of us who struggle with things like sugar addiction because it means that a wide, varying diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables nurtures your entire body right down to genetic expression. It means that you can start remaking yourself one bite (and one activity) at a time–and in 7-10 years, you’ll literally be a whole new person!

 

In my next post on this series, I’ll be sharing the small steps that I have been taking to help reduce my sugar cravings. I knew going in to this that it wasn’t going to be something that happened overnight, but I’m happy to say that I’m slowly seeing results. Looking forward to sharing more soon!

 

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Read the Whole Series here:

Part 1

Part 2

Matcha Tea

Cardiovascular exercise is important for everybody. It keeps the heart healthy and reduces the risks of cardiovascular disease associated with today’s sedentary lifestyle, yet with so many options available the rates of obesity are still growing. There are a lot of reasons for this ranging from demographics to cost, but I think a lot of the reason people don’t try a new program is because they are intimidated.

 

Exercise can be intimidating. No one wants to look bad doing it. No one wants to jiggle. The way we look in the mirror plays a huge role in how we feel, and exercise clothes are form-fitting (for safety reasons), further hindering those who feel uncomfortable in tight attire. Some people even find sweating a detracting factor.

 

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The biggest determent is time, which is why walking is such a fantastic option for those looking to increase their cardio output. There are so many ways to add walking into your routine, including:

 

  • Walk the dog
  • Park near the back of a parking lot
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Get up to stretch your legs once an hour by strolling through the office
  • Gardening
  • Hiking on the weekend at your favorite park
  • Marching in place
  • Visiting the neighbors
  • Strolling around the house while on a phone call

 

Unlike running, walking does not place a lot of impact on your joints and lower back, and the more you do it. Walking helps loosen up stiff joints while strengthening muscles and promoting weight loss. A.2015 study published in Circulation cited that physical activity was related to lower levels of cardiovascular disease, and that those who walked at faster paces and logged greater distances tended to have the lowest CVD risks. The best thing about walking is that the more you do it, the more you can do it and the easier it becomes.

 

What if you cannot start walking because of weight, joint pain, paralysis, or some other health-related issue? Try swimming instead! Pool time greatly reduces the stress put on the body while adding resistance to any movement you do. My own grandfather has used the pool for years to do exercises after his hips began bothering him, and swimming is well-known for alleviating the effects that gravity exerts on pregnant women.

 

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The typical obstacles that most people face when starting to walk or swim are proper attire and measuring their rate of exertion. It is important to wear proper footwear when you’re walking to support your joints¬†and¬†a clerk at an athletic¬†shoe store can really help you determine a good shoe to wear that falls within your budget. As for swimming, you want to make sure you’re wearing a comfortable swim suit or close-fitting attire that won’t ride up while you’re in the water. Yes, these are upfront expenses but let’s face it: compared to a life full of medical bills, this is cheap!

 

As for the rate of exertion, if you can carry on a conversation but feel somewhat breathless, that’s a great thing to achieve. You don’t have to be struggling for air to get a great workout in but you also want to make sure you’re not making it too easy on yourself. Working out takes, well, work ūüėČ You ought to feel it without overdoing it.

 

The most important thing is to just get moving! Don’t worry too much about form or what you can do for how long you can do it. Moving breeds fitness and fitness brings weight loss.

There are a few things regarding exercise that I truly believe are accessible to everyone. I’ll talk about cardiovascular exercise another time but for now I want to talk about working the deep muscles of the trunk–in this case, I’m focusing on the transverse abdominis. This thick band of muscle is the deepest of the four abdominal muscles,¬†provides¬†thoracic and pelvic stability, and compresses the ribs and viscera.

 

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Source: Wikipedia (link above)

 

Pilates focuses a lot on the TA due to the immense strength and stabilization force it creates. To give a good example of its power, and why we as instructors call it the powerhouse, the TA is one of the main muscles recruited to help a woman deliver a baby (the pelvic floor muscles being the others). When I was dancing, a college professor told me that by controlling this muscle, you can really control every movement in your body, making you strong and and your movements efficiently powerful. This is something that Joseph Pilates discovered over a lifetime of studying movement, which fed his understanding of the body, body mechanics, and effective movement. His method, called Contrology, looks at the body as it is now and emphasizes the connection of mind and body through concentration during movement that results in the healing of the body, the improvement of the mind, and the elevation of the spirit.

 

In layman’s speak, that means that anyone can do Pilates. Pilates himself was a sickly child who could not get out of bed and therefore needed exercises developed by his doctors just to be able to do so. Because of this, he made it a lifelong goal to study movement and became an avid athlete, studying a wide variety of disciplines including swimming, running, gymnastics, yoga, dance, and many more, all from which he drew a knowledge base that became the foundation for his Method.

 

There are two exercises that I like to start everyone off with because I feel that they are accessible to all levels of fitness: the Pilates bridge and the 100. These two exercises connects a person with their core. For those who are brand new to exercising or Pilates, and may not be aware of the neutral position so often discussed in Pilates, here is an excellent demonstration of how to find it:

 

 

I consider the Pilates Bridge to be a foundation exercise from which everything is built. It lengthens and moves the spine, stimulating the creation of synovial fluid which helps keep all joints limber, accesses the deep muscles of the core and pelvic floor, and strengthens the muscles of the abs, pelvis, glutes, and thighs. A modification for those who are just beginning is to start with the lower back only, and over time gradually increase this movement to include the middle and upper back till you reach the full position.

 

 

The other exercise that I consider to be important is called the One Hundred. This is the exercise that begins every Pilates workout. It oxygenates the blood, stimulates circulation, and activates the deep core. Try the beginner version shown in this video until you’re ready to move to the next step.

 

 

Two other modifications for those who are not ready to extend the legs in the regular (non-advanced) exercise: when ready to lift the shoulders, 1) keep the feet on the ground or 2) keep the knees bent until you’re ready to extend the legs (first up to the sky and then out to that 45-degree angle). Make sure as you work you maintain that neutral spinal position and have patience with the exercise. Developing strength over time is safe, effective, and reduces the risk of injury. When in doubt, always start small and slow!

 

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Right now I’m working on a couple things as far as minimizing sugar consumption and clean eating. I’m still in the process of figuring things out for myself as well as doing a bunch of research on food and the Western Diet. In doing so, I’ve come across¬†a lot of dialogue concerning body size and health. While I’ve recognized these facts for some time, it is important that more people do also, so I thought I’d share them with you.

 

Myth: If I’m¬†“fat”, I’m¬†unhealthy.

Fact: Weight gain is caused by a myriad of factors, of which about 25% relates to genetics, and even more related to hormones (for women in particular). I have met women who struggle with losing weight who eat well and exercise daily, so one cannot judge just by surface appearance.

 

Myth: If I’m¬†“skinny”, I’m healthy.

Fact: Skinny doesn’t mean a thing in the realm of healthy living. There are people who are thin as a rail who develop heart disease in their 20’s because they lead a sedentary life combined with poor dietary choices. I also know people who start to gain weight the minute they begin eating well and exercising regularly–indeed, this is one way to improve overall health for those who are ¬†medically classified as underweight.

 

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Myth: If I diet, the weight will stay off.

Fact: Dieting is one of the leading causes of regaining weight–and regaining¬†more weight than one previously weighed before beginning a diet! Most people who follow a standardized diet have one of two outcomes: either they have poor results because the diet does not work well for their body type, metabolism, and so forth; or they achieve their weight loss goals and stop dieting, only to regain it all back, plus some. Yo-yo dieting is not a solution to the problem. Exchanging healthy habits for unhealthy ones over a long period of time is.

 

Myth: If I exercise, the weight melts away.

Fact:¬†There is a lot of truth to this statement, yet many¬†people will find this more difficult than others due to a body’s initial homeostatic preferences, hormone- and disease-related issues, current dietary habits, sleep patterns, workplace stress factors, support in relationships (friendship, romance, parents, etc.), medications, mental health…the list can go on for pages.

 

Myth: If obesity¬†runs in the family, there’s nothing I can do about it.

Fact: Genetics only make up about 25% of the picture, and a lot of what is perceived as hereditary actually comes back to the habits you learned as a child. Choices matter even when they don’t add up to the emaciated super-modelesque physique popular culture thrusts upon us each day. They matter a¬†lot!

 

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Myth: If I’m obese when considering a proper diet and exercise regimen to begin, surgery is my only option.

Fact: Surgeries that help reduce weight rapidly should not be looked at as a permanent solution to the equation. For those who are morbidly obese, surgery is a starting point for your weight loss journey. The problem so many people find is that the moment they undo them, they gain back more weight than ever before. If surgery is something you are considering, you must discuss habitual lifestyle behaviors with your team of specialists (physician, registered dietitian, surgeon, personal trainer, therapist, etc.) in order to determine what steps you need to take are right for you. In my opinion, surgery is a last resort and only the first step to consistent, positive lifestyle habits.

 

The bottom line¬†is if you’re having issues losing weight via “mainstream” diet and health guidelines, consulting your physician is a good place to start. Depending on your situation, you may need to work with a team of people that include a registered dietitian, personal trainer, psychologist, and other therapists. You should seek referrals from your doctor and anyone else you are currently working with in order to discover and tackle the issues you are facing, but at the end of the day, determination will win the day!

 

There is no one right kind of body shape. We are all created from a unique mold. Embrace your curves (or lack thereof) and think about why you are really here in this world. It isn’t to look amazing every single moment of every single day (not even Hollywood stars that do that). Utimately, it is to fulfill your purpose and live generously.

Working Out with Toddlers

September 15, 2016

A lot of us have been there, are there, or will be there. We’re trying to be healthy and exercise…and we’ve got littles running around, climbing on you or something else, and it’s really,¬†really hard to focus or get a full set of reps in when you’re constantly jumping up to handle some situation. Some days are better than others. Some days you want to throw in the towel.

 

Don’t!

 

One of the things I’ve been doing a lot this summer is exercising out of my own home. It’s hard. I love going to the gym. I love having “me time.” I mean, I¬†really love having “me time.” I need it. It’s part of the way I stay healthy and sane as a full-time parent. Yet this summer was incredibly challenging because a) hubby ended up working third shift at his job, which meant he slept most of the day, and b) I don’t have anyone to help me handle kids (without having to pay a sitter, and that is not always an option with our tight budget).

 

I’ve been analyzing what has and has not been working for me and I think I’ve come up with a short but sweet list of ways to exercise at home while you have (young) children present:

 

Pick a time of day you want to exercise and stick to it.

I recommend mornings since that is when we have the most self-control and self-motivation, but that doesn’t always work for some people. Whether it’s evenings after the kids go to bed or nap time or another time altogether, mark it in your daily calendar and just do it.

 

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Plan out what you’re going to do before you do it.

This way you can exercise without having to dither about whether to grab weight or that DVD, or not, saving you time. This also means that if you want to start a new regimen, you need to discuss it with your doctor (where applicable; for instance, when you’re recovering from childbirth or have an ongoing illness/medical condition), order the appropriate equipment and literature, etc.

 

Set ground rules while you’re working out.

Your kids need to know what is and isn’t safe–and there are things we use or do while exercising that are not safe for children. Educate yourself on them and draw the line in the sand. This will not only establish what is and isn’t allowed as far as behavior and play go during this time, it also sends a message to your kids that they AND your exercise matter.

 

Invite your kids to join you.

As counter-intuitive as this sounds, asking your children to join you during a dance video or while you are stretching out on your yoga mat will lead to them practicing healthier behaviors later in life and a whole lot of good memories too.

 

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Mom and Daughter Exercising

 

When all else fails and you just need some “quiet time”, ask for help!

It’s okay to seek out some help from a friend, family, or a spouse. Offer to trade gym time with a girlfriend or ask your spouse for an hour every day they can spare it. Do not feel guilty or be embarrassed to ask. Remember that you’re worth this time: it will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to handle all the situations life (and your kids) throw at you.

 

Finally, remember to keep a very good sense of humor! Toddlers want to be involved in everything you’re doing and they’re going to want to be at the center of it all. In my own experience, that means sitting in my lap when I’m working on stretches. Take a deep breath, talk to them (I know, not very yogi-like), and delight in their hugs and kisses. They grow up so fast. Enjoy them while you can. These moments will make sweet memories on which you can dwell the rest of your life, even when you’re once again a regular gym rat.

Fitness & Body Image

June 16, 2016

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I’ve seen a surge in referencing the body (particularly, a female body) and being happy with it on social media recently, so I thought I’d touch on the subject again by busting a common fitness myth that is perpetuated in virtually every magazine, fitness or otherwise, in existence today. Whether we know it or not, we believe this myth. We believe that “being skinny” equates to health and happiness.

 

***Insert explosion sound here.***

 

Thinness in the media is¬†not healthy. It is not even real most of the time! If you don’t believe me, just watch this video.

 

 

Don’t misunderstand me here. A thinner body can mean that someone is healthy, but not always. Skinny people are as likely to suffer from heart disease, chronic illness, and other maladies as readily as those considered overweight and obese. Just because someone has a specific body type does not mean they are healthy. Health-related habits play a large role in how healthy someone really is.

 

Yet there is a correlation between waist circumference and health. Those who have extra padding around the belly are more likely to suffer from heart disease than those who carry it on their hips; and both groups are at higher risk for obesity-related illness and disease than those who exercise on a regular basis.

 

Two other things that I want you to consider. First, even if you are someone who goes to the gym for half an hour each day, you may not be doing yourself any good. Too much sitting, whether it be at home or at a job, can actually hinder any healthy changes that any gym activity may give you.

 

On the other hand, increased daily activity in any form can actually improve your overall health. This happens due to the fact that while activity increases, the caloric intake stays the same (so long as one’s diet doesn’t change or increase). I think this, in part, is why so many people are loving the FitBit and other activity-logging devices and apps.

 

Here’s another myth I want to end with regards to fitness, and in particular mind-body fitness. Pilates and yoga¬†are not just for skinny people. These practices are meant for every body and everybody! If you don’t believe me, just watch this video!

 

 

The point then: move, and enjoy moving because you’re doing something for yourself. In the end, being compassionate and grateful for yourself, body, heart and mind, is the only way that you will feel happy…and happiness, in my opinion, leads to a desire to be healthy and enjoy healthy lifestyle behaviors!

I have been in the fitness industry for over eight years now and one of the things that never ceases to amaze me is how unwilling people are to pay for instructor services. I’ve talked to so many instructors over the years who tell me their client base finds it difficult to pay $25, $15, or even $5 for a class, let alone private lesson fees. We commiserate over the injustice of it all, but in reality it all simply comes down to a lack of customer knowledge about how the fitness industry works. So, I thought I’d break it down for you.

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First off, let me just take a moment to point out that in most cases, we as customers do not go to the cheapest places when we’re looking for a haircut, to get our nails done, have our cars worked on, and so forth. We want to pay for good quality services that we trust and that are backed by service guarantees. I mean, who wants to go to a hair stylist who won’t fix a goof-up? Or a mechanic who won’t at least let you know that your car is leaking when you take it in for a checkup so that you can decide whether or not it’s a necessary fix right now?

 

The fitness industry is the same. Most often, it pays to pay for the services of a good certified instructor and/or personal trainer. There are a lot of reasons for this, starting with the fact that most instructors do not decide they want to instruct as their first job. It is an extension of who they are and what they care about, and this can happen at any point in their life.

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Secondly, instructors spend months–yes, years!–training in order to be competent and qualified to meet your fitness needs. They also spend a lot of money to get that training. In the mind-body industry, yoga and Pilates certifications cost on average between $2,500 and $5,000¬†before travel expenses. In my own experience, I was fortunate to have the MyCAA military spouse scholarship to help me earn my 200-RYT, but I still shelled out about $3000 for hotel and flights because I was trying to get my certification finished before I had my first daughter. (I ended up having to postpone the last two classes I needed till after her birth because the conference I was trying to attend had sold out.)

 

Then there are the hours they spend creating your fitness regimens each week. You might only see them a hour a week but often they spend several more developing your next workout(s), researching and practicing each movement so that you are being trained with the utmost competence. Let’s look at a quick example. Let’s say you pay $30/session for a personal trainer. You see them once a week for an hour, but they spend an additional two hours creating your workout. That averages out to $10/hour, which is not even minimum wage in some areas. And this is before you average all the money they spend to earn their certifications, maintain them each year with continuing education, keep liability insurance and any other insurance they need for their business, equipment, travel and food expenses, clothing, and other professional fees and services they may implement to help promote their business.

 

It sounds like a lot, and it can be, but fitness professionals like getting the best up-to-date education possible so that you, the customer, is taken care of to the best of our abilities. It is always worth having an initial interview with your future trainer or instructor in order to make sure you both jive and understand what each is bringing to the table. Because, when it comes down to it, as an instructor I want to know what you want and need so that I can best serve you!

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If something feels off to either party, it may be best to keep searching until you find the person that is right for you. Because, first and foremost, fitness is a¬†preventative measure against chronic disease, and then a remedy to help you improve and even heal from it. It takes a team to help you achieve your fitness goals: your doctors and therapists (or any professional you may be working with), your fitness instructor, and–most importantly–you.

 

Yes, without your commitment to yourself, we don’t have a client and, therefore, a job, and that is why your input is so valuable to us as instructors. You are the reason why we spend so much on training and other professional fees. You are that important!

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I have completely fallen off the blogging bandwagon since January. Let me tell you, I’ve thought about you and this blog many times, but transitioning out of the military, being a mom, and finding work (and working my Jamberry Nails business) have really consumed my every waking moment. Regardless, I am extremely thrilled to be back at Hillsdale College. This little community has really welcomed hubby and I back with open arms. Indeed, I’m tutoring Greek with the Classics Department and I’m offering a few classes both on campus and in the local area.

 

If you live in Hillsdale, Jonesville, Allen, Litchfield, Moscow, Quincy, and Coldwater, Michigan, areas, please check out my Pilates and yoga classes at the Goodlife Yoga Center¬†(the new term has begun, so don’t miss out on lengthening, strengthening, and de-stressing!) and Hillsdale College (contact the school for details). I’d love to see you!

 

I am working on ideas to revamp my blog, as I feel it’s time to switch things up, and would love input. What would you like to see? Share your thoughts and opinions!!!!

May 2016 Bring You Joy!

January 6, 2016

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First off, Happy New Year! I hope that you find much joy in it. When things get hard, think about how far you’ve come instead of focusing on where things went wrong!

 

Second, I know I promised a third part to my major articles and links series in December, but life ate me. Seriously. It ate me. It swooped in like a huge pterodactyl and swallowed me whole. So that third post didn’t get done. Instead, I’m going to spice things up again and change up my posting this year, focusing on shorter but info-packed posts in order to accommodate my busy schedule.

 

Last, I’d love to hear from you! Tell me what you’d like to see from me this year. It can be anything from diet to exercise to mindfulness moments. I’m all ears!