Category Archives: Bodies In Motion

Bodies in Motion: Dead River Derby, by Amber Kinonen

DRD

A muscled shoulder barrels into my chest, reeling me backwards. My butt smacks and then slides across the concrete surface. I scramble to my feet, but the same sweat-glistened shoulder flashes toward me again. I spin away only to have another opponent send me to the floor once more. However, I don’t give up. Instead, I think to myself, “Challenge accepted!” and rise. Even though this may sound like something from an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) match, it captures less than ten seconds of a roller derby bout.

In 2012, I was invited to skate for Marquette’s Dead River Derby, also known as “DRD.” At first, I was surprised by the perception of derby girls: They are tough, wear booty shorts with ripped up stockings, throw elbows and fists, and have tattoos. As a teacher, scout leader, and mother of two, I was not sure I would fit in. Now, years later, I know that roller derby is no longer the banked track where women dramatically throw each other around. There is an abundance of contact; however, athleticism, strategy, and safety are valued. In fact, derby is one of the fastest growing sports for women with more than 1,200 leagues worldwide and attempts being made for it to qualify as an Olympic event. Why are so many choosing to play?

First are the reasons not to play. One is time. Derby requires hours of drills on skates to avoid injury, the complex gameplay takes practice to understand, and a league’s existence depends on members’ volunteerism. Another issue is money. Derby can be expensive as lots of gear is required for safety. Finally, injuries occur. Derby carries the same risks as other contact sports such as football and hockey.

However, there are also many benefits to playing. The most obvious is exercise. Practices are demanding with a mixture of stretching, footwork, endurance drills, core body exercises, and strategy skills. Therefore, many parts of the body are strengthened. A lot is done in a short amount of time, but the variation and support from teammates makes it not only bearable but enjoyable. In fact, I have to force myself to exercise on a bike or treadmill, but I eagerly burn calories on my skates for hours at a time. When I miss practice, my body feels it, and when I finish practice, my body is strong.

Other benefits are not so obvious. Derby allows a range of women to be involved. Some are thin and others curvy. Round booties can stop jammers, tiny ones can evade blockers, and anyone can choose to participate in a league. Women of varying ages can also participate. For example, the average age of skaters in the DRD is forty-three, which is higher than many other leagues. Backgrounds are also wide-ranging. Membership consists of teachers, business owners, accountants, college students, and stay-at-home moms. There is a place for anyone with determination. As we work to become an effective team, the diversity provided by derby fosters comradery unlike any experienced elsewhere.

Derby also requires the brain to work in ways a person may not be used to. I equate it to a game of fast-paced chess with contact. A skater must think critically and quickly. Skaters have to make gameplay happen in a matter of seconds to gain advantage over the other team. The track can be confusing because so much is happening; calculating and executing strategy requires awareness, mental strength, and focus.

Another benefit is a sense of accomplishment. When I first started, I couldn’t stand on my skates. Every training session was a challenge, but if I could race around the track a little faster or jump higher than the week before, I felt good. Now, I’m trying to jump the apex or pull off a pummel horse. I still leave practice awed by what my forty-one-year-old body is capable of accomplishing.

In addition, most people think that being tough indicates a lack of fear. However, derby has taught me that being tough means being afraid but doing what scares you anyway. It is a sport where even after years of practice, my fear of failure and injury is still there. Nevertheless, I skate. When a game is over, regardless of performance, I am satisfied that even though I may have been so nervous I gave myself a fever beforehand, I got on the track and worked my hardest.

Derby is not about a bunch of rogues who throw theatrical punches on the track. It is so much more. My children get to watch their mom, an athlete, working with an eclectic group of women as part of a team. They see hard work and determination from a mom who gets knocked down but, most importantly, gets back up, over and over again.

Amber Kinonen skates under the name of “Ripper” for Marquette’s Dead River Derby. She has been skating for five years. In her non-derby life, she teaches English at Bay College in Escanaba, Michigan and spends her remaining time momming her two children, Mason and Grace.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Fall 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Bodies in Motion: The Take-It-Anywhere Summer Workout

With warmer temperatures and longer days, hopefully you’re finding more time to get outside! Along with your favorite summer activities, I always recommend adding light stretching and strengthening to keep the whole body in check.

If you’re looking for a quick, balanced workout, try the “Basic Five” Pilates Mat exercises. In under ten minutes, this routine will have you feeling stronger and longer. And the best part? You can take it with you wherever your summer sweeps you…

THE HUNDRED
Start lying on your back with your arms by your sides and your legs extended (Modification: knees bent, feet on the mat). Take a deep inhale.

On your exhale, lift your head and the tops of your shoulders to come into an ab curl. Simultaneously float both your legs and arms a few inches above the mat.

Pump your straight arms by your sides, inhaling for five pumps, and exhaling for five.

After ten full breaths, or 100 pumps, you are done, my friend!

ROLL UP
Lie on your back with your legs extended and your arms reaching up toward the ceiling.

On an inhale, start to curl up slowly, trying to articulate each vertebra as it leaves the mat.

Exhale to finish your curl, rounding your spine over your legs while your fingers reach toward your toes.

Inhale as you tuck your tailbone underneath you and slowly lower your spine back to the mat, one vertebra at a time.

When the tips of your shoulder blades hit the mat, exhale to lower yourself back to your starting position.

Repeat five to eight times.

SINGLE LEG CIRCLE
Lie on your back with your legs extended and your arms down by your sides.

Extend your right leg up toward the ceiling, straightening it as much as your hamstrings will allow.

Inhale as you take the right leg across the midline of your body and then exhale as you return to your starting position. Repeat this five times and then switch the direction of your leg circle.

When you reverse the circle, inhale as your leg travels away from you, and exhale as it crosses the midline to return to your starting position. Repeat this five times.

Place your right leg down, and complete the whole series on the left leg.

ROLLING LIKE A BALL
Take a seat on the mat, floor, beach…wherever you are. Draw your heels in toward your sitting bones with your feet in a V shape. Your knees will be wide, like a frog.

Wrap your arms tightly around your legs so that each hand is on the opposite shin.

From here, “scoop” your belly to flex your spine and tilt back to float the feet off of the mat, floor or beach. Try to stabilize here for at least a moment.

Inhale as you tip back to the tips of your shoulder blades.

Exhale as you roll back up to your starting position, but don’t let your feet hit the mat.

Repeat five to eight times. And have fun!

SPINE STRETCH
Take a seat with your legs extended wide in front of you, toes flexed back toward your shins.

Reach your arms toward the sky. Inhale fully here.

On your exhale, start by tucking your chin to your chest, and then slowly curl yourself down toward your legs – vertebra by vertebra.

Inhale to stack yourself back up to your starting position.

Repeat five to eight times.

So how do you feel? Hopefully energized and ready to enjoy summer. If you have any questions on the Basic Five or other ways to keep your body balanced, you know where to find me – info@birdonaperch.com.

IMPORTANT: When participating in any movement practice, please remember to listen to your body and avoid exercises that don’t feel safe. If you are suffering from an injury or a medical condition, please consult your doctor before engaging in any new activities.

Allison Cherrette is a PMA-certified Pilates instructor and a graduate of the Advanced Teacher Training program through The Pilates Center of Boulder. She owns Bird On A Perch, a Marquette Pilates studio offering group and privates lessons on the Mat, Reformer, Tower and Chair.

Excerpt from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2018 Issue, copyright 2018.

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Bodies in Motion: Balancing Act, by Kevin McGrath

I’m watching the Super Bowl and the running back takes the hand-off, racing to the right side where he sharply cuts upfield through the hole that his lineman opened for him. As he emerges from the hole, it quickly closes with a linebacker exploding into him. He astonishingly spins out of the tackler’s arms, keeping his footing and darting another five yards out of bounds, getting a key first down for his team.

Two nights later, I’m watching my favorite hockey team, the Detroit Red Wings, on TV when Dylan Larkin catches a crisp pass on his stick, leaning hard into the defenseman who is all over him, all the while firing a bullet at the opposing team’s net.

The next night, I’m at my Marquette City basketball game. At age fifty-nine, I play on a team with mostly 35 to 38-year-olds. We’re playing against the youngest team in the league, whose players average 28 years. We get a turnover and start a break-away during which a quick pass comes my way. It’s slightly deflected, causing me to spin my upper torso while running in the other direction. I lose my footing and fall hard to the ground as the ball bounces off my arm and out of bounds.

All of these situations have something in common, something that most of us take for granted – balance! As Wikipedia explains, “In biomechanics, balance is the ability to maintain the line of gravity (vertical line to the center of mass) of the body within the base of support with minimal postural support.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balance_(ability))

Many factors come into play to achieve good balance, which requires the coordination of input from multiple sensory systems. These systems include but are not limited to sense organs, as well as pressure and vibratory senses, skin, joints, plus visual senses that all work in unity, detecting changes in spatial orientation in relation to the base of support, whether the body moves or the base is altered in some way. Environmental factors such as surface and lighting conditions, ear infections, alcohol, some medications, and other drug use also impact balance.

As important as balance is, most people take it for granted. Have you ever misjudged the height of a curb while walking down the street, or caught your shoe on a raised crack in the sidewalk? There are various levels of stability, and while as an athlete, my ability to stay upright is pretty good, I’m still quite impressed by some of the people I see paddle boarding, snowboarding, surfing, downhill skiing or acrobatic skateboarding. Nonetheless, as with muscle tone, our balance typically declines with age. For example, my elderly aunt misjudged the second step going up to my brother’s house, lost her balance, and fell of the porch, breaking her hip.

As a lifelong athlete and a former coach, it is clear to me that my balance isn’t what it used to be. I also realize there are a slew of ways to improve it. One favorite that comes to mind is the dot drill. I place four dots forming a square on the floor, roughly three feet apart with another dot in the middle of them all. I begin by standing on the middle dot and then jumping with both feet to the upper right dot and back to the middle, then to the lower right dot and back to middle, followed by the lower left dot and returning to the middle, then up to the upper left dot and back to the middle. I repeat this clockwise sequence three times, followed by the same movements in a counter-clockwise sequence three times. Once I’m able to do that confidently without pause, I work toward doing it with a one-legged hop, changing legs when I change direction from clockwise to counterclockwise.

Zumba, yoga, tai chi or any other fitness class with trained professionals able to assist you in realizing your goals can also help you make great strides in improving your balance. Key here is finding what works best for you, whether done at home or with a group.

For me, quality of life is essential, and that doesn’t happen by doing nothing. In order to improve, you must practice. That’s a good reminder to me. While we may automatically pay more attention to having a healthier diet, or working on muscle tone as we age, it’s extremely important to work on balance improvement too. Our quality of life lies in the balance.

Kevin McGrath believes that life is a balancing act, physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. He can be found stumbling his way through it.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Exercise Your Age? by M. Moeller

When speaking with women in their 40s, 50s and 60s about what it takes to stay fit while getting older, these three qualities were mentioned across the age groups –  recognition, acceptance and adjustment.

Recognition: Deanna Koscielny, 41, of Marquette had children at a very young age, was always on the heavy side, smoked and besides hiking and an occasional aerobics class, never exercised until she was in a serious car accident in her mid-thirties. Luckily, her injuries were minor, but the accident confronted her with the reality that she only had one life to live. “You can’t take your health for granted,” Deanna said. “If I had not changed, I know I would now be on high blood pressure meds and probably have diabetes.”

Deanna quit smoking and started biking with a women’s bicycling group called Women Shifting Gears. She not only very much enjoyed her first mountain bike ride, she also connected with many other women in the group. Soon she had exercise routines and new friends. Over the years, Deanna became very fit, competing in races and challenging herself with different types of activities, including running a marathon this spring. Her job also changed – she now teaches others how to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle as part of a Marquette General Hospital program.

Acceptance: Marion Johnson, 53, of Ishpeming, was just entering high school when Title IX was introduced, and consequently ,women’s sports.  As a result, Marion participated in track and field and quickly became a successful sprinter. With her priority of raising children, Marion remained active throughout her 20s and 30s by introducing her children to outdoor activities like skiing, hiking and swimming.   As she entered her mid-40s with her children grown, Marion was able to shift her priorities back to her own activities with health and longevity now her primary goals for exercise: “As you age, you want to be fit to enjoy life.” So Marion stepped it up with road riding, mountain biking, running, and intense Cross Fit training.  She not only enjoyed the results of the training but thrived on the workouts as an important part of her daily routine.  Now in her 50s, Marion recently experienced a setback, tearing her meniscus while running.   She is still working through her recovery following surgery and realizing she may have to rethink her workout routines and perhaps scale the intensity back a bit. “It’s a reality check.”  Marion has accepted that the unexpected injury requires she make some adjustments in her   active lifestyle. Rather than quit, she will learn new ways to stay active and injury free.

Adjustment: Janet Koistenen, 61, of Gwinn has been an athlete all her life. As a child, her father encouraged her to be active outside, and as she grew older, she became a competitive runner and cross-country skier. Nowadays, Janet sees her sports as a way to have fun and to enjoy nature, so she is still very active in her 60s. However, over the years she did have to adjust some of her routines. For instance, after running on pavement for many years, knee pain prompted her to switch to trail running. Although trail running is often much more irregular than running on pavement, Janet said the softer surface makes it easier on her body. She also began adding bicycling and swimming to her routines. Mixing up activities, Janet said, contributes to her staying healthy enough to still run, swim, bike and ski regularly to this day. She even competes here and there, including the Copper Harbor triathlon, the Copperman, this August.

Adjusting to change, especially adjusting her mindset, has not been the easiest thing for Janet. About five years ago, during a cross country ski race, she realized it was time to change the way she was going about the sport. She said during the race she felt very competitive, thinking about beating the others. “I wanted that attention,” she explained. “I was doing it for all the wrong reasons.” Janet recognized she had forgotten to have fun with it, so she stepped away from racing and instead focused on teaching others. Teaching prompted further insight. Janet began surrounding herself with younger generations, whom she helped improve at sports and whom in turn motivated her to stay active, a win-win situation. Now Janet encourages folks her age and older to stay fit by being active with younger people. The Marquette area offers endless opportunities for generations to mix and exercise. A good introduction might be to start a sport with a grandchild or join a local sports club.

All the women agreed that no matter one’s age, fitness and a healthy lifestyle is achievable. It may take a bit of a leap for some, but very often that first step leads to not only a happier but also a longer life.

Miriam Moeller is a former journalist and creative writer. She currently works at Northern Michigan University in the International Programs Office. She loves biking, skiing and her dog Marla.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2012 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2012.

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Why Crunches Alone Don’t Make Your Middle Smaller

by Heidi Stevenson
It’s a common reaction. You decide a certain body part—your stomach, the back of your arms, the inside of your upper legs—is too big, and you seek out exercises to make it smaller. You do endless crunches, tricep kickbacks, and inner thigh lifts, only to find that said body part is stubbornly retaining its size. Why is this so? Why can’t that fabulous ab machine on TV eliminate abdominal fat as it promises to do?

 

When you attempt to change an isolated area of your body like your abdominal region, your triceps, (the muscle running along the back of your arms), or your adductors, (the muscle running along the inside of your upper legs), by targeting it with strength training exercises like crunches, tricep kickbacks, or inner thigh lifts alone, it’s called spot training, or spot reduction. And alone, it doesn’t work. If you are unhappy with the size of your stomach, you cannot attempt to change the shape alone and hope the problem will go away. You may already have strong muscles in that area. You might already really like the shape of those muscles.

 

Often though, those muscles are underneath accumulated body fat. In order to change this, you need to burn body fat. You need to focus on making your body smaller and leaner overall. If you are interested in “whittling your middle,” getting rid of the little thing swinging on the back of your arms, attacking that inner thigh jiggle, and if it is safe for you to lose weight, you need to combine the exercises targeting those areas with two things: sensible eating, and ample cardiovascular activity, which increases your heart rate—like running, biking, or swimming. In a very basic sense, taking in more calories than you burn results in accumulated body fat. Burning more calories than you take in results in loss of body fat.

 

Determining how many calories you should eat, and of what sort, as well as how much and what kind of activity is appropriate for you, is a complex task. You should consult professionals for help in these areas: physicians, nutritionists, personal trainers, etc. Once you have determined that your eating plan is sensible and your activity is ample for weight loss, then yes, go ahead and include those exercises to strengthen your muscles.

 

But make sure you are also strength training in a balanced, healthy way. Work opposing muscle groups: work your back muscles along with your abdominal muscles, your biceps along with your triceps, and your abductors along with your adductors. Work your upper body, if you’re working your lower body. Consider trying a discipline like Pilates, which includes a lot of integrative strength training (exercises in which you work a lot of muscles at once). Gaining balanced muscular strength and endurance will not only help change the shape of those underlying muscles. You’ll also be bringing that stronger body into your cardiovascular activity, making it easier to do more.

 

So now you are eating sensibly, including an appropriate amount of cardiovascular activity in your life, and including balanced strength training. Once you have done these things, the rest is up to your body’s natural shape and tendencies. We all have to accept that with which we are born. But you will see your body change. You will feel healthier and stronger. And really, that’s the most beautiful and perfect any of us need to be.

 

Heidi Stevenson is a certified group fitness instructor, currently teaching yoga, Pilates, and aquatics for the HPER Department and Recreational Sports program at Northern Michigan University. She has taught a wide variety of group fitness classes in Michigan and Pennsylvania over the last 14 years.
 
Reprinted from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2010. Copyright Heidi Stevenson, 2010.
 

 

 

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