Category Archives: Physical Fitness

Bodies in Motion: Embodying Empowerment by Becoming More Active in Life, Crystal Cooper

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We are in a pivotal time for actively reclaiming our power.

At this decisive point in human history, we have the opportunity to change our direction for the benefit of all. As our current circumstances require, we (at the time of this writing) stay inside our homes and are likely pondering the future. Within this time, we may find a new, ironic sense of liberation. By embracing the need to live more self-reliantly and sustainably, we naturally become more active. By becoming more present in our bodies, rather than trapped in our minds, we can empower ourselves to relieve stress, find calm, restore vitality, and regain our sovereignty.

Though our minds may be full of uncertainty and confusion in these changing times, our bodies know very well what we genuinely need—to live in a comfortable and safe place, eat nourishing food, drink clean water, breathe fresh air, exercise regularly, and get adequate deep rest. The possibilities for revolutionizing our lives may be infinite; however, they all have something in common—action. The action required may vary from meditation on emotional health to intense physical training and more, as everyone’s story will be different. Our authority comes through deciding to make beneficial moves in our lives. By focusing on what we can take action on, energy moves and frustrations neutralize.

By merging creativity, mindfulness, and curiosity, adaptations on movement are vast.

Experimenting with different modalities, as well as developing one, are both admirable approaches for getting mobile. One ancient, well-loved physical practice is hatha yoga. This physical branch of yoga unites the mind and breath with the body through a flow of poses. Both restorative and strengthening, it can prevent injury and support longevity. There are many styles of yoga, making it accessible for all. Another traditional system of coordinated body postures is qi gong, which also focuses on the harmony of meditation, breathing, and movement. Its central tenet is the balancing of energy. It is also a basis for martial arts training. Deep healing can be found within these methods, supporting many other areas of life.

When sheltering in place, or maintaining some restrictions, the significance of moving what we can may become more apparent. Deep breathing, getting the blood flowing, and heating up the body cleanses energy and provides grounding. Fast, exciting activities such as running, bouncing on a trampoline, juggling, and dancing can shake up sluggish outlooks. Strength training, working the whole body, and building muscle can help maintain focus when reality appears chaotic. Physical restrictions can inspire us to focus on what we can do and to creatively employ those abilities. Using our bodies for enjoyment, as simply or indulgently as desired, cultivates peace and exercises our freedom.

We can continue to expand our ingenuity to other, more outward necessities of life. For example, reinventing our transportation can be as simple as walking with a backpack, or as inspired as an electric-assisted bicycle equipped with a solar charging battery and storage racks or luggage cart. By returning to more manual forms of labor, we can supersede convenience by reconnecting with quality skill-building. As we reconsider tasks-at-hand during this time, a plethora of creative problem-solving abilities may be unleashed. To regain the impetus to chop wood and carry water, symbolically or literally, is good work. In mastering one’s actions, the lines between training, work, and play may blur.

reclaiming our power, physical fitness and overall well-being, U.P. holistic business, U.P. wellness publication

Actions such as cultivating our own energy and entertainment, growing our food, and riding bicycles run counter to the practices of the ever-consuming capitalistic economy our society has relied upon, thereby becoming acts of empowerment that resist the old status quo. By focusing inward and nurturing our connection with our bodies, opportunities abound for finding the clarity we need to move forward in harmony and inner sovereignty. Mindful activity is medicinal for our well-being and can also be more sustainable for Earth. And because we are nature and are not separate from it, healing our connection with ourselves simultaneously heals a part of human relationship with Earth.

Regaining control and becoming strong in one area of life can often translate to others.

When you can hold your own on the mat, the trail, or simply within a stressful situation, confidence is built that can be utilized in trying times. By moving through life with a more mindful focus on the body, rather than the mind, toxic stress has less of a chance to build up and create long-term negative effects. This is great for the immune system, and helps foster a more positive mood. Working with this perspective one day at a time can build momentum toward a more instinctual, spirited way of existing.

Each person’s movement will look different; however, the magic is in the sum of the parts, in people coming together. The cornucopia of abilities and resources of a united community creates a powerful, ever-evolving entity. The mightiest feats we can accomplish in the world begin with the work we do individually to dream and create and act from an inspired place. In solidarity with our communities and on massive scales, this intention could help humanity move in a healthier, more harmonious, and unified direction.

Crystal Cooper has called Marquette and the northwoods home for over a decade. An NMU graduate in biology ecology, she enjoys studying plants and writing. Passionate about natural healing modalities as well as personal and global sustainability, Crystal advocates yoga and other resiliency-promoting actions within the community.

Excerpted with permission from the Summer 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC.

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Bodies in Motion: Snowshoeing Satisfaction, by Jesse Wiederhold

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Michigan’s Upper Peninsula holds a treasure trove of scenery. There are many unique mountain ranges, roaring rivers, and cascading waterfalls that exist only in the wilderness of Northern Michigan. Summers in the U.P. are beautiful, to say the least. Warm sunshine allows for excellent beach days, while the cooler nights allow for perfect campfire conditions. As summer fades and snow covers the ground, new roads open. No, you cannot drive your car down these roads, but you can definitely snowshoe on them.

Snowshoeing is an active hobby in which nearly anyone can participate. All it requires is for you to walk.

Snowshoeing is an underrated activity—it takes you places inaccessible by regular foot, has low impact on the environment, and is good cardio as well. Since snowshoeing is so easy on the body, you will burn a lot of calories without even knowing it. If you use poles, you’ll burn even more calories. According to Yukon Charlie’s, a snowshoe manufacturing company, someone who is 180 pounds can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour from vigorous snowshoeing.

“Poles are a helpful accessory for snowshoeing,” says Jackson DeAugustine of Down Wind Sports. Down Wind Sports is a U.P. sports retail store specializing in snowshoeing, snowboarding and other “Yooper” sports. The store has locations in Marquette, Houghton, and Munising. DeAugustine grew up in Newberry, but now lives in Marquette. He explains that poles help you snowshoe uphill and across uneven territory with ease.

DeAugustine notes one of his favorite places to snowshoe is Munising’s iconic Pictured Rocks. The view along the coast is his favorite part, and being so close to the water. Pictured Rocks is an excellent location to snowshoe because there are so many interesting things to see. There are waterfalls, forests, and a long shore complementing the deepest Great Lake. He adds that snowshoes are nice to transport you to climbing spots, or whatever other winter activities you enjoy that require getting somewhere in the woods that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Not only is snowshoeing good for your physical health, but it can be beneficial mentally as well.

Sight-seeing is a favorite U.P. attraction, even for residents. It feels good to get outside and breathe in crisp, fresh air. Snowshoeing can be a fun social outing, or a time to just get out in nature and reflect. It is in these picture-perfect sceneries that we can sometimes process our busy, problematic lives. The solace nature provides is unobtainable anywhere else.

Northwoods Adventures, a U.P. outfitter/guide service, offers a helpful reference to other places to snowshoe. In the Marquette area, they recommend the Eben Ice Caves in the Rock River Canyon Wilderness Area. I have been there myself, and truly feel this one is a must-see. It is located by Eben Junction, and if you go during the winter, you will likely find a trail of parked cars leading in.

When you arrive, there are lots of porta-potties marking an open field entrance to the caves. You trek your way across, and are met with Pure Michigan all around you—the birds singing, and the sun sneaking its way to you through the bare branches of tall trees. Snowshoes are great here because they will bite down and give you the traction you need to climb up slippery, winter slopes. When you reach the temporary caves, you will thank your snowshoes and yourself for making the journey in!

Other recommended places for snowshoeing include Yellow Dog Falls off County Road 510, and Hogback Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain off County Road 550.

If you’re closer to Houghton, Northwoods Adventures suggests you check out Hungarian Falls around Tamarack City. You can get there using a seasonal road off Sixth Street, and then go down a snowmobile trail until you reach a foot trail near a bridge. Mt. Lookout and Breakers are two other good spots for snowshoeing in the Houghton area.

Now you know where and what, but perhaps still aren’t sure when or how to get started.

The best conditions for snowshoeing are when there is freshly fallen. light, fluffy snow. This is so the snowshoes can do their job keeping you afloat. Temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees are best, so the snow is able to stick, but not be so freezing that it’s uncomfortable to be outside. Remember to always dress in layers, so you can add or remove them, keeping a pleasant body temperature during your outdoor activities.

You can start by going to your local sporting goods store to get yourself a nice pair of snowshoes. You will want a larger shoe if you are going to be covering longer, more consistent surfaces. If you are going to be hiking mountains, or through uneven terrain, you may be better off with a smaller shoe. Poles are not required but can help reduce fatigue, especially on longer journeys. Ask questions, and staff members at outfitters will be more than happy to get you the right gear for your needs.

As with any journey off of familiar roads, you should always consider your safety. Avoid going alone. Bring a compass, tell someone where you are going, and tell them when you should be back. Bring a lighter, a multi-tool to hnadle unexpected equi9pment malfunctions, a water bottle, a whistle, maybe some snacks. The last thing you want to be in the wilderness is unprepared.

My final word of advice to you? Get outside, and try snowshoeing this winter sports season. You won’t regret it!

Jesse Wiederhold, twenty-one, is a senior English writing major attending Northern Michigan University. He is a pet dad to three cats, and loves to write. He spends time with friends, goes on hikes, enjoys snowshoeing in the winter, and is an avid aquarium enthusiast.

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. All rights reserved.

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What’s HIIT All About?

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Want to reverse the impact of aging? Improve your glucose metabolism? Increase your heart health and aerobic capacity? Would you like to burn more calories in less time, and enjoy yourself in the process? Then HIIT may be for you!

HIIT (high intensity interval training) simply requires alternating short bouts of intensive activity (such as thirty seconds or so) with longer intervals (three or four minutes) of less intensive activity. This can be any activity you choose, so no special training or equipment is required.

For example, if you’re fit enough to jog, you could intersperse short jogs within a longer brisk walk. If you’re more sedentary, you might take a leisurely stroll and briefly walk faster from time to time during it.

HIIT dates back to Olympic athletes at least as early as 1912; however, it has only become popular for the average exerciser more recently. And scientific studies have followed, providing evidence of HIIT’s many benefits. For instance, Mayo Clinic researchers found HIIT appears to alter cellular DNA in such a way that one’s muscles become able to produce more energy. It prompts new muscle growth too.

Mayo Clinic researchers have also compared HIIIT, resistance training and combined training in a twelve-week study. All three improved cardio respiratory health, lean body mass and insulin sensitivity, however “only high-intensity and combined training improved aerobic capacity and mitochondrial function for skeletal muscle. Decline in mitochondrial content and function are common in older adults…Exercise training significantly enhanced the cellular machinery responsible for making new proteins. That contributes to protein synthesis, thus reversing a major adverse effect of aging.”(1)

In fact, the improvement in mitochondrial functioning, which usually decreases with age, was even more marked in the over-65 participant group–69 percent improvement, as compared to 49 percent in the 18-to-30-year-old group.

It’s important to check in with your doctor before starting a new workout routine, especially if you have a chronic health condition or haven’t been exercising regularly. To help prevent injury, start slowly rather than rush into a workout that might be too strenuous. Mayo Clinic specialists suggest starting with just one to two higher intensity intervals during each workout. Slow it down if you feel you’re overdoing it; then challenge yourself to vary the pace as your stamina increases.

Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center Co-Director Dr. Edward Laskowski cautions HIIT programs need to be carefully designed as higher impact activities aren’t a good fit for everyone, “Especially those with a musculoskeletal injury, a poor musculoskeletal foundation or improper movement patterns. But low-impact HIIT options include bicycling, elliptical trainer or water running activities to provide an aerobic exercise challenge without significant joint or impact load. And the intensity, frequency and progression of each program can be tailored to a patient’s diagnosis and abilities.”(2)

Also, Dr. Laskowski explains, “There’s solid evidence that older, less active, overweight, and obese individuals can benefit from HIIT training. HIIT has also been shown to be very safe and effective in patients with heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”(3)

This doesn’t mean you should do HIIT daily though. Many experts recommend keeping it to once or twice a week, alternating light to moderate exercise on other days so your bones and muscles get the time they need to rebuild. But keep in mind that to noticeably improve your muscle strength, you’ll need to include resistance training in your routine twice per week.

But perhaps best of all, HIIT seems to help many people exercise regularly on an ongoing basis. Why? Many find it makes their exercise more fun! Researchers have noted study participants’ preference for HIIT and their self-reporting that they’re more likely to stick with routines that include it. So if you’re not doing HIIT, consider choosing a favorite type of exercise and adapting it to your HIIT needs!

(1)https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-discovers-high-intensity-aerobic-training-can-reverse-aging-processes-in-adults/
(2)https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/physical-medicine-rehabilitation/news/sprint-rest-repeat-exploring-the-benefits-of-high-intensity-interval-training/mac-20431116
(3) Ibid.

Sources:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/why-interval-training-may-be-the-best-workout-at-any-age/art-20342125
https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-discovers-high-intensity-aerobic-training-can-reverse-aging-processes-in-adults/
https://www.womenshealth.com.au/hiit-training-anti-aging-benefits Aug. 1 2018 https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/interval-training/art-20044588
https://www.mayoclinic.org/why-interval-training-may-be-the-best-workout-at-any-age/art-20342125
https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/physical-medicine-rehabilitation/news/sprint-rest-repeat-exploring-the-benefits-of-high-intensity-interval-training/mac-20431116
https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-discovers-high-intensity-aerobic-training-can-reverse-aging-processes-in-adults/

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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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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