Tag Archives: Physical Fitness

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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September Celebration + How to Get More from Your Fitness Routine

In celebration of our 10th Anniversary, Health & Happiness is posting some of its best articles from its first 10 years throughout the month of September.

If you like what you read here, please LIKE and SHARE this post, FOLLOW our site, and JOIN us on our Facebook page.

And if you’re in the Marquette area on Sept. 30th, please join us in celebrating our anniversary at YOUR Health & Happiness Forum from 1 pm – 4 pm in the Community Room of the Peter White Public Library.

Stay posted for more details! And please enjoy Part I of our September Retrospective!

Bodies in Motion: How to Get More from Your Fitness Routine

by Allison Cherrette

We’ve all been there. Motived by a wedding, an upcoming vacation, or general quality of life, we amp up our wellness program. We work out, we eat right, and yet something seems to be missing – the results! If your fitness program has become stagnant, consider these tips to help you stay on track, remain confident, and appreciate the improvements.

Be Realistic
Believe me, I would LOVE to have long, skinny legs like Gisele. It would be awesome. I could wear all of those mini-skirts that look so cute in the catalogues and I wouldn’t have to avoid short-shorts like the plague. Unfortunately, it’s just not anatomically possible for my body type.

We all have different bodies with different limitations, and we need to be okay with that. As a Pilates teacher, if there were one gift I could give all of my clients to help their fitness plan, it would be self-acceptance. Once we have that, we can set realistic goals, and celebrate even the smallest improvements.

Self-Care
If you want a fitness program that works, you have to look beyond the walls of the gym. Check in with your habits, and be honest with yourself. How much water are you consuming? Does your breath tend to be deep, or shallow? Does your dinner plate have more starches than protein? And are you sleeping?

When it comes to creating a sound wellness program, there are four aspects that are non-negotiable – a balanced diet, water, sleep, and breath. If one or all of those components are out of whack, it’s going to hinder your body from producing the best results.

Get in a Groove
If your daily workout is starting to seem like a chore, it’s time to reconsider your fitness plan. Running and weightlifting aren’t for everyone, but luckily there is oh so much out there. Think outside of the gym. If you’re not sure what’s going to inspire you, recruit a friend and go on a fitness tour. Check out the new yoga studio, try Pilates, or get outside and explore the beautiful U.P.

Once you find your fitness groove, it will come naturally. The pressure will be lifted. You’ll move more often. You’ll enjoy yourself. And you’ll achieve better results.

Focus on Quality
When you’re working to create an effective fitness program, focus less on the numbers and more on how your body feels. Joseph Pilates always said that we should never work out to the point of exhaustion. If you think about it, he has a good point. As our muscles tire, we tend to move more quickly through reps, just to get them over with. We quite literally start dragging ourselves on the treadmill just to check off that 30-minutes of cardio. Proper form? Psssh. That goes out the window.

If you ask me, the risk of injury is just not worth it. While you may have to start small, focusing on quality movements is going to give you better long-term results. And if you stick with it, you’ll be surprised by just how quickly your strength and stamina build.

Keep It Up
The number one way to achieve fitness results is to keep it up! You’ve got this. Track your progress to keep yourself motivated, and if you hit a roadblock, switch up your routine. Remember, you’re human and there are bound to be days when you’re just not feeling it. First of all, forgive yourself. Even when Zumba seems out of the question, try to get out for a slow stroll through the woods, or do some stretches in the living room.

When it comes to fitness, at the end of the day, if you’re moving, you’re headed in the right direction! For improved results remember to think holistically, be honest with yourself, and celebrate the little things.

Allison Cherrette is a PMA Certified Pilates Instructor and graduate of the 950-hour Advanced Program through The Pilates Center of Boulder. She offers group and private Pilates lessons at Bird On A Perch in Marquette. Feel free to contact her at info@birdonaperch.com with any questions.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2016 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2016. 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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