4 minute mornings

Belief and Butterflies

 I think a lot about belief,

how we shape our beliefs and

where those beliefs come from.

Believe Nothing.

You Are Your Own Religion.

Following the advice from the above quote is a lot more complicated than it first appears, because who we are, what we think and how we act (or react) is heavily grounded in our history, customs, traditions, who we look up to, what we read, see and have been taught.

What is your own reason?

What is your own common sense?

It takes practice to sit quietly ruminating on questions that reveal our true individual beliefs. It is difficult to set aside the beliefs that we have been taught as being correct (that gave us top marks), to settle on our true nature.

Can anyone really say that their beliefs are not affected by the world around them? We hold on so tightly to our beliefs. And it makes perfect sense to do so, because having strong beliefs is our natural link to survival. But there can be a point when belief becomes rigid and prevents us from growing and exploring possibilities. Beliefs come in all shapes and sizes. Not all beliefs come in the form of a radical-life-changing shift. Sometimes when we make a small (as in microscopic – barely noticeable) shift to a long held belief, it at first may seem insignificant, but it is often these little ripples that offer the most catalytic potential. Think of the butterfly effect.

“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.”- Chaos Theory

Since before starting my blog/website in April 2011, I have been experimenting with consciously shifting my comfort zones, which I have come to realize is actually making micro changes to my beliefs – to my world, as I know it.

It takes practice to change,

and practice requires being consistent.

Here are two examples of what seems like very insignificant beliefs (beliefs shape our patterns and behaviour) that I resisted changing and how much I have learned and grown from adapting to these changes. A few months before I embarked on this hobby of writing a blog, I decided that I would, without fail, each and every night for the rest of my life…floss my teeth. Sounds life changing doesn’t it? It was my butterfly effect.


I have always been consistent with cleaning my mouth and teeth, to a fault I recently learned. I wrote about it here. And I have always flossed my teeth, just not daily :). I would go through phases of being consistent with flossing (like for a week), and then neglect the practice to a now and then or when I would remember kind of practice. Don’t we all do that for a lot of different things in our lives? When things seem to be going OK, we put off doing the jobs that take the least amount of time because we don’t value their significance or impact in the big picture.

“There is no ONE GIANT step that does it,

it’s a lot of LITTLE STEPS.”

It has now been over two years without missing a single day of flossing! My oral health has improved dramatically. Ironically, I have cut back on the frequency of brushing my teeth (the article I refer to above explains this in detail). And as a result of these shifts my self-discipline has improved dramatically too. I am becoming more accomplished at doing ten, twenty and sixty-second jobs that would otherwise be put off to another time. This butterfly effect has changed my patterns. It was a test you see. I tested myself with something that would have zero impact on anyone else. With something that literally takes sixty to ninety seconds. It was something that would make a big difference to my life and health, something that I could do or not do and no one would know whether I failed or kept my word, except for my dentist and hygienist ;). Don’t fool yourself if you really think that your oral health care practitioner believes you when you tell them that you floss regularly. If you have bleeding gums and oral health problems somebody’s not doing a very effective job and the end result is the obvious proof of the neglect. And we all know who that someone is. Hmmm?

“If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”

People come up with the most elaborate excuses for not flossing daily (or at all!) and are genuinely amazed as to why they have oral health problems. It is a lot like when I ask my kids if they have brushed their teeth in the morning (knowing they haven’t because I can smell their ‘morning breath’). Instead of arguing that I know that they have not done it, rather I tell them that they should do it again, because the job they did wasn’t very effective. And if they need help doing it properly, I would be happy to help.

“If you’re going to do something, do it right the first time.”

It is much like being overweight or having general health problems. The remedy is so obvious to everyone looking in but not at all to the person affected. And yet even to those looking in, though they can see what the affected person is doing wrong, they have the same difficulty seeing what isn’t working for themselves. Everyone is looking for a medical test to diagnose what it is that is causing his or her illness. Looking outside of themselves for answers, for someone else to do the LITTLE STEPS for them. May I suggest? Do the daily little steps; test your-self for a couple of years and see what happens. If you do it right, it will work.

“If it is important to you,

You will find a way.

If not?

You will find an excuse.”

~Frank Banks

But don’t be misguided; I don’t believe that there is such a thing as perfect health. There is not a place to get to where we just float along without minor pain or discomfort from time to time. The human body is volatile. There is no pain-free life, just as there is no stain-free steel. (Stainless steel isn’t stain-free, it just stains less.) We may become pain-less, but to expect to have a pain-free life is quite the tall order to have for our existence. Perhaps we need to reexamine our expectations and the beliefs attached to those expectations. Apparently the snake-oil salesmen from years gone by are still doing excellent business selling false hope and promises. We need to walk away from those snake-oil salesmen and practice our own little steps.

Snake-Oil Salesman

So, around the same time that I started my flossing experiment, I started doing my 4-minute mornings, which was an interesting shift in beliefs, to say the least. Because what is most interesting to me is that I used to tell clients, twenty years ago about a study that showed that even ten minutes of exercise, repeated three times a day was shown to be as effective as doing thirty-minutes of exercise at one time. I used to dish out that study but I never experimented with it for myself and I doubt that anyone really gave it much credence. My world back then was all about teaching hour-long aerobic, step or cycle Reebok classes. Everything was based on time: hour-long one-on-one private training sessions, hour-long stretch classes, hour-long toning classes and hour-long Pilates classes. For those of us interested in supporting our health, we were willing to put in that hour a day and for those of us in the business, well, we spent all day being physically active. So, for me to downshift these theories (beliefs) in health and fitness to a radical drop in duration was a tough pill to swallow. Could 4 minutes of something really have any significant effect on the body? I decided to experiment for myself. I speculated that 4 minutes once in a while might not be very effective, but 4 minutes daily might…I was willing to see what might happen.

The results have been quite fascinating. I have learned about being disciplined with a daily short duration routine that would otherwise be very easy to dismiss or put off. Every morning for the past two years I have done the same routine, which has evolved from starting out as a few minutes of bed stretches into twenty minutes of a variety of stretches and calisthenics. The significant piece to take away from this is that it is not about the duration (the time spent doing these exercises) but rather in doing specific exercises to correct and maintain MY functional alignment. And the fascinating piece is that I don’t spend more than a minute or two on most of the stretches or exercises. Duration is not as relevant as is the focus and precision attached to each stretch or movement. In other words, what is more important is WHAT you do and HOW you do it.

Exercise is more than moving and perspiring for an extended period of time. Perhaps this is a long held belief that needs to be revisited and questioned? What do you think exercise is? Do you believe that by getting your ‘heart rate up’ for an extended period of time your body will automatically realign itself and by default magically transform into an Adonis?

Sorry, it begs repeating: “If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”

If we repeat a physical action misaligned, then our end result will be reinforced misalignment.

Losing body fat and having a functionally sound mechanically efficient body are two very separate actions. Losing body fat through exercise doesn’t automatically generate a functionally sound mechanically efficient body, however the opposite is more likely probable of igniting change.

“When you have eliminated the impossible,

whatever remains,

however improbable, must be the truth.”

–Sherlock Holmes

I have discovered that I really like to start my day like this (bed stretches etc.) and will make every effort to get to bed on time so that I can clock eight hours of sleep and still be able to wake up with enough time to do my morning routine before I start my mom-duty. “If it is important to you, You will find a way. If not? You will find an excuse.”

“If you believe you can or you believe you can’t – you’re right.”

~Henry Ford

It’s Official…I Have Become My Mother

Up until I became a mother, I was not one for house cleaning and was not even much of a tidy-upper, either.  Having kids of my own was the tipping point at which my inner-mother evolved.

I grew up in a traditional middle-class household.  Dad went out to work and Mom was the ‘home engineer’.  She was the perfect role model in terms of eating well; she ate well balanced meals and enjoyed desert from time to time, (she definitely had a sweet tooth, which she did not deny).  I only learned about dieting from my peers whose mothers were experimenting with fad diets. Mom never needed to diet even though she was never a formal exerciser, she just never stopped moving.  And out of the blue, we’d often find her in a headstand.  She’d have her shower, then wipe down the shower to slow down the mildew from taking hold, which in the long run would make her house maintenance more manageable.  She wouldn’t take a flight of stairs without taking something up or down along the way.  She always seemed to be putting a load of laundry in or folding a basket-full. It drove me crazy!  As a tween I couldn’t stand to see her always working.  I vowed I wouldn’t be like her when I grew up…I would only do things that pleased me. Almost thirty years of running from reality, it’s now official…I have become my mother, AND surprisingly, it pleases me!

Just before spring of this year our present day cleaning lady retired.  At the same time, I was starting up this site and decided that I would now tackle our house cleaning on my own.  My reasoning was that if I had time to start up a website then I had time to do all the house maintenance as well.  I made a deal with myself that I had to get a certain amount of cleaning done each day before spending any time working on my site.

It was not so easy to clean the house the way I wanted it clean with infants, toddlers or pre-schoolers, but now that the kids are in school full time I know I can take this on. I’m not very good at it yet and it can be overwhelming at times, but if I tackle a job a day and keep the cycle going it seems to work well, at least in my opinion.

So where am I going with this?  It’s all about NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.   I came across a great article by Tom Venuto, you can read the original here titled “Why Cardio Doesn’t Work For Some People: A NEAT Explanation.”

NEAT or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis accounts for all of your daily physical activity excluding your scheduled workout.  Common sense dictates that you already know the following, but maybe we could all use a gentle reminder…

From Tom’s article, “NEAT includes all the calories you burn from casual walking, shopping, yard work, housework, standing, pacing and even little things like talking, chewing, changing posture, maintaining posture and fidgeting. Walking contributes to the majority of NEAT.

It seems like a bunch of little stuff – and it is – which is why most people completely ignore it. Big mistake.

At the end of the day, week, month and year, all the little stuff adds up to a very significant amount of energy. For most people, NEAT accounts for about 30% of physical activity calories spent daily, but NEAT can run as low 15% in sedentary individuals and as high as 50% in highly active individuals.”

One of the major pitfalls that happens to people who take on extreme workouts is that they wear themselves down so much that they have no juice left for NEAT.  And then they over consume calories, which negates the calories burned in the first place!

At the bottom of Mr. Venuto’s article, he highlights five important points.  As they are all highly significant, pay close attention to point number two:

“2.  Exercise intensity can affect NEAT for days after a workout is over. Too much high intensity work might zap your energy and activity outside the gym, resulting in a lower level of NEAT. You have to keep up your habitual activity level outside the gym after pushing yourself hard in the gym.”

This is why I am such an advocate for incorporating 4 Minute Mornings and Short-Duration-High-Intensity Training into your life, specifically for those who don’t have time for longer body maintenance workouts.  It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in going for a jog/ run or long walk etc., but what I think happens to so many people is that they put so much belief into those long workouts to help them lose weight that they end up dismissing the significance of NEAT.  And the cycle continues. It’s all about balance. And that is what we mean when we talk about balance.  Exercise to become strong to live an active life.

But then there are those who DO a high level of NEAT all day long, those with physically demanding jobs.  All I can say is that it’s in the numbers: calories in vs. calories out.  How you fuel yourself is the most important factor to consider.

  • Eat real food, experiment with what energizes your body, don’t diet.
  • Exercise each day at a moderate level.  Knock yourself out from time to time, just to test your mettle and because it feels great to,
  • but DON’T overtrain or you’ll burn the candle at both ends, wasting your time and not getting results.

Read Tom Venuto’s article, it will help.

Stand up while you read it though, and go fold some laundry when you’re finished! Just imagine, a nation of hard, happy, highly functioning bodies with really clean houses! 🙂

Photo:  My Mom, Lea (1934-2004)- named after my Great Aunt Lea.  Doing a headstand at the cottage, age 48.

Week #13 (Push Up Level 4)

Here is Week #13 – DAYS 1, 3 & 5.

My nephew Peter is demonstrating.

For this next progression, the Low Incline Push Up (Level 4)  your body is aligned as it was when you learned the Wall Press followed by the Incline Push Up (Level 1).

Remember that the level of intensity increases as the incline decreases.  Notice that Peter is in the Plank position with his hands on a low incline. Find a low bench, use a stair, coffee table, bed frame or other.  Just be sure to find a sturdy surface to work from.  Plan it out the night before so that you’re not scrambling in the morning. Peter’s chest lines up with his hands as before in all the progressions.

DAYS 1, 3 & 5 (week #13)

1. 50 High Knees (pumping arms or forearms parallel to the ground or holding chest)

2. 8 LOW Incline PUSH UP in Plank                                                                                             (Level 4 = hands on a low bench, stair, coffee table, bed frame)

3. Repeat circuit 4 times to equal 4 Rounds.

INSTRUCTIONS: Hinging from your toes, notice how the legs, hips, torso and head are static.  The only movement comes from the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints.  If you are unable to maintain this rigid form, then go back to the modified Push Up Levels 2 or  3. The difference with Level 4 Low Incline Push Up and Level 3, is that you are now in Plank Position hinging from the toes and I have raised your incline to off-set the intensity with the intention to maintain mechanical integrity.

MOST COMMON ERROR: Poking the head forward like a pigeon or collapsing at the lower back.  Imagine a plank of wood fixed to your back, originating from the back of the heels all the way to the back of the head.  Hinge forward as a solid unit.  I would rather see you do a quarter or half push up as a solid unit than bending the elbows all the way with poor technique.  Eventually, attempting to tap the chest to the bench NOT the nose.  If you aim with your nose you will likely poke the head forward like the pigeon.  Think of gently retracting your navel in the direction of your spine, just enough to gently engage your abdominals to support the natural curvature of the spine.  You are NOT trying to flatten your back against this imaginary plank of wood.  Take a good look at Peter’s back and you will notice the natural curves of the spine.


DAYS 2, 4 & 6 = [50 High Knees + 20 Bend Down & Reach Up with Toe Raise] x 4. For reference click on this link:  http://youasamachine.com/about-4-minute-mornings/week-3/videoweek3-day-7/

DAY 7 = [50 High Knees + 10 Half Squat] x 4. For reference click on this link:      http://youasamachine.com/about-4-minute-mornings/week-8/




It is not uncommon to want to skip ahead to get to the “juicier” exercises.  Have patience. The rewards are in the journey.  At anytime you can repeat the same week until you feel ready to move on to the next progression.  Not everyone will be ready to progress at the same rate.  Do not feel defeated should it take longer to move on to the next week.


The following is an outline of the progressions for the Push Up:   1) Wall Press

2) Incline Push Up (Level 1 = hands on counter top or back of couch etc.)

3) Modified Low Incline Push Up (Level 2 = knees bent on floor with hands on bench, stair or coffee table etc.)

4) Modified Push Up (Level 3= knees bent on floor with hands on floor)

5) Low Incline Push Up (Level 4= hands on bench with body in Plank position)

6) Push Up (Level 5= FULL PUSH UP!  From Plank position) coming soon!

 Self-discipline is born from being Consistent.

When The Honeymoon Is Over

after hot yoga class

Image by alc990 via Flickr

Just about everyone I talk with has the same problem. How to maintain our health and fitness among all the other things that have to be done?

The other day, I ran into an acquaintance that I hadn’t seen in a long time and without any prompting from me, he mentioned that after he put his #!*%! back out again it was recommended he try ‘hot Yoga’.  He did and was disciplined with his practice for six months straight. Then stopped. He stopped going for two reasons: 1) because his back was feeling stronger and so naturally didn’t need it anymore and 2) he just didn’t have two hours a day to devote.  And so the cycle continues.  He’ll do nothing until he puts his back out or some other injury takes hold.  When that happens he’ll find the time to take care of him until he’s fixed, then stop and go on cruise control until the cycle repeats…

That’s when I told him about this blog and the concept of 4 Minute Mornings as Daily Body Maintenance.

We chatted about the fact that when a person starts a diet or exercise program there is this honeymoon period when everything is new and exciting and you want everyone to join you because it is the ‘way’!  And you go hard and strong for three, five or six months. You turn your entire world upside down because you think: “I’m really going to make a change and do it this time”. But like any honeymoon, it too comes to an end; too big of a change, too much too soon.

This is where my daily 4 Minute Mornings come in. The concept is simple.  The exercises are simple. But best of all, you are in control. You learn to help YOURSELF be fit and healthy, using your own bodyweight to develop the functional strength you need from home. The driving, parking or getting a babysitter is eliminated from the equation, which is a lot of time saved right there.

It is not mindless repetition.  It’s not about proving how much endurance you have or how much you can do or how hard you can work.  It’s about consistency;  revisiting functional movements and stretching the body daily.  Yes, it is hard work and takes discipline, but anything worth having is worth working hard for. It is about educating yourself about yourself. Becoming your own expert –no one knows you better.

Self-discipline is born from consistency. And naturally, one thing leads to another. When you do something positive it is more likely other positive choices will follow.

Here’s what to do:  Maintain your body in a compassionate way – daily.  Eat fresh, whole foods that provide nourishment  as opposed to stimulating your body with artificial energy.  Get eight hours of sleep a night.  Hydrate your body with fresh clean water.  Floss your teeth daily…the mouth is the gateway to the body.

These are simple things we can do to improve and maintain our health. Start with baby steps with which you can be consistent.

“For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice.”  -John Burroughs

Video.Wk #12 – DAYS 1 & 5

Here is week #12 – DAYS 1 & 5.

My nephew Peter is demonstrating.

This is the third progression for the Burpee.  The Burpee is a series of continuous movements. You have already learned the JUMP BACK into Plank. In this weeks progression you will add a MODIFIED PUSH UP into the mix. Continue alternating the leading leg for each step forward.

INSTRUCTIONS: From the PLANK position gently lower your knees to the floor. Bend the elbows lowering the chest in the direction of the floor.  Even if you only bend your elbows slightly, it is beneficial.  Gradually your strength will increase and so will the bend in your elbows.  I’d rather see you do very small elbow bends with strict form than lowering all the way to the floor with sloppy technique.  If you are unsure how to do a MODIFIED PUSH UP revisit: http://youasamachine.com/about-4-minute-mornings/week-9/

DAYS 1 & 5 (week #12)

1. 10 High Knees + Bend Down + Jump Back Into Plank + Lower Knees to Floor + MODIFIED PUSH UP + Raise Knees back to PLANK + Step Forward (one foot at a time) + Reach Up + Toe Raise.

2. Repeat Sequence 10 times to equal 10 Rounds.


DAYS 2, 4 & 6 = [50 High Knees + 20 Bend Down & Reach Up with Toe Raise] x 4.

DAYS 3 & 7 = [50 High Knees + 10 Half Squat] x4.




Check back for the next progression.

Video.Wk# 11 – DAYS 1 & 5

Here is week #11 – DAYS 1 & 5.

My nephew Peter is demonstrating.

This is the second progression for the Burpee.  The Burpee is a series of continuous movements.  Here, I am introducing the JUMP BACK into Plank.  Everything else remains the same as in the first progression.  Alternate the leading leg for each step forward.

INSTRUCTIONS: From the Bend Down position, place both hands flat on the ground. Transfer your weight from your feet onto the hands enabling you to jump your feet back to the plank position.  The word ‘jump’ is almost is a misnomer because your aim is to be in control of your movement, it is more of a ‘lift and place’ your feet in the plank position. However, in the beginning as you are building the upper body strength to do this movement it may feel more like a jump.

TIP:  Try to keep your legs parallel to each other, toes and knees pointing forward.  When you bend down aim to maintain this parallel leg alignment.  If you are too inflexible to bring your hands flat on the ground then you should work on improving your flexibility before you do this progression.  Continue with the step back into plank (Level 1) if that is working for you.  After a few more weeks of repeating the first progression you should start seeing improvements.

DAYS 1 & 5 (week #11)

1. 10 High Knees + Bend Down + Jump Back Into Plank + Pause in Plank for a second + Step Forward (one foot at a time) + Reach Up + Toe Raise.

2. Repeat Sequence 10 times.


DAYS 2, 4 & 6 = [50 High Knees + 20 Bend Down & Reach Up with Toe Raise] x 4.

DAYS 3 & 7 = [50 High Knees + 10 Half Squat] x4.



Below is a video of three hip stretches described and demonstrated by two RMT of whom I have been lucky to be a client. Turn on your volume, Mark and Alison give a brief education on where these muscles are located on your skeleton and how to do them correctly.  Learn these stretches and spend a few minutes practicing them daily.

Stretching makes ALL the difference.

Video.Wk #10 – DAYS 1 & 5

Here is week #10 – DAYS 1 & 5.

My nephew Peter is demonstrating.

This is the first progression for the Burpee.  Up to this point we have established a solid foundation for all the parts that make up the Burpee minus the explosive jump at the end, but we’ll get to that down the road.

The Burpee is a series of continuous movements.  I have broken it down in this progression to allow you to focus on each part.  Each following progression will take you closer to the actual Burpee in its entirety.

I have also added 10 High Knees at the beginning of each baby Burpee to give you a bit of time between each one.

If you don’t spend enough time on stretching, stepping back and forward from the plank will shout out this fact.  Peter has limited range of movement in his ankle in the step back/forward due to an old soccer injury; as a result there is some compensation.

DAYS 1 & 5 (week #10)

1. 10 High Knees + Bend Down + Step Back (one foot at a time) Into Plank + Pause in Plank for a second + Step Forward (one foot at a time) + Reach up with Toe Raise.

2. Repeat sequence 10 times.


DAYS 2, 4 & 6 = [50 High Knees + 20 Bend Down & Reach Up with Toe Raise] x 4

DAYS 3 & 7 = [50 High Knees + 12 Modified Push Up (Level 3)] x4




Repeated 10 times (depending on your speed) this baby Burpee progression takes less than two minutes!  But don’t feel as though you have to finish in under two minutes.  Go at your own pace.  Take four minutes if that feels right.  If doing just one baby Burpee feels like enough of a challenge then go with that and try to add on another each day of the week.

Leave me a comment on how you are fitting your 4 Minute Mornings into your life.
Have Fun!

Video.Wk#9 – DAYS 1 & 5

Here is week #9 – DAYS 1 & 5.

My nephew Peter is demonstrating.

The Modified Push Up is the the same as the Level 2 Incline Push Up minus the incline.

INSTRUCTIONS:  Start by lying face down (prone) on the floor.  Position the palm of the hands (fingers pointing forward) directly under the crease of the underarm, next to the chest. Elbows will point up towards the ceiling, causing the forearms and upper arms to pinch tightly to the upper body.

With the imaginary plank still affixed to the back, originating from the back of the knees to the back of the head, extend (straighten) the arms.  Careful NOT to lock out (hyperextend) the elbow at the top of the movement.  With control, return the body to the start position and repeat.  By now your technique should be spot on with the amount of practice you’ve had up to this point.  No pigeons in the house.

Better to do fewer repetitions with excellent form than to do many poorly.  Building on a solid foundation is the key.

DAYS 1 & 5 (week #9)

1. 50 High Knees (pumping arms, forearms parallel to ground or hold chest)

2. 12 Modified Push Up (Level 3) = from knees with hands on floor.

3. Repeat circuit 4 times to equal 4 Rounds.


DAYS 2, 4 & 6 = [50 High Knees + 20 Bend Down & Reach Up with Toe Raise] x 4.

DAYS 3 & 7 = [50 High Knees + 14 Half Squat] x 4.




I swim in a 20 metre pool (25 metres is standard).  I listen to my body, so depending on how I’m feeling, I do six to eight lengths for each stroke; reviewing technique and refining. There is SO much to think about, let alone the breathing!  Here is a training tip that I apply to just about everything.  Let me know if it makes sense to you.

This is a metaphor:
First, imagine a clock with a second hand.  Each sixty seconds represents one repetition (of whatever: push up, squat, front crawl…).  Each second within the minute represents a refinement.  Quite impossible to think of everything all at once.  But you can train your mind to be active and refine a different part of your mechanics each second.  And when you get really good that’s when the nano corrections come into play.  Can’t get bored when you’re interested in what your doing.  You can well imagine I’ve got something to say on that topic too!

Thanks for all your positive comments!  Let me know how your 4 Minute Mornings are coming along.

Video.Wk#8 – DAYS 1 & 5

Here is week #8 – DAYS 1 & 5.

My nephew Peter is demonstrating the Half Squat.

The Half Squat is the same as the Chair Squat minus the chair.  Notice how Peter maintains a static spine throughout.  The joints that are involved: Hips, Knees, Ankles and Shoulders.

For those not quite ready to leave the chair behind, continue to use the chair but place less of your body weight onto the chair each time, eventually hovering over the chair instead of touching it at all.

INSTRUCTIONS:  Point your toes and knees forward, keep your legs parallel to each other.  Your torso remains static.  The only movement occurs at the hips, knees and ankle joints, as well as the shoulder joints as the arms raise forward to support balance.  You will notice that as your knees bend forward and your hips shift backwards, your torso naturally tips forward; hinging from the hip joints NOT rounding from your spine.  It is a very simple and clean movement.  Spend two days this week doing this progression to establish a solid foundation for this movement as we will be adding on. Focus on precision of movement as opposed to completion.
For the rest of the week be aware each and every time you sit in a chair and get up.  See if you can hover for one second before you make contact with the chair.  Allow your muscles to support you. When you get up, shift your weight slightly so that you are hovering again for one second before you get up.  Notice how your legs take on the workload as opposed to feeling it in your lower back.

DAYS 1 & 5 (Week #8)

1. 50 High Knees (pumping arms or forearms parallel to the ground or holding chest)

2. 14 Half Squat

3. Repeat circuit 4 times to equal 4 Rounds.


DAYS 2, 4 & 6 = [50 High Knees + 20 Bend Down & Reach Up with Toe Raise] x 4.

DAYS 3 & 7 = [50 High Knees + 10 Incline Push Up (Level 2) Lower surface] x 4.




Have fun with this one.  We’re really moving along now.  We’re more than half way to the big finale.  Leave me a comment on your progress.  Let me know how you are fitting your 4 Minute Mornings into your life.

Give Me the Tough Stuff

Bechstein Firmenschriftzug

“Oh yeah, I can do a Push Up, that’s easy. Why should I bother with these progressions?”

A little digression here but I promise to come full circle.

I started taking piano lessons about two years ago, shortly after our kids started.  I began for two reasons.  First, because I have always admired the instrument and wanted to develop some kind of proficiency.  But it was for the second reason, which was a bit more like a prodding.  I was watching our kids take these lessons and in the way youth tend to operate, they didn’t really appreciate the opportunity of lessons.  I heard myself telling them how lucky they were to have these lessons and that if only I had a chance to take lessons…

So I set aside a weekly lesson for myself.  It was great to start something from scratch.  As someone who naturally enjoys teaching others, I have always found it helpful to be a student.  A teacher who masters their craft can often forget what it feels like to be a novice; over the years I have purposefully taken the role of student (learning soccer, piano, swimming and now writing).  It’s a good exercise in humility for the ego and wonderful to experience the physical sensation of neurons and synapses firing, which literally give us an electrical charge.

What I discovered about myself along the way was profound; a kind of therapy on the piano bench – ok, a bit of an exaggeration, but it sure was thought provoking.  I have this quirk whereby I like to create a parallel between things.  I think it comes from years of trying to teach clients how to understand the complexity of physical movement in simpler terms.

While learning piano I was eager to excel.  I was taught in a methodical way and I practiced regularly; which was a bonus because it made the kids practice more too. However, I found myself memorizing my pieces.  Perhaps the Conservatory is partially to blame…they offer additional points in the exam for memorization.   But the thrill of actually playing music came with memorization and it gave me confidence not having to rely on the sheet music.  The problem with this is that I became dependent on memorization because I didn’t trust myself to read the notes anymore.  I absorbed the rhythm and notes and pocketed them into my memory and played quickly, dare I forget what came next.
How could I have done that?  I already knew that with physical exercise you have to start with a solid foundation- seems as though it didn’t translate to the piano.  It worked wonderfully for a while.  I completed my Grade One exam: Honors with Distinction.  The exam wasn’t pretty, my hands were shaking like a leaf and I kept wondering why I was putting myself through this stress?  (As per FEAR? that was a biggie).

Any classically trained musician will tell you that playing from memory isn’t ideal.  It’s fine for performance but not when you’re starting out.  One has to learn to read the notes.  I have discovered that I am no exception.  Aren’t we all like that a little bit?  Wanting to skip the Wall Press to get to the juicy Push Up to feel all knowing and masterful?
As a result of this faulty approach, after a period without practice, it’s like starting all over. I labor over which note is which, though it does come back faster than learning for the first time.  So I promise myself to play slower and read my music.  I know it will pay off.  I have to ease off the instant gratification of playing with zest and speed, and learn to make real music.

This brings me back to the first line of this post.  When we practice physical exercise it’s just as important to start at the very beginning.  Just because it’s your body and it’s been following us since birth, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we know how to use it.  We need to stop pushing ourselves around and bullying our body to do what we want.  At a cellular level the body is very forgiving.  Let’s show ourselves a little more compassion.  A little bit everyday is the way to go.  Just ask Great Aunt Lea.

One last thing…regarding piano practice.  I try to practice daily (it doesn’t always happen), but even if it is for only one minute, because the cumulative effect from revisiting the notes daily makes more of a difference than not practicing anything until I have an hour to devote.  Can you see the parallel with the 4 Minute Mornings? Anyone? Bueller?