Bed Stretches

Practice vs. Duration Part 2

Continued from Part 1…

We have all heard the saying: Practice makes perfect. I have heard myself say it too. A few years ago, Simon, my brother-in-law, who is a life long soccer player and coach, quoted Vince Lombardi:

“Practice does not make perfect.

Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

~Vince Lombardi

Of course it does! So why do so many parents continue to force their children to practice for extended periods of time? Pushing our kids or yourself, through dragged out practice sessions will not automatically an expert make. Regardless of duration, the focus should be on practicing with precision and accuracy for any amount of time. Here is a great article about just this. Click this link to read it in its entirety. The article discusses the benefits of practice outside of sport, music or theatrical pursuits. How practice in everything we do has its place. This may seem obvious but it is often overlooked and definitely rarely practiced. 🙂

“Just remember not to stop as soon as you – or your charges – know how to do it right. The goal in these vital skill areas is not mere proficiency but excellence. The value of your practice, therefore, becomes more intense as you get better at the activity.”

“A critical goal of practice, then, should be ensuring that participants encode success – that they practice getting it right – whatever ‘it’ might be,” the authors stress.

They suggest you want your participants to complete the fastest possible right version of the activity.

Take the example of a youngster learning to hit a baseball in the backyard as her father feeds her slow pitches. It may seem to make more sense to take her to a batting cage where she faces hundreds of 60 mile-per-hour pitches, but that doesn’t allow her to apply the small corrections to her form that is needed to improve. Instead, eliminate complexity until you start to see mastery, and then start building the extras back in.

The law of the vital few – 80 per cent of results come from 20 per cent of our activity – should be applied to practice, they say.

~Harvey Schachter paraphrasing from Practice Perfect by, Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi.

Over the last few years, my husband and I have been experimenting with the duration of our kids’ practice time for their music lessons. It used to be our rule that they HAD to practice piano (or whatever their chosen instrument was to study) for a minimum of thirty minutes each day. But, because we were met with so much resistance (it often took thirty minutes of cajoling or arguing to even get the practice time started) that it became such an unpleasant situation overall. Who wants that kind of energy in his/her life? So we had to rethink the entire process and come up with a solution.

Our solution was to shorten the practice time.

Drum Kit

It seemed too simple and it felt wrong. And part of me was unconfident that any real long term learning would take place because it had been drilled into me that practice meant time and time meant success.

But because I have been experimenting with shorter duration activities for myself, (bed stretches, Tabata’s, 4 minute mornings, short bursts of house cleaning etc.), I speculated that the same theory could apply to the kids lessons and possibly everything!

Now, what you must remember is that we are talking about kids and kids are not very different from adults. Kids in fact, grow up and in most cases mature into adults. So, logically, the training for a mature adult begins at birth (this is often overlooked, too). Most kids, from my experience, do not like being told what to do, and interestingly I have also noticed the same characteristic among adults. Just because they have chosen said extra-curricular activity does not always indicate that they will want to do or practice said activity. Most often kids want to do what they want to do, which now-a-days has more to do with external stimulation via computer screens and less and less to do with self-generated imagination and creativity.

So this is what we did. We sat down with the kids and reviewed how our current approach wasn’t working out very well and that we had come up with an idea that we would like to try.  Our son likes to play video games (and is very skilled for his age), so in an effort to make everyone happy we have allotted him one hour of screen time per day, (dare I say) on school days; on weekends he gets more time; and in the summer months we experiment with allowing the kids to self-regulate (ha!). During the week, he can use that hour however he likes, i.e., all at once or he can break it up. This is what he usually chooses to do:

When our son wakes up in the morning, he goes through his checklist of personal obligations (on his own):

  • Bed stretches (his version)
  • Personal grooming: brush teeth, wash face etc. (remembers to flush toilet, keeps his sink area tidy etc.)
  • Makes his bed
  • Gets dressed
  • Good-morning greetings
  • 10 minutes drum-kit practice (Sept.– June/ Monday to Friday)
  • 15 minutes video games/ screen time
  • Breakfast
  • Packs up school bag
  • (Sometimes another 5 – 15 minutes video games/ screen time)
  • Clean/brush teeth from breakfast food
  • Leave for school

Five days a week he practices his drum-kit for 10 minutes and once per week has a thirty-minute private lesson; and never practices on the weekends! The results have been remarkable. OK, he is a talented kid, and he really gets the concept that if you’re going to bother doing something-then try to do it right the first time. So for those ten minutes he practices with accuracy and precision.

If you are going to bother spending any amount of time doing something, doesn’t it make sense to be as focused as possible?

Yet, in the same breath, he is still a kid and even though we think he has the makings of a great musician, we do not want to break his spirit by forcing him to practice, even though we know he might grow up to appreciate having studied an instrument outside of school. We have learned that what motivates one child does not work for another, so we practice working with their individual personalities – what a concept! 🙂

Puppy

We think of our kids a little bit like dogs. When we were learning to train our puppies, we were taught that the puppy, being a pack animal, had to know that the human was the alpha. But what was equally important to understand was that using force to discipline a puppy will only cause fear, and break the puppy’s spirit. We wanted brave, good-natured and confident dogs not submissive dogs. Our job as dog owners is to learn how to communicate with our pet. We think the same thing can happen to humans. We want our children to grow up into contributing members of society who are confident and can think for themselves. The training for such an adult begins at the beginning. We need to learn how to communicate with our children and teach them how to make decisions, not control them.

How many adults do you know who were forced to practice an instrument that they disliked as a child/teen, excelled at it, but discontinued playing it? I know of many who played at very high levels but lacked the passion; they played mechanically and tell sad stories of the instrument that they had really wanted to play but weren’t allowed. Just as it is true that kids do not always know what is good for them and parents need to make executive decisions, like if you start something then you should finish it (you can quit after you finish the term), and you should do your best, you don’t have to be THE best. We think that giving our kids the opportunity to be consistent with their shorter practice time sets the tone for their individual success. It also maps out the potential for a successful and varied adult life.

Advertisements

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.

Butterfly

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

2012 Food Log

 

Homemade Baked Turkey Cutlets

As per request from a fellow blood type O, non-secretor I will post a few daily Food Logs as well as some sample meals with photographs over the next while. Because I choose to eat well all the time, I have to be prepared for hunger! As a result, I have to ensure that my refrigerator is stocked with ready to eat wholesome foods. I have to plan ahead and spend a certain amount of time preparing. Convenience foods aren’t in the cards anymore.

Aug. 27, 2012

6:30am Wake-up but not moving until 7am, (summer holidays).

7:00am Bed Stretches

7:10 am Homeopathic Remedies + Iodine, Zinc & Vitamin D supplements. I do a few standing side bend stretches while holding two of the homeopathic remedies under my tongue, since I have to hold each for 15 seconds. I’ve learned that I can accomplish a lot in 15 seconds.

 

From my perspective supplements should be used short term.They supplement what is not working for us naturally.

My goal is to figure out why my levels are low and to use the supplements as a support while I figure out how to get my levels up to MY normal range of healthy functioning. Eating the right way should support our systems properly, which should eliminate the need for supplements (in an ideal world). For example, I was taking twice the amount of Iron Citrate, and Magnesium Glycinate almost two years ago. About six months ago, I was able to lower my daily dose to half that amount.

 

Travel Roller

Then I do my 4 minute morning routine which includes: rolling out with Travel Roller ball & roller, wall stretches, 2 modified Sun Salutation plus the actual 4 minute morning which actually takes me 5 minutes to do Week 3 – DAY 7. (I have modified this for myself since originally uploading it and will endeavour to make an update of it soon.)

This mornings routine was broken up with sorting laundry and doing Dot’s braids, puttering around etc. Adapt to change and carry on.

8:30 am 6oz. glass water

Making all breakfasts simultaneously…

8:50 am My Breakfast:

2 soft boiled eggs

5g (approx. 2 cups) steamed Spinach drizzled with EVOO & fresh lemon juice

6 Walnut halves

4 prunes

Small banana

12oz. glass water (Iron Citrate & Magnesium supplement)

 

Spinach

Steamed Spinach

 

10:00 am 12oz. glass water

Standing side stretches (30 seconds).

11:50 am My Lunch:

Sliced Turkey Breast from deli

(ingredients: skinless turkey breast, water, sodium phosphate)
Note: I’ve since found a butcher that makes sliced turnkey breast without adding any sodium.

Homemade plain Risotto (no cheese) with steamed Kale

Raw Carrots & broccoli

10 oz. glass water

Active Living

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm:

  • Dog walk with Dot to playground. I did Monkey Bars and a Sprint Tabata with dog Ruby.

Sprint Tabata = [20 seconds sprint across field + 10 second rest ] x 8 = 4 minutes

2pm Body Maintenance:

  • Stairs Warm Up
  • 60 minutes Ashtanga Yoga Standing + Seated Series up to Navasana (working on Navasana to Handstand) + Backbends then closing sequence.

3:15 pm Post Yoga SNACK:

Half small homemade baked Turkey breast

Brown Rice & Millet spaghetti noodles with butter & steamed kale

1 raw red pepper

1 avocado, lightly sprinkled with sea salt

4 Walnut halves

1 TBSP. Pumpkin Seeds (because that’s all that was left in the bag)

10 oz. glass water

4:00 pm 12oz. glass water

5:10 pm 12oz. glass water

 

6:00pm My Dinner:

approx. ½ lb. baked Red Spring Salmon, seasoned with dried dill, garlic, olive oil, fresh lemon juice

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Ginger & Lime Juice

Fresh steamed Kale

Mixed steamed brown & wild rice

Raw Carrots (while doing dishes – like a dessert)

12 oz. Water

Salmon

 

8pm – 9pm Help Dot create her first stop-motion animation film!! It took a lot longer than I thought it would. That hour was spent just collecting footage.

9:00pm 12oz. Water

10:40pm Before bed stretching routine

Lights out 11pm – aiming for 8 hours sleep.

 

 

Bed Stretches #2

Dansk: Sibirisk tiger (Panthera tigris altaica...

These are the stretches that I do first thing

in the morning.

First thing every morning, before my feet hit the floor I do a series of stretches in bed. View Bed Stretches #1 for the introduction.

This is the second video in a series of progressions showing a very short in-bed-stretching routine that I do every morning. It may offer some ideas to start exploring your own options for a morning routine. It’s a good idea to develop a similar habit everyday for the rest of your life. The point is to do what feels right for your body – not what feels right for mine!

Some people might find that starting with holding the knees to chest is more than enough to take on first thing in the morning. That’s fine. Do what works for you. One thing we know for sure, is that we have to move in order to be able to move. So, I’d like to encourage everyone upon waking to get the fuzz out and “keep moving, stretching and using your body.”

This second video offers a quick review of the first two stretches/exercises:

  1. hold knees to chest
  2. single leg hip flexor stretch (right & left)
And each new video features an: Adding on… section:
        Video #2 introduces bicycle legs to ceiling.

 

Explanation:
  • Bicycle legs to ceiling is an exercise, which actively stretches our muscles gradually and gently.
  • As our muscles warm up from this repetitive action we stimulate oxygen and blood flow to our entire body.
  • I focus on working through my feet, stretching and leading the movement up to the ceiling with my heel.
  • When I first included this exercise I only did about 20 repetitions – and it seemed like a long while before I added on.
  • Using my duvet supports my sleepy, inflexible morning body so that I don’t end up gripping my back to hold my legs up.
  • Approximately, one year later, I naturally do one hundred repetitions (counting by 10’s) – Good mental exercise to wake the brain up too!
  • It takes fifty repetitions for me to wake up and the second set of fifty has purpose!

 

It sure is a nice feeling to step out of bed rather than crumble out.

 

NOTE: These Bed Stretches are meant to be a very gentle way of waking up the body. In no way should this routine be considered a workout or performed aggressively. 

I repeat, they should be done very gently. Keep knees bent, this is not a performance routine and knees should remain bent, even if you can straighten them during the day when you do the same type of movement.

Also Note: That when I filmed myself doing these stretches it was already afternoon and my body was very warmed up. First thing in the morning I do NOT move as fluidly; my body feels very rickety and stiff, besides feeling half asleep. Sometimes, I take the stretch and fall back asleep for a few seconds in the stretch! And abruptly wake up – oh, yeah – where was I?

 

It’s just a nice way to start my day.

Bed Stretches #3…coming soon.

Bed Stretches #1

These are the stretches that I do first thing

in the morning.

First thing – after I spend what seems like moments coming to the realization that it’s morning and I have to get up, but really it’s more like ten minutes of denial and futile attempts of turning back the clock or finding the elusive pause button.

I have put together a little video (first in a series) to demonstrate this very short in-bed-stretching routine that may or may not be right for you, but never-the-less, it can give you an idea of the possibilities, which might give you a place to start exploring your own options. The point is to do what feels right for your body – not what feels right for mine! It was probably six months of just doing the first three exercises before I added the fourth and a few months after that before adding on the fifth and sixth. Let your body be your guide.

NOTE: These Bed Stretches are meant to be a very gentle way of waking up the body. In no way should this routine be considered a workout or performed aggressively. I repeat, they should be done very gently. Keep knees bent, this is not a performance routine and knees should remain bent, even if you can straighten them during the day when you do the same type of movement.

Also Note: That when I filmed myself doing these stretches it was already afternoon and my body was very warmed up. First thing in the morning I do NOT move as fluidly; my body feels very rickety and stiff, besides feeling half asleep. Sometimes, I take the stretch and fall back asleep for a few seconds in the stretch! And abruptly wake up – oh, yeah – where was I?

This first video demonstrates the first two stretches/exercises that I do upon waking. I am demonstrating on the floor…you didn’t really think that I would show myself stretching in bed, did you?!

It’s just a nice way to start my day.