What fun! Last night while tucking my kids into their beds, I was discussing with them the importance of keeping the body moving throughout the day. I try to impart that doing 30 minutes to one hour of intense physical activity per day does not cancel out the negative effects of prolonged sitting. This article written in 2011 from The New York Times discusses the subject: The Hazards of the Couch.
“Many of us sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day, and then go home and head for the couch to surf the Web or watch television, exchanging one seat and screen for another. Even if we try to squeeze in an hour at the gym, is it enough to counteract all that motionless sitting?
A mounting body of evidence suggests not.
Increasingly, research is focusing not on how much exercise people get, but how much of their time is spent in sedentary activity, and the harm that does.”
It is the kids summer holidays after all, and aside from registering our kids for some half day camps or a week of one hour swim lessons, as a family we have agreed that summertime is the kids time to have their own kind of down time. My husband and I are a lot more lenient about how much time they spend on screens each day. I am usually busy in the kitchen, grocery shopping or doing various household chores and when I’m lucky I can sneak in an hour here or there of my own screen time to write posts like this one; but not all at once. I usually have to jump up from my desk to let the dog in or out, or for various other Mom-job reasons. For example, I started writing this post about forty minutes ago and have gotten up from my seat about twenty times already.
Both my husband and I are hyper sensitive to the immobility induced factor which is screen time of any kind. My husband works from home and all of of his work involves screens and conference calls. He has figured out how to ensure that he does not become chained to his desk. Quite simply: He moves. He stretches at his desk. He does push ups. Between calls he’ll run ten flights of stairs, which at most takes a minute and a half. He’ll do a set of chin ups. He’ll walk the dog. And a couple of times per week from Spring till Fall he’ll hike Grouse Mountain (Grouse Grind). Aside from that he spends 15 minutes in the gym three times per week lifting heavy weights and sprints a mile at the track once or twice a week. He just turned 52 years old and is getting better all the time.
So back to the kids. Last night I was pointing out how easy it is for them to spend hours a day on their handheld device, Wii or desktop computer, without moving. My son paraphrased that he should get up and do something every forty-five minutes. So I leaped at the opportunity and offered that starting in the morning we could experiment with a little bit of activity every hour on the hour! They loved the idea. Concepts are fantastic, but meaningless without action.
By 8am this morning, my son had already spent one hour on his computer! I had already done my bed stretches and morning routine and while putting in the first load of laundry of the day, I told my son that it was time to start his Hour on the Hour Practice. But he countered, “It hasn’t been an hour yet.” It’s quite amazing how quickly time slips away when we are staring at a screen.
True to his word, he got up from his chair and did 50 high knees, then got back to his screen. (He did eat breakfast)
9am: Son did 10 Push Ups followed by a doorway chest stretch. then back to his screen. (I did them after him and he complemented me on my form which made me laugh).
9am: Dot slept in but did her first set of 25 Jumping Jacks to start.
10am: Son and I did 25 Jumping Jacks, then back to his screen./ Dot did 5 Pull Ups.
11am: Son, Dot and I did 10 times flight of stairs.
12 noon: Son will do 5 standing roll downs, I will do 5 Sun Salutations, Dot will do 50 high knees.
We will do nothing until later in the day because we will go to the pool for 1:30pm. I will swim for 30minutes while the kids have their one hour swimming lesson.
I wanted to share this with you today. It is simple, yet it takes self-discipline to make it happen. Precision of movement is paramount but we cannot even begin to work on that if we haven’t got a regular daily practice under our belt. We have to know what we are doing before we can work on the details.
Try to understand this very important point: The amount of time we spend doing an activity is meaningless if what we are doing is done mindlessly without precision.
Exercise is multifaceted.
First things first. Take responsibility for your health. Once you develop a consistent daily body maintenance practice I can help you to see and fine tune the details.
And while you are at it, drink some water every hour on the hour!
My cousin Justin Kalef is currently teaching Logic at Rutgers University. I had a chance to chat with him briefly at a family dinner over the 2012 winter holidays. It was around the same time that I was mulling over the contents for the article I was composing on belief. Justin was the perfect person to ask some of the questions that I was working on. He told me what he tells his students on their first day of class, because from his experience teaching, it is inevitable that at some point during the course, one or some students will come to him completely overwhelmed.
We were talking about belief and how our beliefs can affect our ability to make long lasting change in our lives. When he said the following phrase:
“…but it’s only difficult for who you are now.
For the person you will become,
it won’t be difficult at all.”
How great is this sentence? I think we could all do well to repeat this to ourselves daily. I asked him if I could use it for my belief article, and then I thought better of it…let’s tell the entire speech. So here you are, sit back and soak up these wise words.
“One of the things I do at the start of all my courses
is tell my students to think of the course like thinking of a physical training program (weight lifting or running). Suppose, I say, your goal is to run a 10k run in four months, but you can’t even run down the block now. Or suppose that you want to be able to do a shoulder press with fifty-pound weights in four months, but right now you can only do it with five-pound weights and you can barely lift ten-pound weights.
50 pound weights
These things are possible to achieve in four months’ time. If you go through a training program and are able to reach your goals by the end, you’ll be able to look back down the mountain when it’s all over and say:
‘Wow, I started out that far down and look where I am now!’
Look How Far You’ve Come!
Ideally, you’ll be able to do that at several points: each month, you should be able to look back to where you were the previous month and be impressed with how far you’ve come. If you can’t do that — if at the end you’re exactly where you were at the start — then that’s a sign that it didn’t work. If you haven’t progressed in a month, then something went wrong. You didn’t commit enough or your guide didn’t find a way to climb the mountain — maybe both.
So my promise (I tell them) is this: I have worked out a path that you will be able to follow with me to the top of the mountain. There are some things you’ll be able to do at the end that you just can’t do now: here they are (and I set them out plainly). The mountain is high, but my path will allow you to get there a little at a time. If you need to go slower at some points, there are other paths for those times. And if you’re committed to it, you’ll see each month that you’re far in advance of what you could do the month before. That’ll be proof of your progress, and I make the promise to you now that you can make it if you follow my plan.
However, there’s a flipside to that. Logically speaking, if there’s something you’ll be able to do a month from now that you can’t do today, that same something must be out of your range today. And the things you’ll be able to do at the very end are way out of your range today. That comes with the course being a worthwhile one for you, but some people can find it scary.
They say, ‘I can’t do that!’
And they’re completely right:
If they could already do it, there would be no point in their taking the course!
Think of it this way (I tell them): if you can only shoulder-press with five-pound dumbbells and can barely lift the ten-pound ones out of the rack, then of course you can’t shoulder-press the fifty-pound ones. You might resolve to do it anyway, but you’d fail. You just can’t do it. That’s why you’re training toward that goal.
Going in circles
So: if there’s something you want to be able to do and already can do, then any training program designed to get you there is a waste of time and will only take you in a circle. So any reasonable goal must be something you can’t do yet.
And that means that any reasonable goal you have must be something that’s impossible for you to do!
Still, the situation isn’t hopeless. There’s one — and only one — reasonable way to see your training: your training takes something that’s currently impossible for you to do and makes it possible by changing you from someone who can’t into someone who can. So today, you can say ‘I can’t do this — but I can transform myself into someone who can.’ And that’s the key to training: transforming yourself into someone with more powers than you have today.
This is literal transformation: mentally or physically, you’ll be a different person with different abilities. You’ll even have different desires and values: things you find frustrating now won’t be to your future self, and things you find tempting now will be less so.
Genuine self-transformation can be very difficult in the short term,
but it’s only difficult for who you are now.
For the person you will become,
it won’t be difficult at all.
Today, you say to yourself “Living by this routine is so difficult — when will I be able to do the things that I want?” But perhaps you’re only thinking of what the presentversion of youwants: not the future you. If your self-transformation is to be successful, the routine will not remain difficult. You’ll miss it if you don’t follow it.
So instead of saying: “This is difficult for me,”
say: “This is difficult for me now,
but I’m transforming myself into a person for whom it isn’t difficult.”
Otherwise, you run the risk of leaving it up to your present desires to choose the values and habits of your future.”
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.
You will find an excuse.”
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.
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,
however improbable, must be the truth.”
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.”
Travis is a swimming coach and lifeguard at the pool where I swim. One day last year (September 2011) he asked me if I could recommend some exercises for his back. He told me that his lower back was sore and he thought that he should do some exercises to strengthen it.
I offered that it might be more complex than that and that focusing on strengthening the back could very possibly make things worse. There could be a whole host of possibilities as to why he feels pain and discomfort in his lower back. Oftentimes, this type of pain stems from imbalance. Meaning that some muscles may be over developed while others are underdeveloped and therefore being overworked. When our muscles are balanced, “not too tight and not too loose” then our joints are better supported and will work better on demand. Anyone can use brute force to blast through a set of an exercise or sprint to the finish line while in pain or not. But as far as exercise and physical movement is concerned, in my mind, exercise is about establishing a bio-mechanical functioning body. Sport on the other hand is about times and points. But as you will see, most professional athletes spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting the accuracy with each micro-phase of each movement. It is this concept of precision, which is what I hope to relay in this site.
My conversation with Travis lasted no more than 4 minutes. I suggested he start with the 3-Hip Stretches and I showed him very quickly (pool side) how to stretch his psoas. He is the ideal student. He actually followed-up and did these exercises.
For quite some time afterward, in my mind I could not stop hearing him say: “If this is how my body feels at twenty-one…” and I wanted to share these words with you. So, I caught up with Travis and asked him if I could film him saying what he said to me in that first conversation. It was funny, because I wanted to assure him that I could edit the filming in the case he was uncomfortable, to which he assured me that it wasn’t a problem because he is an actor. Fantastic! He surprised me by walking me through what I had taught him in those few minutes from a few months earlier. You will see, I think he did very well.
Below is the long overdue video that I promised Travis that I would put together so that he would be able to see what the sequence looks like in its entirety. This is the modified Sun Salutation that I do each morning.
My Morning Routine (20 minutes):
Bed Stretches (2 – 5 minutes)
Wall and floor stretches with Travel Roller ball & roller (3 – 5 minutes)
Modified Sun Salutation (3 – 4 minutes)
4 Minute Morning (week 3 – DAY 7) (4 – 5 minutes)
Walk in a figure-8 (30 seconds)
Down the road I will put together a video to break down the finer points of the modified Sun Salutation. The first step for anyone is to learn the sequence by memory; once that is achieved then we can begin to fine tune and deepen our understanding.
Note: These stretches/ exercises are appropriate for my body but may not be for yours. Use caution when trying anything new. I find it works best to err on the side of caution. Begin with one exercise and repeat that one exercise for a week or so, until it is committed to memory, only then consider adding on.
Seems like once I say it out loud or write it down, IT changes.
The IT I’m referring to in this case, is my Body Maintenance schedule. I have taken to calling it My Body Maintenance because that is how I see it now. It’s not so much my workout anymore. The physical activity that I engage in everyday has more to do with the methodical maintenance of my overall physical health and functional alignment.
I find it interesting that most people I run into assume that I am training for something. Are you a triathlete? You must workout a lot! Nothing could be further from the truth, which is why I am posting this schedule. This entire website is about how to maintain our overall health with a healthy dose of moderate daily body maintenance. SOME focused daily body maintenance, not an extreme amount, EVER. Focus on precision of movement in every waking moment and lead an Active Lifestyle. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? I believe that it is, it just takes a little bit of practice and perhaps a whole lot of belief shifting to make it happen; more on the belief part another day.
Do something everyday.
Learn > Practice > Refine > Repeat.
A year ago my weekly schedule looked very different compared with the current one (below). At the bottom of this post I will write out what last years schedule looked like and what it looked like a year before that. Change is good. I choose to change and move forward towards better health. Doing more was not the answer for me.
“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
Since June 2012 this is what my current weekly Body Maintenance schedule has been:
Stairs Warm Up+1-mile Track Run(aim for 7min. Mile)+Max. Push Ups in 1 Minute
(~80 min. Total time)
30 Min.Swim drills
Stairs Warm Up+4 Minute Burpees Tabata+400x Skipping+Ashtanga Yoga(~70 min. Total Time)
30 Min.Swim drills
Rest &RecoveryOrAshtanga Yoga(30 – 60 min. Total time)
30 Min.Swim drills
Current Ashtanga Yoga Practice (~60 minutes):
5x Surya Namaskara A
3-5 x Surya Namaskara B
First 12 seated postures (Lift between each posture with the occasional vinyasa)
Working on Navasana up to Handstand (I will post a video of this progression, it is quite amusing)
2 Backbends + counter pose
The Finishing Sequence (when not menstruating)
No practice on full moon days.
25 – 30 minutes Swim Drills (20 meter pool):
4 lengths flutter kick w/board
8 lengths front crawl w/flip turn
2 lengths flutter kick on back with arms overhead
8 lengths back stroke
2 lengths flutter kick on back with arms overhead
8 lengths breast stroke
4 lengths dolphin kick w/board
4 lengths arms only front crawl w/pull buoy
4 lengths flutter kick w/ board
8 lengths front crawl w/flip turn
4 min. Vertical Treading Water Tabata
4 lengths easy front crawl cool down
10 – 15 minute stretch in whirlpool
Of course Active Living varies from day to day and season to season. My biggest House Maintenance Day tends to be on my Rest & Recovery Days but that is not set in stone – stuff comes up! Some house maintenance is done everyday, regardless. Rest & Recovery days vary too.
It also looks like my Playground Pit-Stops will be dwindling over the winter months, as they usually do – monkey bars and D-Rings need to be dry (and Vancouver is pretty wet), but with cold muscles my hands just can’t hold a grip. There is also the dog walk duty, which is shared between my husband and me; we don’t have a set schedule.
If you want to know your past, look into your present conditions.
If you want to know your future, look into your present actions.
Rest &Recovery DayOrMy 12 minute Workout+4 x 100 skipping
+5 Forward Grip
30 Min.Swim Drills
2011 – June 2012
Ashtanga Yoga Practice (~40 minutes):
3 – 4x Surya Namaskara A
3x Surya Namaskara B
first 12 seated postures (no vinyasa)
Swim Drills (30 minutes):
Same as above except only difference
Egg Beater Treading Water Tabata
In the years before the examples above, my workouts were much longer, over 30 minutes and up to 45 minutes in duration for BodyRock style workouts. I used to take a Masters Swim Group Class (not “masters” by definition meaning experts, rather all of us gained entry because we were over 35). And I used to go out for an hour of intense soccer with the ladies once or twice a week. When I think back on it now I can’t believe I used to do that! I was trained to believe that we had to get our heart rate up to a certain number for a certain amount of time to reap any benefits. I used to believe a lot of “facts” backed up by scientific research written in esteemed text books and journals. Now I see that it is much, much more complex than all that. Everything is. For me, this says a lot about our belief systems and what we do because of them.
In a nutshell?
Do less at one time. But do it well; with precision. Be active throughout the day.
To date, I’ve been experimenting with food as medicine for a solid year and a half.
In a recently published post, titled: My Hernia, I described my experience with an umbilical hernia, and by the end of the article I commented on the fact that some exercises can be useless. Which triggered another thought…how certain foods can actually be useless too.
There are a lot of fancy exercises that are in vogue these days, that fall into the useless category causing more harm than good. Now, this is assuming we know better but keep on repeating them, regardless. However, because it’s unlikely that doing the occasional useless exercise likely won’t cause much lasting damage, it begs the question, then WHY would we do them in the first place? What is our motivation behind doing things that are useless? Our best bet is to stick with the basics, but also to work with an expert who can identify which basic exercises will actually be beneficial for our specific needs. (Collaborating with an RMT trained in Rolfing [Structural Integration] or KMI / Myofascial Release is my first choice). Sure, we can go ahead and do exercises, which are not appropriate for us and survive…(clearly, there are worse things we can do!). But, from my perspective, if we’re going to bother in the first place, doesn’t it make sense to at least try to do it right? Getting to the point of doing it right can take a lot of trial and error and a lot of research; if we’re too busy to learn and grow, then what are we here for? I have come to have this same opinion about food as a result of exploring which foods actually support my health. We can go ahead and eat anything for energy, but if we’re going to bother, doesn’t it make sense to do the research and fuel ourselves accordingly to actually enhance our health?
…Prescription Food, as I’ve come to think of it.
I met Sandrine at my daughter’s school about three years ago. Our daughters have been in the same class over these few years and so naturally, we have had many opportunities to chat. And as parents often do, we talk about our daughters; their talents, milestones and of course the challenges: the sleepless nights, the food sensitivities/ allergies, which doctors 😉 or finding THE magical balm to soothe irritated skin, etc. – You get the idea.
Sandrine went the distance like no other to help both of her daughter’s with their skin issues. She had eliminated certain foods from her girls’ diet in the hopes that that would help. She would go so far as delivering fresh homemade meals to her girls everyday at lunch so they could stay true to their program. This kind of effort puts tremendous strain on a parent; anyone raising a child with allergies or food sensitivity knows only too well what I’m talking about.
Six months into my experiment with ER4YT, I happened to be chatting with Sandrine at our girls’ first chess tournament. Since Sandrine and I share a similar interest in following current news regarding health, our conversations often revolved around comparing notes on such topics. I told her about ER4YT and my suspicions about gluten causing my joint inflammation. She considered looking into it as a possibility for her daughters. Sandrine is a researcher…she will leave no stone unturned. Months later, once back to school in September, I sidled up to her to get an update on the skin issues…because when I greeted her daughter, it was quite evident the skin issues were no more.
“Soon after my child was born, I knew that it was food which contributed to her rashes and other issues. The skin tests did not reveal food sensitivities, but food allergy. However, avoiding the foods my child was allergic to did not bring relief, in fact, it got progressively worse over the years. When I asked for their advice, Allergists and Dermatologists talked about elimination diet and its challenges. Recently, after almost nine years and two kids later, I discovered ALCAT testing. ALCAT and our naturopath transformed my children’s life and naturally mine. With ALCAT, we are confident in what they can and cannot eat. The recommended rotation diet along with the ALCAT test meant no more rashes or eczema, bleeding wounds from scratching, thick dandruff on the scalp, sleepless nights due to scratching, respiratory congestions, fatigue and failure to thrive. Today, my kids are not only doing well, but thriving, all without the need for medicated ointments and medications.” -Sandrine
This is an incredible story, and yet, elements of it are universal.
I know most of you reading this don’t know me and at this point are genuinely wondering if I am advertising for ALCAT or ER4YT. With all sincerity, I promise you that this is an information sharing website only. I do not have any affiliate codes associated with any of the links found on my site and am not receiving and discounts or support from the practitioners with whom I consult.
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Sandrine did her research and took the blood type philosophy to the next level by actually having both her daughters and husband’s blood tested by ALCAT. Seeing her success with the program I am considering trying ALCAT testing for my family too. Right now, however, we are going to go the distance with ER4YT because we are still in the infancy with our exploration. My husband and I have done the Secretor Test, which helps to fine tune our beneficial food lists (I am blood type O+, Non-Secretor, my husband is AB-, Secretor). My kids will be taking the Secretor test next week – we are all curious for the results. My kids are becoming more and more interested in taking care of their health, now, and beginning to understand the significance of NOW, and the impact it will have on their adult health. Many people falsely believe that children can eat and drink whatever they want. They believe that kids will figure it out for themselves like so many of us did. I say, look around…there is an entire population plagued with an inability to figure it out for themselves. Our health will not fix itself. Raising kids on candy and sugar and processed foods is damaging, period. There is absolutely nothing beneficial or nutritious found in those products. But what if you’re like Sandrine or myself, who make every attempt to nurture healthy habits by introducing nothing but whole foods to our babies, to then being completely mystified that those supposedly healthy, super foods are not tolerated.
Yes, we can eat anything. We can drink anything. Most of us know of, or may even be related to people who do not espouse a healthy lifestyle in the least, but are still living- against all odds. You know, like James’ uncle who each day smoked half a pack of cigarettes, drank like a fish and never exercised, but lived to be 102. Mind you living a long time and living well for a long time is a horse of another colour. I often wonder what the longevity might have been for people like James’ uncle had they taken care of themselves?
I know a man in his mid-seventies who has been Diabetic (type 2) for thirty years. For many years when he had kept his Diabetes ‘under control’, his weight had stabilized at 200 pounds, which seemed like an acceptable weight for a man at a height of six-feet. He is currently sixty pounds over that weight. It seems like his weekly schedule is busy with regular check-ups with his doctors or advisers. When I ask him how he’s doing, he tells me that his doctors tell him that he’s doing OK. This frustrates me, so I ask him gently, “How can you be OK, when you are 1) Diabetic and 2) sixty pounds overweight? You are NOT OK. This is unacceptable.” He continues to do the same thing he has always done, which rewards him with the same results he’s always gotten. No change to his health; just a slow decline. He tells me, “Well, we’ve all got to go sometime.” This is true, none of us is getting out of this life alive.
But there is a huge difference between accepting our fate and having the belief that there is no fate but what we make.
“Since the dawning of the Age of Genetics, we have been programmed to accept that we are subservient to the power of our genes. The world is filled with people who live in constant fear that, on some unsuspecting day, their genes are going to turn on them. Consider the masses of people who think they are ticking time bombs; they wait for cancer to explode in their lives as it exploded in the life of their mother or brother or sister or aunt or uncle. Millions of others attribute their failing health not to a combination of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual causes but simply to the inadequacies of their body’s biochemical mechanics. Are your kids unruly? Increasingly the first choice is to medicate these children to correct their “chemical imbalances” rather than fully grappling with what is going on in their bodies, minds, and spirits.
Of course there is no doubt that some diseases, like Huntington’s chorea, beta thalassemia, and cystic fibrosis, can be blamed entirely on one faulty gene. But single-gene disorders affect less than two percent of the population; the vast majority of people come into this world with genes that should enable them to live a happy and healthy life. The diseases that are today’s scourges – diabetes, heart disease, and cancer – short circuit a happy and healthy life.
These diseases, however, are NOT the result of a single gene, but of complex interactions among multiple genes and environmental factors. “
I understand that our doctors only have about 5 – 30 minutes with each patient (the upper number if you’re lucky!) and it is equally frustrating for health care practitioners, because as much as they want to eradicate disease, their hands are tied. Patients MUST help themselves and be more than a willing participant who accepts pharmaceuticals as their cure.
There are so many websites promoting miraculous cures, from natural supplements, water purification systems to products or equipment. It’s easy for any consumer to be charmed by all the claims often accompanied by glossy photographs of eye-catching perfection. All these advertisements remind me of the traveling-snake-oil-salesmen from the 19th century – Are we still being duped? Clearly, the only way to know for sure is to experiment for ourselves (with caution!).
Having said this, most of us are skeptics and require a lot to convince us to buy a product. But isn’t it interesting that when we finally do decide to jump in, and put our whole belief into something, we become a self appointed spokesperson for said product. As if, because it might work wonders for us, we think everyone else should try it too.
Listen, I don’t know exactly what works for me. I’m still figuring things out. And it seems to always be that once I get a handle on what seems to work my body goes ahead and ages, bringing on new changes and challenges. We are in a constant state of change. I believe we have to stay alert to these changes and adapt to them.
In writing this post it is my hope to encourage others to consider that: because none of us know anything for certain, that we have to try and keep trying and not sit back accepting our ‘fate’.
For those interested in exploring Prescription Food for Our Individual Health, I have imbedded the links to the sites that I have personally explored. I have done Dr. Mercola’s Nutritional Typing questionnaire, which pegged me as a Protein Type (which is very similar to ER4YT, just without the blood typing). One thing that I took away from Dr. Mercola’s site that I have been experimenting with is: the order in which I eat my beneficial food.
Dr. Mercola says:
“In addition to eating the right foods for your body, believe it or not, we discovered that it is not enough just to make the right food choices…It is equally important to eat your foods at each meal in the right order!
Many leading protein types should eat their meat first.
Carb types should eat their vegetable first.
Mixed types should eat their meat and vegetable together.
When your food is consumed this way, digestive and nutritional efficiency will improve dramatically, shown by:
Improved meal satisfaction.
No need for snacks between meals.
No more food cravings.
Dr. Mercola has a basic Nutritional Typing Plan. Click here to view Dr. Mercola’s Nutritional Typing.
In addition, this 5 minute video presented by HU Medicare Local, Australia talks about Understanding Pain. There is a lot we can do for our own self-care. Whether we live a long or short life, I think that we can all agree that the best choice would be to live out our days at a healthy weight, without pain or debilitating disease.
This goes out for anyone struggling with mental, physical, emotional or spiritual challenges…I care about your well-being and hope that the information in this post will be useful for your exploration. Just try and keeping trying.
For the uninitiated, the word BURPEES sounds more like something a newborn does.
Burpees, in fact, is a compound exercise. A compound exercise, is an exercise that involves more than one major muscle group and more than one joint at a time, such as the Squat. Burpees is a four or five part exercise involving different compound exercises. In contrast to an isolation exercise, which focuses on one muscle group and one joint at a time, for example: the bicep curl.
an exercise of biceps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you have not been following a regular exercise program or feel very out of shape, I would NOT recommend starting with Burpees. I would direct you to my 4 Minute Morning Progression Series, which teaches the foundation exercises for Burpees over the course of 14 weeks. As a result of following the graduated program, the body’s joint systems (ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilage) will adapt to these movements. Learning this way allows us to focus on each part of the compound exercise, which will ensure good alignment so that when we put all the parts together, we won’t become sloppy.
When we exercise with good alignment, our movement becomes more efficient. When we move efficiently, we reduce wear and tear on our joints and muscles, which in turn supports a faster reaction time and optimal performance. Exercising longer, while out of alignment – though it may feel good mentally to know that we have burned a certain amount of calories – the end result, being the attack on our joints and muscles and skeletal system will have negated the effort in the first place. Exercise, whether for weight loss, maintenance or for peak sport performance, requires a delicate balance in many areas.
We may be able to fool our MIND,
with supplements or secret training practices,
but the BODY cannot be fooled.
Train smart, right from the start. Less is more. If we exercise with precision of movement as our primary focus, and be consistent, the results will come.
“Build it, and they will come.”
-(Field of Dreams)
I’ve put together a little instructional video, which explains a common mistake that I was making. But I only realized that I was making this mistake once I started filming myself. Once again, I would like to encourage you to film yourself so that you can start to analyze how you are moving through your exercises.
I’ve tried to edit this video to keep it as short as possible, but as you may have noticed, I have a lot to say. Also, it is a lot harder (and time consuming) to make instructional videos than it first appears. I used my phone to record this video, though I had both my good camera and phone set up – but would you guess that I didn’t press record on the camera! Anyhow, I hope that it is the content of the video that will provide you with some useful information as opposed to judging it based solely on the lousy quality of the visual product.
For those not able to view the video, I am discussing the breakdown of Burpees. The most common error is to NOT do a complete squat but rather pass through it. The reason most will pass through the squat is due to restricted range of motion at our joints, i.e. tight musculature and fascia. Not performing the squat can lead to rounding from the back, which is not ideal.
There are two squats in Burpees. I have come to know Burpees as detailed below; though some call it Burpees Push Up (because it includes the Push Up). A classic Burpee may be done without the Push Up.
3. Push Up
5. Jump Squat
6. Repeat sequence
Also, I’d like to talk about the placement of our legs during the squat. There is a tendency to do a lot of exercises in a wide stance. This is OK from time to time, but important to understand that in order to develop a well-balanced body, our exercise program has to also be well-balanced. Always doing exercises in a wide stance or that are always recruiting the same muscles is not a well-balanced approach. There really is a science to exercise prescription. Though it can seem unlikely for some, anyone can muster up the drive to work hard. Working hard and for long duration alone, is not what will deliver a functionally fit body. So in my video, I venture to explain, (though very briefly and with basic language in an effort to be understood by everyone), how we should focus on parallel alignment, being the alignment, which is essential for our joints to function optimally. When we walk, the ideal placement is to have our feet and knees aligned in parallel. When we deviate from this tracking, our joints encounter wear and tear. By doing exercise OUT of alignment, our muscles become stronger in this unbalanced pattern, which further contributes to misalignment.
When we have limitation in our joints, our movement is restricted. When our movement is restricted we (unknowingly) compensate, which leads to overuse and contributes to faulty biomechanics.
What can you do?
Be consistent with stretches that are specific to YOUR restricted range of motion.
Do exercises that will support optimal range of motion in YOUR body.
I have found that when I practice my exercises (be it stairs, swim drills or Burpees), if I focus on precision then I am not able do as much; my weaker muscles will fatigue sooner. This is a good thing. This means that I am strengthening my weaker links. If I continuously train out of alignment and with brute force, then I am just repeating patterns that are only going to take me further from my goals. My goals being: having a body that is aligned and runs efficiently with the least amount of wear and tear.
Please note: when lifting very heavy loads, it is a good idea to take a wider stance for the squat.
Below is the video of me showing how to do a
4 Minute Tabata of Burpees.
8 Rounds of two intervals.
Interval #1 = 10 seconds REST + Interval #2 = 20 seconds Maximum # of Repetitions of Burpees
I was able to complete 4.5 – 4 Burpees during each 20 second interval. Which translates to doing 32 Burpees in 4 Minutes.
32 Push Ups
32 Jump Squats
Wow! I never thought about it like that before! No wonder it does the trick!
Also, I notice that as I get more fatigued I tend to lift my hips UP as I jump back to plank. See if you can spot that. So I will work on keeping my hips more level with the ground as I jump back into plank.
I started filming myself doing some exercises shortly after I started my website, with the intention of developing a series of how-to videos to complement the written instructions that I was posting. It was quite a shock to see myself. I thought my alignment and technique was better than it is. It just goes to show that knowing something and applying the same principles is very different.
Needless to say, if you are interested in making change and improvements, I highly recommend filming yourself. Watching in the mirror is helpful, and getting corrections from an expert is helpful, but to truly analyze and critique we need to view ourselves from the outside – a bird’s eye view. And practice, practice, practice.
I have years of experience helping other people correct form and technique and in the old days, could only dream of using film as a teaching tool. I knew, that for my clients to be able to understand and apply the corrections I gave them, they really needed to see for themselves what they looked like and what they were doing. Today, with easy access to media, this tool is at our fingertips…amazing!
But what if you don’t even know what you should be looking for once you’ve made your video? Well, you have to start somewhere.
Posture types (vertebral column) classification by Staffel. Русский: Типы осанок по Ф. Штаффелю. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Analyzing how your body looks will give you a starting point. Are your shoulders level with each other? Do they round forward? Does your upper back look hunched over – does the head poke forward? Do your feet point outwards? Are your knees knocked together or bowed when standing straight? etc…When we look at other people we naturally and subconsciously critique proportions and symmetry. It is these proportions and balance or lack of, that is pleasing to the eye or not. And it is this alignment, proportion and symmetry, which defines functional movement patterning.
Yet, we all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Now, I have decided to put myself out as an example. I don’t mind showing my faults or where I’ve gone wrong. Sometimes, a bad example is as effective as a good example!
I’ve experimented with a lot of different training techniques over the years and have learned a lot from my mistakes and from many A-Ha!, moments along the way. So here goes…
Take me for example: I am just under 5’5”. I have a very small head in relationship to my frame. So when I was bodybuilding, I looked pretty ridiculous! But I couldn’t see how ridiculous I looked because my focus was to get as muscular as possible (naturally); hence the term muscle head. The first time I noticed how silly I looked was when I saw this photograph of myself (the day I won Ms. Fitness Canada – Toronto – 1994). And this is when I was much less muscular. I had toned down the muscle building when I discovered Fitness Competitions and decided that it might be a more balanced and feminine look for me.
When I look at this picture I can’t help but laugh, because it looks to me like the head just doesn’t belong, as if it has been photo-shopped in.
Anyhow, I still have a pea-sized head! Oh well, some things we just can’t change! Like I say to my kids, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”
This long explanation is meant to prepare you for a series of videos that will use me as a learning example. I will demonstrate what I was doing wrong, relative to my imbalances and how I have gone about making corrections.
The first in the series is the Chin Up. I realize that for many, the chin up is a non-existent exercise and may even seem unattainable. Think of it as a simple example to get the ball rolling in terms of looking at analyzing movement.
About three weeks ago I casually filmed myself (with my phone) doing 5 Forward Grip Pull ups. Complete and utter disbelief when I viewed the footage. No wonder I’m having such difficulty getting my ribs to sit in a neutral position. No wonder my waist looks so short, its like I have been literally sculpting my body into this shape – almost solidifying. Finally, with video, I was able to analyze my own technique. No amount of Rolfing or bodywork can correct my alignment if I continue to undo the physical therapy by repeatedly reinforcing this alignment with such exercises.
It’s like taking one step forward and two steps back.
In the video, you can see (especially pull ups, numbers three to five), each time I do a Pull Up how I contract my latissimus dorsi so much that I am simultaneously thrusting my rib cage forward. This is not helping with my functional alignment. So I then ask myself why am I doing this exercise in the first place? Well, I like to be able to pull my weight. I think it’s important. Ok, fine – but, I tell myself that I can’t continue on like this. So I stopped doing any pull ups for two weeks while I thought about what I was doing to myself. How could I continue to do this exercise without adding to the problem AND not undo the myofascial release work?
It finally dawned on me. I would do Chin-ups with my knees tucked to my chest. The effect of tucking the knees to my chest and attempting to round my lower back (slightly) in the process would cancel out the lats to some extent – IF done properly. Holding knees to chest is difficult to begin with. I can do five, then I take a break and do five more. You can see in the video when I do the chin ups with knees tucked to chest, that in the last two I begin to arch my lower back ever so slightly…as fatigue sets in I naturally revert to my most powerful source and habitual patterning. At this point I am better off to take a break, recover the strength needed to hold a slightly rounded lower back or stop entirely. I will follow this pattern for a while and see where it leads.
I thought about putting my feet on a high stool in front of me as an option if I couldn’t tuck my knees to chest or for when fatigue sets in.
Next is to consider how often I will do this exercise. I have decided that I will do only 5 – 10 reps, three times per week, with one or two days rest in-between. There is also a very important stretch that I have added to my repertoire which encourages the opening and releasing of the fascia around my ribcage. I’ll show that one another time.
But just quickly, while we’re on the subject, I wanted to describe the evolution of my Chin Up:
About three years ago I started working out at the gym, after a long hiatus. (I trained at the gym for about one year before I switched to training at home exclusively). I had gotten back into using weight machines. One day after having built up some strength with the Lat Pull Down machine, I started eyeballing the Pull Up Bar, just maybe I might be ready to try a chin up. I used to do them regularly in my bodybuilding days. But no – nothing. I just hung there. Not a chance. I was hooked, I love a challenge…I wouldteach myself to do a chin up.
So each time I came to the gym I hung from the pull up bar – and tried. And tried. That was it – nothing – I just hung there trying. Still nothing. After a week of trying, I was able to budge about one inch of the way up. Basically, just isolating my shoulder blades downward. Light bulb moment! This was the first sign of progress. So I kept on with it. Each time I went to the gym, I hung and tried to pull myself up one inch, then one quarter of the way. It worked. After two weeks of trying, I finally did one complete parallel-grip pull up. It just snowballed from there, until I was doing three sets of ten reps. Yes – Three Sets of Ten! But then one day, I looked in the mirror, and gasped…oops, too many pull ups…starting to grow wings. So, I had to have another talk with myself…what exactly are you trying to achieve, Woman!? Right. Why on earth did I NEED to do 3 sets of 10 chin ups every other day? I didn’t. I just liked to. So I re-evaluated and decided that doing five to ten pull ups, once to three times per week was probably sufficient. This way I got my ‘fix’ and still had the strength to do them, to pull my weight when I needed or wanted to, like when I’m at the playground with the kids and want to do monkey bars or D-rings. Oh, and the wings went down.
I think the word training has lost a bit of its true meaning, lost it’s identity, so to speak. Similar to how the words ‘body and mind’, ‘balance’ or ‘core-strength’ just roll off the tongue. We get to a point where words become saturated from overuse or their meaning evolves, like ‘Party’.
Training used to mean: to prepare for something.
Nowadays, it seems like “I’m going to see my Trainer” just rolls off the tongue too. It has generally evolved into:
I’m going to workout now, with someone to whom I pay a lot of money to tell me what to do next and who pushes me to do more reps than I would if it were up to me alone.
Where did the preparation for: _____ – go?
There is so much more to Physical Training than the obvious physiological benefits, such as maintaining an ideal weight, stress reduction and cardiovascular fitness, to name a few. When I speak of Physical Training I’m not referring to simple, functional exercise like active living or walking the dogs around the block. I’m talking about focused, planned and purposeful physical training; this type of training has many layers, which translates to and shapes the way we live our life and conduct ourselves.
It is THIS training which prepares us for life.
These are just some of the layers (in no particular order) that come to mind when I think about what physical training teaches me. So, in effect, my daily physical training has very little to do with the aesthetic, and has a lot more to do with building character. The aesthetic then, is the unexpected result from doing what should be done regardless.
What Physical Training Teaches Me:
discipline to practice daily = learn to not procrastinate = positive example for my children
desire to make a difference = forge ahead
being consistent = long term commitment = not expect quick fix solutions
repeating patterns of movement = teaches habitual patterning
repeating patterns of movement = boredom is a state of mind = refining movement cancels out boredom
adding-on and refining habitual patterning = being responsible for life’s daily required chores = Endless
ambition to be a better version of myself = to not be complacent = always room for improvement
sense of purpose = sense of purpose
be prepared w/ Food, hydration, digestion etc. = being prepared /planning ahead
to not give up when tired = endurance = to not give up when all the cards are stacked against me
to push/pull/lift a heavy weight = strength = to be able to carry the challenges that come with life
agility = to be able to think and react quickly, both physically and mentally
adapt to change = adapt to change
ego training = learning to accept limits
instinct training = knowing when to rest, recover or step away = knowing what feels right or wrong in any given situation
precision of movement = being responsible, careful and present = focus on details
balance within my physical structure = balance the duties and relationships in my life for a calm and happy existence
timer training = realizing how much can be accomplished in only 20 seconds! = I try to translate this to daily chores – actually everything, to right now.
interval training = learning that putting in even a short amount of time towards a task makes a considerable difference
Yoga = lifelong practice regardless of accomplishment = always learning, adding-on and refining
Please understand, that I am not blowing my own horn, here. Just because I’m doing the training doesn’t mean that I’m an expert at any of it – it simply means that I’m in training; fully engaged in the process. I love the challenge that each day brings with it a new configuration of possibilities. Each day I have to adapt to a new rhythm.
We all do.
Some days rock while other days are lousy. I love that my new found discipline with Daily Body Maintenance is really working, but in so many more ways than I imagined. These physical training techniques really do have purpose beyond the physiological benefits.
Most of all, each day I realize what a profound responsibility I have in preparing my children to lead a successful life – which, has nothing to do with income or prestige, but rather has everything to do with being prepared to take care of themselves; from learning how to tidy up after themselves (flush the toilet, brush their teeth and make their beds to vacuuming and washing their bedroom floor to gradually becoming more involved in the larger or mundane daily household chores). Once the basic duties associated with living become habitual, then those duties are no longer viewed with resentment, as if those chores are in the way of our having fun. Those chores need to be done regardless – as does our Body Maintenance.
The most valuable gift I can give my children, is to teach them how to take care of themselves. Life is full of repetition. We can choose to view this repetition as boring or uneventful or we can choose to embrace it and have fun with it.
Everyone’s working out like fiends, but for what? To win a race? To clock a better personal best? To look and feel better? Training to look good for summer, for the wedding dress etc.? All perfectly acceptable reasons; except for when the line is crossed over to mindless exercise, overtraining and simply using brute force to execute movements; forgetting to be compassionate to oneself in the process.
Oftentimes, not to have enough juice left for actual living! Causing overuse injuries, which will impact one’s ageing body. We need to remember that physical exercise training, conditions the body to do something – be it to set an Olympic record, or simply being able to bend down, i.e., to function. It’s disappointing and tragic when our star athletes give up so much of their future wellness for the accolades of the moment. We’re constantly reminded to live in the now, but there is a strategy to living in the moment – a strategy, which includes balance and forward planning.
The good news, is that with enough compassion and care we can use the science of exercise prescription to rebalance our structure for a long and sound life – and still go for Gold!
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?!