Fitness Tools

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I have discovered some new and interesting fitness tools over the past several years while working with my arthritic knee and IT band injury. Now I can’t live without them.

Once you reach 30 years old, you start to lose muscle mass. One way to offset this is through weight training. I use hand weights to perform upper body training. For the seated exercises, I sit on the inflated blue ball for core strengthening and challenge for my balance.

The thick blue rubber band I found during my physical therapy training. It creates significant resistance while worn around both ankles or around the knees in lower body exercises that build alternate muscles to take pressure off the ones I am overusing.

The blue inflated disk is for balance. Since my balance is weak, standing on the disk with one foot for longer and longer periods of time helps me strengthen my balance, my core strength and posture. It’s fun to do and I have improved greatly over time.

The purple dog leash is used to stretch hamstrings. It provides an amazing stretch and ability to control and push the stretch by pulling on the leash. You can get this tool from a fitness store but if you have a dog leash, it works just as well.

The black tube is hard PVC-like pipe, covered in softer foam. Using this to roll on with problematic areas helps loosen them. I found this tool from Trigger Point and I use it to roll my IT band on. It’s painful but it works! When I travel, I take a tennis ball to use for the same purpose.

I use these tools 3 times each week as part of my normal exercise regimen. They not only help me build alternate muscles and improve my alignment and overall condition, but they also help me preserve my joints and supplement my injury prone areas. Working out smarter as I get older rather than harder is what I need to do. And these tools help me do it.

Scientific 7 Minute Workout

I am always looking for a quick way to stay fit when I travel. So I was happy to come across this Scientific 7 Minute Workout and the Advanced 7 Minute Workout in the New York Times recently. It is a series of high-intensity interval training exercises, similar to the ones I do three times a week in Bootcamp but instead of an hour it is done in a few minutes. There has been a lot of research of late reporting that seven minutes or so of relatively punishing training may produce greater gains than an hour of more gentle exercise. They are designed to increase endurance, squelch appetite, improve metabolic and cardiovascular health. The New York Times is offering a free mobile app that is a step-by-step guide to both 7-minute workouts. It has animated pictures similar to the ones below along audio and a great timer.

To download the app, on your phone, tablet or other device, go to nytimes.com/7minute-workout.

Scientific 7 Minute Workout

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Advanced 7 Minute Workout

Advanced 7 Minute Workout

In addition whenever my Pilates clients are traveling, I instruct them to do the Pilates Five. They are the five Pilates moves that if done everyday will give you a flat tummy and strong core. These can be done in about 5 minutes.

The Roll Up

Roll Up

Single Leg Stretch

Single leg stretch

Double Leg Stretch

Double Leg Stretch
Scissors

ScissorsCriss Cross

Criss Cross

Pilates at Any Age

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As we grow older, our bodies can really benefit from a daily dose of healthy movement with emphasis on proper alignment. With its focus on controlled breathing and quality of movement, not quantity of repetitions, many experts agree that Pilates is one of the best ways for older adults to stay healthy. Pilates is perfect for older adults because it does not have the impact on the body that other forms of exercise do, and is not nearly as severe on the joints as other workouts. I have been teaching and doing Pilates 2-3 times a week for eight years and it is only recently how much I have come to realize the enormous payoff of this incredible exercise method. Joseph Pilates believed that if we maintain a strong core and flexible spine that we enhance our lives as we age and continue to have a youthful and healthy appearance. I have worked with clients who started their Pilates Journey with all kinds of physical limitations, such as hip replacements, scoliosis, injuries from high impact exercise regimens and pregnancy. It has been extremely gratifying for me to see their transformations after a couple of series of 10 Pilates sessions.

I decided to become a certified Pilates instructor after I retired from a career in Corporate Marketing. I really had no clue what I was getting myself into but I thought since I had done Yoga for about 10 years, how hard could it be. I did not expect Pilates to be as challenging as it was. Not only did I have to learn a whole new language of Anatomy and how the body moves in space but I also had to master the exercise regimen. There are over 400 different exercises in the Pilates repertoire both on equipment and on the Mat. We had to know how to do each exercise properly, the name of each exercise, the breathing pattern and the muscles that each exercise works. It
wasn’t until I started teaching that I learned how to transfer that knowledge in helping my clients transform and heal their bodies. I learned how good cuing really helped clients understand each exercise, the muscles they are working & why we focus on proper alignment and breathing when doing each exercise rather than repetitions.

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After working at a studio near my home for about 3 years, I decided to open my own studio and give private and semi-private lessons.Pilates3
I don’t work as a Pilates instructor as much as I would like because my husband & I are still traveling quite a bit but I have enough clients to keep me in the game and still work on my own Pilates journey. It is an exercise that I plan on doing for the rest of my life.

Puzzles

As Fall is upon us and the weather starts to change, I think of all of the things I love about the changing seasons and moving from Spring/Summer into Fall/Winter. The changes in food: the type of food we eat (heartier, heavier) and the way it is prepared (slowly). The hunkering indoors over a fireplace vs the basking in the sun in our yard. The clothing that we wear: boots, sweaters, scarves and jackets instead of bathing suits and flip flops. Yes it is time for a change.

An activity that I absolutely love and really only do during this colder time of year is puzzles. I can’t really explain why I love them but I know I always have. I am puzzle OBSESSED.

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Here is a Christmas puzzle I did last year. It was great fun and had many, many clues. I tend to do puzzles over the holidays when I don’t need to do a lot of other things because once I start a puzzle, I often cannot stop. I mean, CANNOT. I have been known to stay up all night trying to just find one more piece!

Here is another puzzle I did over a winter holiday break: The Last Supper painting by Leonardo Da Vinci that hangs in Milan, Italy. I have always wanted to see this famous painting but have not made it there yet. I was given this puzzle as a gift and it was a bit challenging as there are numerous large areas of single color with not much detail to work with.

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Here’s a puzzle I did several years ago while staying in a vacation home in Lake Tahoe. It was the owner’s puzzle and our whole family pitched in to get it done before we had to leave!

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This cupcake puzzle was fun and relatively easy, though the many pieces (usually 1,000 or 1,500, but sometimes 500) keep it challenging.

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Usually once I have done a puzzle, I give it away to a friend or donate it so someone else can enjoy it. There are few puzzles I would do more than once. One that I do love and have done several times is this President’s Day Puzzle. It has all of the President’s (through a point in time) and their home states as well as some interesting moments in history.

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I am looking forward to this Fall and Winter and puzzle season. For me, puzzles are not only fun and entertaining, they are challenging on an intellectual level. They are also calming and relaxing, almost meditative. They make great gifts for puzzle lovers and they are wonderful to pass on and share. If you haven’t tried once since you were very young and it had only a few pieces, I urge you to try again. Maybe you’ll love them as much as I do.

Sugar Worse Than Fat

It has long been believed that fat was the ultimate culprit in the American diet. That fat lead to higher levels of cholesterol. And that higher levels of cholesterol lead to heart disease and premature death. As such, Americans focused on lowering fat in their diets over the past 30 years. And unfortunately, things didn’t get better. They got worse.

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Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women. Diabetes rates are higher than before. Child obesity is also worse than before. So the low fat mentality didn’t work. Why not?

Some scientists and members of the medical community believe that when we lowered our intake of fat, we replaced it with SUGAR. And in some ways sugar is worse than fat.

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Between a cheeseburger and a larger, sugary drink – which do you think is worse for you? Most people would quickly say the cheeseburger. But they would be wrong. It’s the sugary drink that converts into bad cholesterol – the enemy. It’s not that fat is good for you, but to reduce fat and replace it with sugar – that’s worse.

Here’s why: human bodies were not designed to consume as much sugar as we do. Naturally, we used to get sugar seasonally (once a year) when fruit fell from the trees. And there was only so much fruit you could eat. Now we eat around 140 pounds of sugar on average per year. Our bodies simply aren’t evolved to handle that.

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When the sugar hits our liver and our liver doesn’t know what to do with it, it turns it into bad cholesterol. And to our bodies, a slice of white bread and a packet of sugar are essentially the same thing, with a slight time delay.

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So, what’s really best for us? Many in the medical community believe it is a diet that emphasizes low carbohydrates and heavily weighted in vegetables. Also water is VERY important. Our brain is made up of 75% water. It’s a good idea to get up in the morning and consume 8 to 16 oz of water first thing, and continue to hydrate all day.

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The reality is, there will always be conflicting sources of information and advice on what is best and worst for us. But the more we educate ourselves, the better we will be able to determine where the consistencies are and what is controversial. We can keep up on the latest science and studies. And we can be in touch and in tune with our own bodies. It’s all our responsibility to ourselves.

* sourced from an interview between Fareed Zakaria and Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN

Dealing With Depression

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Depression is a serious condition that probably affects every family either directly or indirectly. We have three members of our family who deal with depression in various forms. Two of my now adult children and one of my husband’s adult children have coped with depression and it has been at times devastating to their lives. Because they are adults who live their lives outside of our home, we don’t know it is happening to them unless they reach out to us for help. The first thing we try to do is get them to a professional to start treatment which usually comes in the form of medication and talk therapy. Our kid’s depression seems to be episodic brought on by stressful life events like a job loss, school, or relationship break-up. Unfortunately often times, by the time they reach out to us, they have tried to cope with their depression by self-medicating with pills or alcohol which just exacerbates their despair. So we make a point to stay in regular contact with our kids even when they don’t make regular contact with us. My husband and I have become pretty astute in recognizing the symptoms of depression in our kids by the sound of their voices. They have a really monotone way of talking and sometimes complain about not being able to sleep or eat. Or their lives are spiraling out of control with alcohol and legal incidents. That is when we go into rescue mode and help them get exercise, good nutrition and some professional help.
So if you have someone in your family who deals with depression, know that situational depression is often only temporary. It is brought on by major life events, and treatment is available. It is certainly something to watch out for but something that can be managed. A really good resource I have referred to often is a website familyaware.org, a nonprofit organization that helps families recognize and cope with depression and bipolar disorder to get people well and prevent suicides.

How Many Calories Burned During Sex

Well Being
If you have ever wondered how many calories you burn during sex, I recently came across the following excerpt written by Professor Richard Smith in his book The Dieter’s Guide to Weight Loss During Sex.

How much energy is consumed while making love? If you consider that two hours of golf uses 71 calories, while simulating a convincing orgasm for 19 seconds uses 160, you can see that sex is the more enjoyable and more effective form of exercise and with a little care you can even practice outside. Weather permitting.

Whoever starts well is half way there, so let’s start with personal care: taking a shower uses 8 calories – 2 more than having a bath – and drying your hair with a hairdryer uses 3. If, however, you let your hair dry in the wind, you need 348 calories.

Getting your home ready – plumping up the cushions, lighting the candles, scattering some poetry books here and there to show that you are not only excited by spicy sauces – will use 42 calories, while trying to put your partner at ease can range from 248 calories required to listen to Wagner up to 1573 for reading “War and Peace” without interruption. If you relax by playing an instrument like the trumpet you will use 26 calories. 320 without the mouthpiece.

At this point you will be feeling more at ease and you could start to get a bit more intimate, trying to seduce your partner: if you are rich you’ll use 5 calories, but if you’re poor you’ll spend 164.

For a delicate kiss you need about 10 calories, 17 for a more impetuous one and 18 for a french kiss. If you give a french kiss with your mouth closed you will use 239 calories.

To stroke your partner 10 calories are sufficient, 17 to give them a massage and 19 to embrace them: see for yourself.

To get undressed in the summer you use 3 calories, but in the winter you need 25. And if in colder weather you try to remove a pair of pantyhose without having removed your trousers first you’ll use a good 375 calories. Add 100 to that if you succeed.

A basic striptease uses about 55 calories, a belly dance 100, discovering your partner was better-dressed 10 calories and finding out your partner is the wrong sex 100. If the discovery does not shock you, you will use a quarter of that.

Even oral sex has its place: on average the task requires 27 calories. 200 if you are very cold.

Sudden and unexpected feelings like embarrassment or disappointment (such as “that’s it?”) consume energy too: between 15 and 60 calories.

Deciding on which position is important too: Professor Smith correctly underlines the fact that the Royal Academy of Tibet counts more than 860 positions, but if you are a bit arthritic and you’ve had a bit too much wine you will find that 859 of these can not be practiced. However, average consummation varies from 20 to 40 calories to which you can add even more if you make love somewhere other than in bed: 38 on the saddle of a Vespa, 24 close to the aisle in an airplane or 100 in the toilet, 50 in a hammock, 14 if you are standing up in a telephone booth and 274 if you are lying down.

Chuckling burns 7 calories, cheering your partner on 22 and giving them a Hi-five, 78.

Changing position will make you use 16.

Erotic fantasies can use between 15 and 35 calories.

And finally… the orgasm! A real one uses 27 calories, faked 160. Just before it you will use 500, and just after only a quarter of a calorie .

And you might fall asleep: if it happens after making love you will consume 18 calories, but if you fall asleep during, 32. If you fall asleep in the kitchen, 5 calories.

Cleanliness is next to godliness: if you feel like taking a shower afterwards, you will consume 7 calories if alone, 12 if you shower with your partner, 187 if the heater breaks
down.

With all this energy expended just to have sex, it’s a miracle the human race isn’t just too exhausted to procreate.

Osteoarthritis

I have been a runner, on and off, most of my life. I loved running track as a child, tried cross country in high school and ran for recreation and exercise on my own into adulthood. But while training for a marathon in 2007, I suddenly experienced severe pain in my right knee. I had made it in training to the 20+ mile mark, but the subsequent week at mile 7 the pain came on out of nowhere.

Being very competitive, I was not giving up on the marathon. I went to top sports medicine doctors, had xrays, physical therapy and got a steroid injection in my knee. It was suggested that I had IT (Iliotibial) Band Syndrome so I rested it and treated it accordingly.

What happened in the marathon is in the marathon post (Inspiration-archives). What happened after the marathon is: I continued physical therapy, saw the sports medicine doctor but I never returned to running. My knee would go out now at 3 miles instead of 7. I got frustrated and turned to walking and hiking instead of running.

Fast forward 5 years. Raelene asks me if I want to try a new Bootcamp exercise class. I join with her and absolutely love it. Intense cardio and weight circuit training. Fun. However about 2 months in they add short bouts of running which they increase each week. Shortly thereafter my knee pain returns and I am sidelined.

Following a recommendation from the Bootcamp director, I crazily let a woman try to break up my IT band knots through forced massage. I am black and blue. Around the same time I am in the pediatric sports medicine office with another one of my children’s injuries when it occurs to me to speak to this doctor who we really like and have been using for almost 10 years. He can’t believe I haven’t been able to run for so long or that I’ve been massaged until I’m black and blue (which apparently doesn’t work). He has me stand up straight and then bend my knees. And he tells me my alignment looks off. Then he sends me for an MRI.

Diagnoses: Osteoarthritis, often known as “wear and tear” injury, affects millions of people around the world. Essentially it is the wearing down of the cartilage between bones as the result of time (age), excessive weight or injury. There is no known cure and it progressively worsens over time.

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The good news: I happened to be at the right doctor at the right time to get innovative treatment. Injections into the space where the cartilage has worn down of Hyaluronic Acid, a natural plant-based substance (Euflexxa brand), cushions and protects the joint. And over the past few years that I have been receiving it, insurance companies have begun to accept it as a normal (not experimental) procedure and to pay for it.

The upsides of this treatment are many: if you’re a candidate, this treatment can stave off further deterioration or eventual surgery – for me, knee replacement. It lasts for about 6 months before being absorbed in the body. It’s natural (Euflexxa) and not chemical. After the injections, my knee feels great and pain free. I can do many activities that I wouldn’t be able to do without it.

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Downsides? Relative to the benefits, minimal. The injections are a series of 3 – one per week for 3 weeks. If you don’t like needles injected into the affected joint space, that would be a downside. I don’t like it per se, but it’s worth it. You will likely be sore for a day or two and are recommended to rest the joint during that time. Additionally if your insurance doesn’t cover the procedure, it’s not inexpensive. I can’t quote it here because it will depend on the doctor, but it’s in the several thousands versus several hundreds.

For me, it’s been a miracle. Like getting a new knee every 6 months. And I’m not limited in what I can do – even trying to run again. Although I am now better educated on alignment, joints, aging and the “wear and tear” on our bodies over time, I’m not ready to give up or become sedentary. And thank goodness, I don’t have to.

Traditions

When I asked my youngest son what he wanted to do this summer, he responded, “San Francisco.” When I asked why, he replied, “Tradition.”

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I hadn’t thought about it in awhile but he was right. Going to my hometown of San Francisco at least once a year was a tradition in our family. We used to go over the holidays as the kids were growing up but now we went over the summer or between Christmas and New Year’s. But we’d been so many times and our older two children had their own busy lives that I wasn’t really thinking about it as much anymore.

Traditions can take many shapes and forms and their relevance in people’s lives cover the spectrum. Are traditions important to you? What kind of traditions did you have growing up? What traditions are important to you now?

I used to think traditions were a little more old-school – important to older generations that often had rituals around religious events. My children were not brought up with traditional religion so those type of rituals were not a part of our routine. But as my son made clear with his request on visiting San Francisco, traditions can look like many things. It’s the routine and the memories that set it apart.

It’s funny but there are even traditions within traditions. One thing we like to do when we go to San Francisco is visit the Buena Vista Cafe. It is iconic San Francisco – Irish coffees dramatically prepared at a bar that hasn’t changed in decades overlooking the water and Hyde Pier. My husband and I had discussed not going there this trip because we thought it was kind of boring for kids. But as we were walking nearby, our son requested that we go in. We said, “Let’s pass,” but he insisted. Not because he could have an Irish coffee at 16 but again because of “tradition.” We were stunned (and he had fries).

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Some of our other traditions within our SF tradition:

Dim Sum at Yank Sing – an absolute MUST according to both our son and our daughter, who joyfully joined us on this traditional trip.

Lunch at the Slanted Door, a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant in the Ferry Building that we first tried last year and that my foodie son couldn’t wait to revisit.

Fisherman’s Wharf and the iconic African Bushman. I don’t want to ruin it for you if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Visit SF and you’ll find him. He’s been around for years.

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Ghiradelli Square and the ice cream shop. This year we went twice! It’s hard to describe but this place smells like San Francisco – the years of tradition, of family business, of smiles and happiness on the faces of everyone there – including all of the employees.

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Visiting my best friend and her family, especially her two wonderful twin boys. That was the #1 activity on the top of my son’s list. As we have for the past few years, we met them at The House of Air, a trampoline park in the Presidio and overlooking Chrissy Field. Although our visits are always too short, my best friend and her family are family to us and I am so grateful that this is meaningful to our children.

Walking through Chinatown. It doesn’t really change from year to year, but it’s a must. It is the most authentic Chinatown in any city we have ever been to and we couldn’t imagine missing it.

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This most recent trip to my beloved SF gave me a glimpse into how the traditions that we created in our own family (intentionally or not) have made a difference for our children. It has me thinking about what our other traditions are and how to keep them alive. I am grateful to our youngest son who helped remind me of the importance of our family traditions and for a wonderful long weekend spent together in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

What’s In A Name?


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What’s in a name is a question recently raised in my family because my Son is having his first child in four months. While I am so excited about my new Grandchild, I am not wild about the name my Son and his Partner have chosen for the baby’s name. The name itself isn’t so bad, it is the unique spelling of the name that gives it an ambiguous pronunciation. My Son is a Teacher so he should be familiar with how difficult unique names can be for kids. I admit that I am a little sensitive about the subject since I grew up with an unusual name and constantly had to correct people’s pronunciation and spelling of my name and answer their questions about how it was derived. As a result I hated my name growing up and longed to have a name like Connie, Mary or something else easy. In addition to being a unique spelling, the name my Son is proposing is a very ethnic sounding name. So I forwarded the research study to him that Freakonomics published with proof that people with ethnic sounding names are 33% less likely to get an interview from their resumes. I told my Son that if he wanted his child living with him until he is 70 because the kid can’t get a job because of his unique name then go ahead give him that name. No response. Then I sent him an article that was in Time Magazine titled “Is There a Negative Effect on Children with Unique Names”, which detailed incidents of how kids with unique names are likely to get teased by other kids who like to twist, rhyme and change the name into something really embarrassing.  This did solicit a response from my Son who basically told me to stop sending him articles and that I was out of touch with what is happening today.

While this may be true, since I am of a certain age, I doubt that things have changed so much that kids with unique names are not still getting teased on the playground or that they don’t have to spend the rest of their lives correcting people’s spelling or pronunciation of their names and answer the questions about, “What were your parents thinking when they gave you that name?”

Although I respect the fact that parents have the right to name their children whatever they wish, hopefully my Son and his Partner will see the light in the four months left before my Grandson makes his entrance into this world. If not there is always bribery.