Balance

We're Going to be Live on Facebook!

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Hi all! I've talked before on the blog about our monthly open house events, where you can stop by the studio and we'll answer your fitness-related questions, demonstrate exercises and stretches and just generally try to help you make your exercise experience safer, more effective and more fun.

This month we're doing something a little different. We're going to Facebook Live our open house! So if you don't live anywhere near us, you can still participate. Submit your questions to us on Facebook, or by leaving them in the Comments section below and we'll answer as many as we can.

The event is from 5pm-7pm, tomorrow, May 16th.  We'll check-in on Facebook Live periodically during those hours--whenever we have a handful of questions to answer and we can step away from the open house for a few minutes. You can find us on Facebook by clicking here.

We hope to see lots of you on Tuesday night!

Stretch & Unwind Class

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Well, it's the month for new classes at the studio! In addition to our positive body image class, Boost Your Body Image: Confidence at Any Size, we are also launching a stretching and relaxation class called, Stretch & Unwind. Stretch & Unwind will be 45 minutes of gentle stretching, relaxation and breathing exercises. In addition to relieving stress and decreasing tension, the class will enhance body awareness and flexibility.

It will be a great way to unwind at the end of the day, and to improve the connection between your mind and your body. Modifications will be demonstrated, so Stretch & Unwind is appropriate for all fitness levels.

Stretch & Unwind happens on Wednesday evenings, from 8-8:45pm at our studio in Tacoma. The cost for the class is $60 for a monthly pass, or you may drop-in for $20 per class (payable by cash or check when you arrive).

You'll want to wear comfortable clothing, that's easy to move around in. If you have an exercise mat that you use at home and like, plan on bringing that too. But if you don't have a mat at home, no problem! Let us know ahead of time and we'll make sure we have enough mats for everyone. You can find our contact information here.

You can click here to register.

Hope to see you there!

PS: If you sign(ed) up for the Boost Your Body Image: Confidence at Any Size class, we'll give you 50% off of the first month of Stretch & Unwind (at the monthly pass rate). Contact us to get your discount code.

5 Things to Love About Barre Workouts

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I LOVE barre workouts. I got certified as an instructor last year, and while I don't teach classes at the moment, I do incorporate some elements of barre into my own workouts. There are some misconceptions about barre, which might be stopping you from trying it. I can tell you that you don't have to be a dancer (or graceful) in order to love it and be good at it. Goodness knows graceful is not a word anyone has EVER used to describe me :-) People of all shapes, sizes and ages take these classes and rock at them. You don't have to wear toe shoes or a tutu, although you could if you wanted to.

Here are 5 reasons why I love it. Maybe you'll be inspired to give it a try too.

The Mind-Body Connection. Because form is so important and because you have to use lots of smaller, supporting muscles, you must develop strong communication links between your brain and your body. You pay attention to it in a way other kinds of workouts don't necessarily require. There are mirrors everywhere in a barre studio and they help with this. You can actually see what you're doing; you can see the shape your body is making. Incidentally, this mirror time is actually beneficial in other ways. Many of us (women especially) are uncomfortable really looking at ourselves in the mirror. We avoid it, or we use it as an opportunity to catalog faults. Looking at yourself in this context is good practice for viewing your reflection as simply information. In this case, information about safe exercise form. It's not about judging imperfections. It's just about looking at what's there. It's actually very freeing.

It's always challenging, no matter how many times I go. The equipment is minimal, the weights are light, and you do the same movements every time. BUT...somehow, it's always challenging. A little change, like lifting your heels during a plie, totally changes how it feels. There are tons of ways to modify everything, either to make it more challenging or to give yourself a bit of a break while you build up the strength and flexibility to do more.

The stretching. You're working your muscles but stretching them at the same time. I imagine my muscles getting longer and leaner with each repetition. It's one of the things I loved about Pilates as well.

The focus on core work. In barre you work your abs throughout the class, mostly in an upright position, which is how your core muscles are designed to function. There is usually a floor segment at the end of the workout where you do some more focused ab work, but not the traditional kind.

I'm a ballet-class dropout, but barre let's me feel like a kid again. I know I said that the tutu is optional, and I've never worn one to class. But it does take me back to when I was five, sporting my fluffy pink tutu, plie-ing and releve-ing my little heart out. You should never discount the power of fun in exercise. Anything that hearkens back to play is a workout we are more likely to stick with.

If you've never taken a barre class, but would like to, the good news is they are almost everywhere now! I encourage you to try barre, or whatever exercise sounds like fun to you. Keep trying different things until you find something you like--something you look forward to each week. Classes can be a great addition to your workout schedule, and you don't need to be intimidated by them. (Check out this post I wrote about group classes.)

What are your favorite kinds of exercise? What do you love most about them? Share in the Comments section below.

 

Inside My At-Home Gym

I'm not currently working with a trainer or taking any exercise classes anywhere, so my workouts are exclusively home workouts at the moment. The good news is that you actually don't need much in the way of equipment to get a great workout in at home. There are lots of exercises you can do using your body weight, or common household items for resistance. When I was really new to exercise I used canned vegetables as weights. No joke. And they worked.

However, at a certain point you'll want to invest in a few items. Some will allow you to add challenge to your workouts, which is important if you want to continue to see improvements in your strength. But, the right equipment can make your workout life easier too.

So here's what I've got.

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Dumbbells. Generally speaking, you want a weight that's heavy enough that somewhere between repetition 8 and 12, you are feeling challenged but can maintain proper form. I'm using my 5-pound and 8-pound dumbbells for my current workout.

A mat. I have a couple. This one is a thicker foam mat that I use for floor exercises. IMG_1027

This one is a yoga mat. It's stickier and good for...you guessed it. Yoga.

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Some resistance bands and stretchy bands. I use the resistance bands for upper body stuff primarily, and the stretchy bands (the wider yellow and green ones) for leg work.

A ball. I use this to add challenge to some leg and glute exercises, such as bridges and heel presses.

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And that's about it for the necessities.

Now on to the splurges.

This is a BOSU. BOSU stands for both sides utilized. That's pretty self-explanatory. The BOSU is a piece of equipment designed to provide you with an unstable surface on which to stand, jump and/or complete exercises. Balance is such an important component of fitness. If you've worked out at our studio, you may have done biceps curls, rows, lunges, squats or push-ups on the BOSU. I liked it so much when I used it at the studio, I bought one for my home gym. It's fun and bouncy, but man-oh-man is it a challenge.

A stability ball.

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I love this for crunches and some upper-body exercises. Like the BOSU it adds a balance challenge to whatever exercise in which you incorporate it. But it's also a great substitute for your normal chair. Just sitting on it forces you to engage the muscles of your core.

If I had to guess, I'd say that all the items above (necessities and splurges) cost me a couple of hundred dollars. The BOSU was half of that, at $99.

So, that's it. That's what I use on a daily basis. I've had most of it for years and it's showing no signs of needing to be replaced. Pretty good for a $200 investment, I'd say.

Let me know if there's a piece of equipment you're thinking about buying, but aren't sure whether it's any good/necessary. I'm happy to give my two cents. I've tried all sorts of fitness equipment over the years. Some good (the BOSU). Some bad (anyone remember those belts that shocked your abs into shape? I sure do.). Even if I haven't personally tried it, I can probably tell you whether the claims have any basis in fitness fact or not.

Okay, that's all from me today. See you here again later this week!

Balance

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I think balance ranks just above stretching in terms of important elements of the fitness equation that don't get their due. We spend an awful lot of time talking about the importance of cardiovascular and resistance exercise--and for good reason. But walking, going up and down stairs, getting up and down out of a chair, bending over to pick something up off of the floor--each of these activities relies on your body's ability to balance itself in space and through varying degrees of movement.

In addition to making the activities of daily living easier, practicing balance and engaging in regular stretching makes you less likely to trip and fall. Tripping and falling can be embarrassing. But more importantly, you can injure yourself with a fall. And badly. The consequences of a fall for seniors are especially frightening. So, the more we do at any age to improve and maintain our balance and flexibility, the better.

There are pieces of exercise equipment you can purchase, designed specifically to help improve balance. But there are also loads of free ways you can incorporate balance work into your daily life and your regular exercise routine. Here are a few ideas:

  • Stand on one foot. When that becomes easy, practice raising your lifted leg out behind you or out to the side. You can do this throughout your day. Waiting for something to heat up in the microwave? Stand on one foot while you wait.
  • Do some of your normal strength-training exercises on one foot. Try one-legged biceps curls, or try combining a lateral raise with a side-leg lift of the opposite leg.
  • Practice sitting down into, and getting up from, a chair without using your arms.
  • Walk while alternating high knee lifts.
  • Do walking lunges up and down your hallway at home.
  • Sit on a stability ball instead of a chair. (If you are particularly unstable, have someone there to spot you.) Once you can sit on it easily, practice doing hip circles or shifting side-to-side on it. The idea is to improve your ability to adjust to the dynamic surface and maintain your balance. Then practice rolling down so that the ball is under your shoulder blades and rolling back up to sitting again. (Only do this when you feel confident in your ability to maintain your balance.)
  • Walk a tightrope. Not literally. I just mean walk on the floor like you would walk if you were on a tightrope. One foot directly in front of the other. Why? Well, the closer your feet are to one another width-wise, the harder it is to balance. The most stable position is having your feet underneath your hips, as they are when you walk normally. Narrowing that distance increases the balance challenge.

The cool thing about balance challenges is that you get to see the connection between your brain and your body get stronger almost immediately. You can attempt a balance exercise at the beginning of your workout, and almost without exception, if you try it again later in the workout it will be easier and/or you'll be able to maintain your balance longer. Your brain is so amazing that even when you're working on other exercises, its figuring out what you need to do differently to balance better. Try it. You'll have a whole new level of appreciation for your body.