Pelvic Floor Function through Squats, Not Kegels

Women are consistently told to “do your kegels” and how they are beneficial for the proper function of the pelvic floor.  Well even through my 3 pregnancies and beyond, I don’t always remember to do them.  Here is a great article by Nicole … Continue reading

Back to School Motivation

back_to_schoolI talk plenty of talk about being consistent with exercise in order to get or stay fit and healthy and I believe it’s important to also ‘walk the walk.’  Even as a fitness professional, I need plenty of motivation to stay consistent.  (For a little window into my world, the more I post about it, the more I need it myself :P)

I use a tracking calendar. Over the summer, my consistency was fair at best. I stayed active and had plenty of fun enjoying the beautiful Colorado summer with my family however, where I was lacking was my strength training and any version of intense workouts.

So here we are at back to school time. I have 2 school age kids and one in pre-K 3 times a week.  They have a consistent schedule (consistently busy when football and gymnastics are in the picture) so I need a more consistent commitment.  My goal is to increase my strength and intensity workouts and to work for 4-5 stickers on my calendar per week.

Feel free to join me as I plan on posting my workouts AND weekly dinner plans.


How to Keep the Exercise Habit

Kindergarten-Style Reinforcementcalendar tracker

We are now one month into the new year and it is the time when most resolutions begin to fade.  This is the time to find your motivation, to find your inspiration and to learn how to bribe yourself.

My favorite trick to keeping an exercise habit is exactly what drives toddlers to potty training success and motivates kindergarteners to a candy reward…STICKERS!  Simple and easy.  Pick the habit you want to reinforce (exercise, eating well, not biting your nails, whatever) and go pick out a fun calendar and stickers.  In my case, I pester my friend Neyzza in Puerto Rico to send me the latest wall calendar so I can dream about moving back, and then I use my sparkle smiley face stickers to track each time I workout.

My secret is posting the calendar on the wall by your toilet.  It sounds silly, but it is where you go the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.  It is a visible reminder that you made a goal and you are going to keep it.

Next, you set a goal and think of your best reward.  For me, my goal is to average 4 workouts per week.  My reward rotates between getting a massage, a new workout top, or a date night with my husband.  My Trainer Jill has some great tips on rewards and tracking even for those with more detailed goals.

Now you can hold yourself responsible!  If you get sick, feel low on energy, feel your pants are getting tight then look at your calendar.  You probably don’t see many stickers.  When you see a month full of stickers, you should feel healthy, proud and full of energy.  Keeping an exercise habit (or any habit for that matter) is easier when you keep it SIMPLE, FUN & SUPPORTIVE.

My Favorite Cardio Training

BFL Cardio IntervalsI chose Body for Life Cardio training this morning on the treadmill.  I love this interval style training!  Mostly because it only requires 20 minutes of cardio :), BUT it also helps keep cardio workouts from getting boring.

My first 2 interval groups remained at 3.8 MPH, and I increased the incline from 4.0 to 8.0% to get higher intensity.  The last 2 groups I actually JOGGED from 4.5-6.0 MPH (I know I’m slow so don’t knock it) while keeping the incline at 2%.  Lots of stretching afterwards as I know my running gate is not a technical masterpiece.

BFL recommends this cardio workout 3x/week and I have to say, when I am vigilant about it, I am quite pleased with the results.

Be Open to Changes

Yoga Class at a GymMy 2013 is off to a great start when it comes to getting back to consistent exercise.  I’ve been very pleased with the Yoga Flow class offered on Thursday mornings at our nearby rec center and I do my best to regularly attend.  Karen is the regular instructor and is a great teacher who progresses the flow so there is time to warm up the muscles (and in CO winter, it is essential!) and she challenges everyone in many poses that encourage stability and strength.

Even in a flow class like Karen’s where she has the freedom to change things up a bit, there is a pattern that develops and a comfort in the familiar teaching style.  This happens in all aspects of fitness and especially group classes.  We are so happy to be consistent with our exercise routine that we don’t realize the stagnation that develops.  So sometimes, it’s really nice to have a different instructor.  Like this morning when there was a substitute instructor for our yoga class and she was great!

Are you open to a change in your routine?  Here’s a test:  ask yourself, what is your first thought when a substitute teacher walks in to teach your habitual exercise class?  Do you groan silently and try and figure out a graceful exit?  Are you grumpy that no one told you about the instructor change?  Yes?  I used to be that way.  It drove me crazy to have to adjust my routine, and even more so, my mental adjustment to a new voice, new pattern, new pace, etc.

I used to be that way until I let go.  I let go of the control and opened up to what new things I might learn from a new instructor.  I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.  Great things come from changing your perspective, even in a small change of a group exercise instructor.  Granted, there are those times when the new instructor isn’t that great or the different style pushes you too far or not enough.  It is important to see these times as when you learned what you DON’T like.  But you still learned something right?

So next time you get an unexpected change in your exercise routine, take a moment and be open to what you might learn about yourself.

Pizza Happens

On the journey of health and happiness, you can learn a lot about yourself.  In my journey, I have learned that it is a constant journey.  Optimal health takes consistency and holding on through the ups and downs, while happiness often comes from letting go.

I tightened the reins a couple weeks ago with my eating and workout routines and I already feel like I am back on track (which drives my husband crazy).  However, I want to make sure everybody knows that “back on track” for me does not mean perfect.  Pizza happens…donuts happen…life happens.

This is where the happiness component comes into play.  This is where you must let go when you fall off the wagon.  Don’t let the little things get you down.  If you have a busy day and ordering pizza makes things simpler, then order pizza.  (Don’t eat the whole pizza!)  If your son’s youth football team just won the super bowl (woo hoo!!) and the after-party includes pizza and cupcakes, then CELEBRATE with him!  And then work your butt off on your next workout.

Enjoy your journey!

To Exercise or Not To Exercise, THAT is the Question!

I was battling a head cold this week and it was frustrating to say the least.  It was one of those annoying colds that couldn’t decide to go full force or go away.

My theory on seasonal illnesses is to try exercising first.  If my energy takes a nose dive during or after the workout, then rest is more valuable.  But if my energy stays the same or gets better then I fight to get my workouts in.

This cold was bi-polar.  On Monday I did a 45 min treadmill/BOSU cardio workout then took the dog for a 45 min walk.  I felt pretty good during, but the 30 lb toddler on my back for the walk might have put me over the edge because Tuesday and Wednesday I was beat!   So I took a pass on exercising until Thursday when I went to yoga and felt great afterwards.  Yesterday I went to my trusty barre class at The Ballet Physique and got a great leg and bum workout without putting me back to bed.

The moral of my story is that vigorous cardio was no good for me but strength and stretch workouts were helpful.  Therefore, it is important not to resign to being sick and simply curl up in bed to wait it out (as tempting as that is.)  Next time you feel something coming on, try a couple different exercise tactics, it just might help bring you out of it.

So I hope to enlighten you next week with some great workouts and healthy recipes now that my cold is on its way out!

Tightening the Reins

Well it seems that it is time for a little reworking of my diet and exercise routine.  I lead a fairly healthy lifestyle, but I like to eat as much as anyone and I often choose extra sleep over an early workout.  Sometimes I am consistent with exercise and sometimes I am consistent with healthy eating.  Every now and then they actually match up the two and I consistently feel great.

Lately though, there is a suspicious tightening of my jeans.  There is extra body stiffness in the mornings.  And I just so happen to be fighting off a head cold.  These three things occurring at once can only mean that I have let my routine slip.

This is a strangely predictable cycle for me.  I sort of like it though.  It keeps me from getting bored with my routine and I search out new and different ways to stay fit.  On the unhealthy side of this cycle I search out new and excellent baking recipes.

So here I am tightening the reins of my fitness routine.  My goal is to be more consistent with workouts, both strength and cardio.  I will also get back to a more strict 6 days of clean eating while always maintaining a free eating day.    I’m sure there might be someone else out there that cycles in and out of fitness like I do, so if you would like, please join me.  I will be sharing where I make changes and what I am eating.  Partly, I share this to make me accountable for my workouts and mostly because when I (and anyone for that matter) record what I am eating, I tend to not cheat as much.

Please feel free to share your workouts and healthy meals.  Even share with me as we backtrack a bit; reality happens.  And we’re off!

My Couch to 5K Journey

I am a Fitness Professional.  I am a former athlete.  I am fit.

These are my mantras as I begin the Couch to 5K running plan.  For those of you who know me, or follow my Facebook page or blog, I am not a runner.  I grew up doing gymnastics and diving, both of which are power sports where the greatest cardiovascular requirement came from the 3 minute floor exercise event (where I felt I nearly died every time).  Usually, if you see me running there is either someone chasing me, a need to rescue my children or a donut at my destination.

So I am turning over a new leaf so to speak.  I chose the Couch to 5K plan in order to have a simple exercise option while traveling for my new injury prevention business because as of today, I have yet to exercise while traveling.  There is also that little side benefit of increasing my cardiovascular fitness as I have a family history of heart problems.

I had seen a few folks talking about the Couch to 5K plan on Facebook but I ultimately made the decision to try it after reading through this info-graphic on Pintrest.   The plan was laid out in a way that I was able to talk myself into the idea that I might be able to do it.  So I was off.

My ego was happy to report that I was fit enough to start on week 2 and I was not starting at the “couch” (as a fitness professional that would be embarrassing).  My knees really liked the walking bits before and after jogging as I have 2 left knee reconstructions under my belt and I’m no spring chicken.

After week 2 of the plan my shins were screaming at me and the 5 minute chunk of jogging had me sucking serious wind.  *This is where all those real runners out there are laughing at me.  Beginning week 3, I found a little Black Eyed Peas got me through the 6 minute jogging chunks and my shins took mercy on me and eased up.  Even better still, I had my cousin in town to distract me through the 7 minute chunk bringing me into week 4 this week.

In the meantime, I try to keep up with a barre class here and there plus a leg strength workout.  If I only ran I would be a complete hypocrite as I firmly believe that running alone is awful for your body (skeletal muscles and joints) unless you add balanced strength training and flexibility work.

So tell me, have you tried this program?  What do you think?

Understanding Your Fascia

Understanding Your Fascia

Fascia may be the missing piece for your lingering injury

By Julia Lucas     As featured in the June 2011 issue of Running Times Magazine

You’ve got this injury you just can’t shake. You take time off. You ice and stretch and do all the right things but you’re still limping home. You spend too much time trying to articulate your particular brand of hurt to those loved ones who still put up with you. You follow referrals to physical therapists and massage therapists and you’d go to an aromatherapist if it’d help you run again, but nothing does. You diagnose yourself on WebMD: You’re a structurally flawed human being for whom recovery is impossible.

The answer may be right under your fingertips. About 2mm under your fingertips, to be precise. Under your skin, encasing your body and webbing its way through your insides like spider webs, is fascia. Fascia is made up primarily of densely packed collagen fibers that create a full body system of sheets, chords and bags that wrap, divide and permeate every one of your muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels and organs. Every bit of you is encased in it. You’re protected by fascia, connected by fascia and kept in taut human shape by fascia.
Why didn’t anyone mention fascia earlier? Because not many people know that much about it. Fascia’s messy stuff. It’s hard to study. It’s so expansive and intertwined it resists the medical standard of being cut up and named for textbook illustrations. Besides that, its function is tricky, more subtle than that of the other systems. For the majority of medical history it’s been assumed that bones were our frame, muscles the motor, and fascia just packaging.
In fact, the convention in med-school dissections has been to remove as much of the fascia as possible in order to see what was underneath, the important stuff. That framed Illustration hanging in your doctor’s office of the red-muscled, wide-eyed human body is a body with its fascia cut away; it’s not what you look like inside, but it’s a lot neater and easier to study and it’s the way doctors have long been taught to look at you. Until recently, that is.
In 2007 the first international Fascia Research Congress, held at Harvard Medical School, brought about a new demand for attention to the fascial system. Since then fascia has been repeatedly referred to as the “Cinderella Story” of the anatomy world, speaking both to its intrigue and the geekiness of those who study it. While you may not share the medical and bodywork communities’ excitement over mechanotransduction and the contractile properties of myofibroblasts, think of it this way: Fascia is a major player in every movement you make and every injury you’ve ever had, but until five years ago nobody paid it any attention. And now they’re making up for lost time.

What exactly does it do? It wraps around each of your individual internal parts, keeping them separate and allowing them to slide easily with your movements. It’s strong, slippery and wet. It creates a sheath around each muscle; because it’s stiffer, it resists over-stretching and acts like an anatomical emergency break. It connects your organs to your ribs to your muscles and all your bones to each other. It structures your insides in a feat of engineering, balancing stressors and counter-stressors to create a mobile, flexible and resilient body unit. It generally keeps you from being a big, bone-filled blob.
“Fascia is the missing element in the movement/stability equation,” says Tom Myers, author of the acclaimed book Anatomy Trains. Myers was among the first medical professionals to challenge the field’s ignorance of fascia in the human body. He has long argued for a more holistic treatment, with a focus on the fascia as an unappreciated overseer. “While every anatomy lists around 600 separate muscles, it is more accurate to say that there is one muscle poured into six hundred pockets of the fascial webbing. The ‘illusion’ of separate muscles is created by the anatomist’s scalpel, dividing tissues along the planes of fascia. This reductive process should not blind us to the reality of the unifying whole.”


What rocked the medical community’s world was this: Fascia isn’t just plastic wrap. Fascia can contract and feel and impact the way you move. It’s our richest sense organ, it possess the ability to contract independently of the muscles it surrounds and it responds to stress without your conscious command. That’s a big deal. It means that fascia is impacting your movements, for better or worse. It means that this stuff massage therapists and physical therapists and orthopedists have right at their fingertips is the missing variable, the one they’ve been looking for.


Grab hold of the collar of your shirt and give it a little tug. Your whole shirt responds, right? Your collar pulls into the back of your neck. The tail of your shirt inches up the small of your back. Your sleeves move up your forearms. Then it falls back into place. That’s a bit like fascia. It fits like a giant, body-hugging T-shirt over your whole body, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes and crisscrossing back and forth and through and back again. You can’t move just one piece of it, and you can’t make a move without bringing it along. Now, pull the collar of your shirt again, only this time, hold onto it for eight hours. That’s about the time you spend leaning forward over a desk or computer or steering wheel, right? Now, pull it 2,500 times. That’s about how many steps you’d take on a half-hour run. Your shirt probably isn’t looking too good at this point. Fortunately, your fascia is tougher than your shirt is, and it has infinitely more self-healing properties. In its healthy state it’s smooth and supple and slides easily, allowing you to move and stretch to your full length in any direction, always returning back to its normal state. Unfortunately, it’s very unlikely that your fascia maintains its optimal flexibility, shape or texture. Lack of activity will cement the once-supple fibers into place. Chronic stress causes the fibers to thicken in an attempt to protect the underlying muscle. Poor posture and lack of flexibility and repetitive movements pull the fascia into ingrained patterns. Adhesions form within the stuck and damaged fibers like snags in a sweater, and once they’ve formed they’re hard to get rid of. And, remember, it’s everywhere. This webbing is so continuous that If your doctor’s office were to add a poster of your true human anatomy, including its fascia, fascia is all you’d see. Thick and white in places like your IT band and plantar fascia, less than 1mm and nearly transparent on your eyelids. And within all that fascia you have adhesions and areas of rigidity. You likely have lots of them. But, this isn’t bad news. Every bit of the damage you’ve caused your fascia is reversible, and every one of the problems it’s caused you were avoidable. You take care of your muscles with stretching and foam rolling and massage. You take care of your bones with diet and restraint. You never knew that you needed to take care of your fascia, but now you do. You may just shake that nagging injury after all.

How to Care for Your Fascia

MOVE IT OR LOSE IT: Sticky adhesions form between fascial surfaces that aren’t regularly moved, and over time these adhesions get strong enough to inhibit range of motion. Take a few minutes first thing in the morning to roll around in bed and really stretch out, head to toe, just like a cat after a nap.

STAY LUBRICATED: Just like every other tissue in your body, your fascia is made of water. It works better, moves better and feels better when it’s wet. So, drink!

STRETCH YOUR MUSCLES: When your muscles are chronically tight the surrounding fascia tightens along with them. Over time the fascia becomes rigid, compressing the muscles and the nerves.

STRETCH YOUR FASCIA: Once your fascia has tightened up, it doesn’t want to let go. Because the fascia can withstand up to 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, you’re not going to force your way through, so stretch gently. Fascia also works in slower cycles than muscles do, both contracting and stretching more slowly. To stretch the fascia, hold gentle stretches for three to five minutes, relaxing into a hold.

RELAX! If you spend all day tense and tight at a desk, ice baths may not be the best thing for you. Fifteen to 20 minutes in a warm Epsom salt bath can coax tight fascia to loosen up, releasing your muscles from their stranglehold. Make sure to follow it up with 10 minutes of light activity to keep blood from pooling in your muscles.

USE A FOAM ROLLER:  Like stretching, using a foam roller on your fascia is different than on your muscles. Be gentle and slow in your movements, and when you find an area of tension hold sustained pressure for three to five minutes. You may practice self-massage with the same rules.

RESPECT YOUR BODY:  If you’re attempting to run through an injury, or returning from one with a limp, beware: Your fascia will respond to your new mechanics and, eventually, even after your injury is gone, you may maintain that same movement pattern. That’s a recipe for an injury cycle. It’s better to take some extra time than to set yourself up for long-term trouble.

SEE A FASCIAL SPECIALIST:  If you have a nagging injury, or just don’t feel right lately, see if your area has a fascial or myofascial therapy specialist. There are different philosophies and methods, ranging from Rolfing, which is very aggressive, to fascial unwinding, which is very gentle. Some methods are similar to massage, while others concentrate on long assisted stretches. Talk to the therapist to see what you need and want. Some osteopaths, chiropractors, physical therapists and massage therapists are beginning to embrace fascial therapies, so ask around.

SEE A MOVEMENT EDUCATION THERAPIST:  The Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method are the two best known of this sort of therapy, long embraced by dancers and gymnasts. They use verbal cues, light touch and simple exercises to lessen unconscious destructive movement patterns that may be irritating your fascia.