I’m a polio survivor in her early seventies and have had seven decades to accumulate knowledge about how to take care of a body that may pose problems—which could be anyone’s body, not just that of a person with a disability. I have a fully paralyzed foot, a partially paralyzed leg, which is two inches shorter, smaller and much weaker than my stronger leg. I have resultant canal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal and disc pinching) from my limp, and arthritis in a few places. I’m also a breast cancer survivor (seventeen years cancer free!).
I’ve travelled all over the world, used to dance for fun, I still garden, and have done probably more than I should have in this life, and now in my—what are these? Golden years? Ha!—I’m learning to take things a little easier but still not just sit around and get fat. Well, a little fat, okay. I do not consider myself heroic and hate being called a hero. I am simply dealing with whatever I have to—just like you.
My second book, No Spring Chicken: Stories and Advice from a Wild Handicapper on Aging and Disability was recently published. It’s full of travel tips, life hacks, care tips, suggestions for family on how to adapt to someone whose body is changing, and is definitely not just for “crips.” It’s for anyone who’s beginning to have any kind of mobility issue, and for the people who love us.
Here's an excerpt:
Okay, so here they are—my practical, and not magic, fixes:
Genes matter, and you can’t do anything about those. But you have control over all of the above. I know it’s probably all stuff you know already, but here it is, all in one place!”
I do floor yoga every morning. I know that some people cannot get up and down from the floor, so chair yoga or other stretching works (or see one of Amanda’s books!). I have made it a point to have a “standup” routine, since I am more at risk of falling. I do stretches for twenty to forty minutes and have far less pain and stiffness than when I skip my yoga.
I also do a pool therapy workout for about a half hour to ninety minutes, three to five times a week, all year long. This gives me a light aerobic workout plus more stretching, and includes walking (the water helps hold you up; for me, it’s actually easier than walking on land; my weaker leg doesn’t do much in the support department), leg and arm stretches, kicks suspended on a noodle in the deep end, swimming laps, and more. If I don’t do both of these routines regularly I start to have back pain, and I can manage this with the right combo of regular stretching and swimming.
Given I can’t go for walks, I use a folding, lightweight mobility scooter both to tool around the neighborhood, go to places out of my ability range with friends, and also to travel. It’s a great little trike for airports, city sidewalks, and flat pathways through parks. So I don’t miss out on much.
I do need to keep a balance between eating and resting. I need to lie down in the afternoon for a bit several times a week, and am not supposed to fatigue myself (a big issue with older polio survivors), so because I do less standing and walking than others, I try to watch my diet. Simple carbs tend to be my downfall, especially chips or popcorn. But I step on a scale regularly and try not to let my body mass index get high. I don’t want late-life heart disease or diabetes!
When you start to get aches and pains, or find that you fatigue more than you did when you were younger, I encourage you to look out the window, keep moving, and imagining your best future. If you lose a beloved activity, find another one that is easier. Say yes to invitations, just ask those who love you to adjust to your new normal.
“I may be no spring chicken, but I ain’t ready for the soup!” as my friend Annie said in a song she wrote.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in Los Angeles and having lived nearly all of her life in northern California, Francine Falk-Allen had polio in 1951 at age 3, was hospitalized for 6 months, and lived most of her life as a handicapped person trying to be a “normie.”
Despite her partially-paralyzed leg and severe limp, Francine has traveled the world. She also appeared in the Nobel Prize/PBS documentary, “The War Against Microbes,” as the only representative of a disease now eradicated by a vaccine.
Her first book Not a Poster Child: Living Well with a Disability—A Memoir, won gold and silver awards and was on several best books lists in 2018 and 2019. Her newest book, No Spring Chicken: Stories and Advice from a Wild Handicapper on Aging and Disability, has also received the Kirkus star, given to only 10% of the books reviewed in Kirkus Reviews.
Francine resides in Marin County with her husband, and spends a significant amount of time managing the effects of post-polio. She also facilitates a polio survivors’ group, as well as a writing group, Just Write Marin County and sits on the City of San Rafael ADA Accessibility Committee. She loves the outdoors, swimming, gardening, British tea, and a little champagne now and then.
Visit Francine's website for more information on ordering books.
What a strange year it has been. A once-in-a-century pandemic has uprooted the entire planet, the toll to human life staggering. No one has been unaffected by the events of the past year, including me. Here’s a brief glimpse into the past year, from a recovering fitness professional.
Shortly before the world got turned upside down, I began a new chapter in my life. My fitness business of more than a decade was shelved in favour of a full-time job for a health charity. If you’ve read my fitness memoir, I Can See Your Underwear, or even the excerpt I shared one year ago, you’ll know that I was feeling burnt out from focusing on other people’s fitness goals, at the expense of my own.
That’s what partly precipitated my retirement from being a fitness entrepreneur—I needed to put my goals first. The office job was a way to reclaim my evenings and weekends—punch a clock and contribute when at the office, while focusing on myself during my down time. I even managed to find a job that allowed me to engage in active transportation—the office was a 40-minute walk in each direction, a 19-minute bike ride when the snow finally melted.
And then it happened—seven days in to my new role, everyone who could was instructed to work from home until further notice. [Spoiler alert: one year later, we’re still awaiting details on the return-to-the-office plans. Thankfully, none of us have been holding our breath.] Overnight, my commute became much shorter—eight steps from the kitchen to my desk, eighteen steps from there to the bathroom. The line between home and work blurred for many, myself included. I spent many more hours in a seated position, and it didn’t take long for my body to protest.
You’ve heard of the Freshman 15? Well, I acquired the COVID 19. All that extra sitting began wreaking havoc on my now-larger frame. Another lockdown during the worst of the winter months meant that, in addition to being more sedentary that I ever have, I was also less physically active. That’s when the pain started. It began with foot pain in my left foot, then in my right foot, followed by low back pain and excruciating hip pain.
Some targeted physiotherapy treatments helped, as well as a gentle reminder from my physio to do daily stretches. I began with a few minutes of stretching when things started acting up. The stretching helped and I was thankful I could draw on my fitness background for my own needs.
And yet, my problems with pain persisted, even worsened. Until, that is, I went back to my roots. You see, it was a love of the very popular PBS fitness show Classical Stretch that opened me up to a career in fitness. I first discovered Classical Stretch on a snowy winter’s day in late 2001. I practiced it on and off throughout the decade, always feeling better after the 22-minute full-body rebalancing it provided. I jumped into the fray, beginning instructor training in early 2010.
One thing that happens when you’re a group fitness instructor is that every workout you do is focused on your clients’ needs. But now, back to doing my own workouts in my living room—often in my pjs—I could focus once again on my own needs. And boy, did I need a full-body rebalancing!
After a decade as a teacher, I was experiencing a renaissance as a student. And practicing what I often preached: the best exercise for you is the one you enjoy. Because if you like it, you’re more likely to do it. So I’m back to tried-and-true 22-minute workouts in the comfort of my own home. And my body thanks me every day.
What’s the lesson here? When it comes to exercise, physical activity, and just plain movement, find what you love and keep going. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
*To be clear: the weight gain was due to my constant close contact with the kitchen. I have been eating more than I needed to, from a caloric perspective. My weight gain was food-based, not due to a lack of exercise.
It happened late on a Monday night. After sleeping very soundly for an hour, I woke up and could not fall back asleep. It seemed to be my latest disordered sleep pattern. And, just like other nights when sleep eludes me, I was roaming the house. As is often the case, that night’s roaming found me in the kitchen, engaging in poor choices with a late-night ice cream snack.
As I was standing at the sink, I gasped suddenly. It felt like my heart had been dropped into a very deep tunnel, and it was struggling to stay connected to my body. This struggle caused it to begin racing; I felt like I’d just run a 100-metre sprint, all while standing still.
I headed to the couch, laid down, and tried to get my body under control, thinking if I fell asleep, I might feel better. I had a fairly strong inkling as to what was going on, as well as what I needed to do to resolve my racing heart, but for the moment, I wanted to stay put.
After 30 minutes or so, I gave up and went upstairs to try lying in bed. I ran into my teenage daughter in the hall, and filled her in on the situation. She suggested I check my heart rate on my Apple Watch. It was registering a heart rate of 110 beats per minute—normal resting heart rate is 60 to 80 beats per minute. As I suspected, my heart wasn’t working properly. It was around this time (duh!) that I remembered my watch also had an ECG (electrocardiogram) app. Thirty seconds later, and my husband, who had since woken up, was getting dressed. I was in atrial fibrillation (afib) and I needed to go to the hospital. I knew that’s what it was earlier, when I was standing in our darkened kitchen, but denial is not just a river in Egypt.
By 12:15 am, my husband was dropping me off at our local hospital—COVID-19 restrictions meant it was a solo visit for me—and I promised to text him with updates. When it comes to heart issues, they don’t mess around, and I was in a bed in emergent care, hooked up to a heart-rate monitor in half an hour. Before I got dressed and headed home the next morning, I spent a total of seven hours with my heart racing, not being able to return to a normal rhythm. It would take some aggressive interventions to reset my heart, and I’ll tell you how that unfolded. First, though, let’s back up a bit and I’ll explain why I wasn’t surprised about the afib diagnosis.
What is afib? Atrial fibrillation, or afib, is an irregular, chaotic heart beat, where the upper chambers of the heart—the atria—beat out of rhythm with the lower chambers—the ventricles. Left untreated, afib can lead to strokes, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. I know all about afib, because we have a family history of it, which increases your risk of developing afib by 40%.
About four years ago, I had landed in the same hospital, with symptoms of a potential heart attack. Thankfully, it wasn’t, but the subsequent follow-up at the Ottawa Heart Institute discovered an atrial flutter, which is often a precursor to atrial fibrillation. The cardiologist indicated that, as long as a flutter resolved itself within a minute or two, there was no reason to seek medical attention. If it lasted longer, he advised me to go to the emergency department immediately.
For the next four years, I only noticed my fluttering heart from time to time. Until I started noticing it every single day. It coincided, unsurprisingly, with the unfolding of the global pandemic now known as COVID-19. In addition to palpitations, shortness of breath, weakness, and fatigue, anxiety is a symptom of atrial flutter and fibrillation. I can unequivocally state that I am not the only person that was experiencing anxiety as a result of the spread of COVID and the ensuing lockdown measures. When lockdown began, doctors’ offices were closed. I thought about calling my doctor, after a month of shortness of breath, constant fluttering, and heightened anxiety, but I didn’t. Since the office was closed, the most I could hope for was an appointment over the phone. I knew they’d be unlikely to prescribe any medication in this situation—instead advising me to go to the hospital—but it didn’t feel urgent enough to use up vital health-care resources during a pandemic. I chalked up my symptoms to the current state of affairs, and figured my heart would sort itself out in due time.
But it didn’t, and I now found myself lying in the hospital, heart racing, hooked up to multiple machines, awaiting my blood test results and a visit from the ER doctor. The treatment for afib involves cardioversion, wherein your irregular heart beat is converted to a regular rhythm, either with chemical or electric means. As you can imagine, the chemical—i.e., medication—option is the preferred first avenue, as it’s less harsh than delivering an electrical shock to your body. And that’s what the doctor suggested, though he did advise me that the medications only work for 50% of people.
Two hours later, we had discovered that I wasn’t one of the lucky half who respond to the meds. So, the prep began for an electric cardioversion. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen how COVID has changed everything, including hospital protocols. For a procedure like electric cardioversion, that meant transferring me to an enclosed room and waiting for all members of the medical team to don appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment).
The first thing I felt when I woke up after the procedure was a normal heart beat. Although I was wiped out—from a night of no sleep in the hospital, an hours’-long racing heart, and the after-effects of being shocked—I was also relieved and happy that my ordeal would soon be over. The doctor explained to me that he didn’t feel I needed anticoagulants (to prevent a possible stroke), because I didn’t have any of the standard risk factors for afib.
In the days following my hospital visit, I spent time researching atrial fibrillation and talking to my father, who shares the same diagnosis. Other than family history, the only other risk factors I had were stress and poor sleep. Well, I’ll be. Stress and poor sleep during a global pandemic. Again, I can say that, without a doubt, I wasn’t the only person experiencing stress and poor sleep.
But I had to address it, if I was going to prevent a relapse and another hospital visit. The job was mine, and only mine. I’m working on it every day, putting myself first, and awaiting a follow-up appointment with a cardiologist. I feel better because I know I have the power to keep myself healthy, not to mention the motivation. And I’ve made a pact with myself to listen to my body and act on what it’s telling me.
As women, we tend to put our needs behind others, often to the detriment of our health. We all need to take charge of our own health and well-being, here are some suggestions that I’m planning to implement in my own life. I hope this list will help you too.
1. Make the call. Don’t put your own health on the back burner. If something feels off, call your health-care provider and book an appointment.
2. Take charge of your body. Address the little things before they become big things. I knew at the beginning of lockdown that something wasn’t right with my heart, but I hoped it would go away on its own.
3. Track your symptoms. Telling a doctor you feel “off” doesn’t really help them help you. Be specific, descriptive, and methodical. If you can share with them a timeline of symptoms, they’ll have a better understanding of the severity and progression of your condition.
4. Be your own advocate. You know your body better than anyone else, so be firm if someone tells you, “it’s nothing, I’m sure.”
After publishing five non-fiction books, I decided to turn my hand to the world of make-believe. Earlier this year, I published my debut novel, Selfried and the Secrets. Unfortunately, it happened in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, stifling my ability to hold an official, in-person book launch. Instead, I hosted a live launch online. If you missed it, not to worry, the book is still available for sale, and I'm sharing another excerpt below.*
Dedication: To anyone who’s felt sucked in by social media, this book is for you.
If you don't want anyone to know, don't do it.
– Chinese Proverb
One year earlier
Selfried removed her large sunglasses and scarf as she seated herself opposite the lawyer. When Digital Dialogue had first suggested she hire staff to populate her online world and help her grow her bottom line, she knew the proper paperwork would be required to lock down their loyalty. She wanted the most ironclad non-disclosure agreement money could buy, so she had donned a blond wig to jet off to Los Angeles, choosing to hire an out-of-state law firm that was recommended by Wister himself. Accustomed to dealing with high-priced clients that wanted their privacy maintained, the firm had a car service pick her up at the airport, the driver carrying a sign for “Roberta Jones”—the name they employed to keep female clients’ actual identities under wraps. The other side of the sign he held covered the bases in case the potential client was male. The driver was further instructed to keep the privacy screen raised on the hour-long drive to their office, to not engage in small talk with clients, and to avoid direct eye contact when taking bags and opening doors. The less he knew about his passenger, the better it was for his long-term employment with Blosky, Charles, and Smith.
Selfried had to admit, she was impressed by the level of discretion displayed by the firm, settling in to the cozy sedan with its well-stocked mini fridge, sliding off her black boots and reaching for a sparkling water. Her online celebrity was growing, and she could easily get used to this level of luxury. Opting to keep her small travel bag in the back seat, Selfried reached into the outside pocket, pulling out her phone to check Justin’s progress with a quick text. Any luck finding a trainer?
His response came quickly, as her phone dinged in her hand. Yup. When will you have the paperwork?
She checked her watch before responding. Soon. I’m half an hour out from the lawyer’s office. I’ll fax it to you shortly.
Selfried watched the three dots for a few moments before Justin’s reply popped up on her screen. Don’t. Have them transfer it to the USB I gave you, and then upload it like I showed you how.
He was right, they wanted to keep the trail back to her base under wraps. And anyone could be bought, even a disgruntled staff member at a high-priced law firm. Fine. I’ll text you when it’s been uploaded.
Tossing her phone onto the seat beside her, Selfried leaned back and closed her eyes. No need to worry about the outside world at the moment…unless. The relaxing ride was helping her brain plan out new posts, new images. With her dark glasses still in place, she decided a selfie was in order. No need to keep her adoring fans from enjoying her flawless style. And Digital Dialogue had indicated that she’d receive bonuses for posts that could skirt the new ad regulations being imposed on social media influencers. She tried a number of angles before choosing a photo that clearly showed the shades without revealing the logo on the arm, but everyone knew the iconically-shaped glasses were a bestseller for Urbane Accessories. She opened the Instagram app and loaded the image into her stories, pausing a moment to choose the best caption.
#luxury #treatyourself #limo
Perfect, she thought, tossing her phone down once again and retrieving her sparkling water from the cup holder. She’d wait a few hours before checking the stats, then she’d upload one of the other photos she’d just captured, with a little bit less of the glasses showing, the rest of the frame being taken over by her right ear and a glimpse out the window of the moving car. There was nothing identifiable in the shot, so no one would know it was a suburb of LA they were seeing pass by.
The driver pulled into a sleepy suburban strip mall, slowing down only when he arrived at the end unit. They were far enough away from the next business for Selfried to emerge from the back seat undetected. But she needn't have worried, as there was no one around to take note of celebrity comings and goings. The front office staff were deferential to her as they were to all incoming clients, and she waved them away when they offered to stow her luggage and bring her a beverage of her choice. She was here for one thing and one thing only, and she wanted to get right down to business. They led her to the largest office, that of lead partner and founder, Dick Blosky.
Selfried leaned towards the massive desk, locking eyes with the equally massive man occupying the other side of it. “Well, Mr. Blosky. Do you have my documents ready?”
“Document, Ms. Jones.” He was keeping up the veil of secrecy, not referring to Selfried’s true name, since he didn’t actually know it. Their meeting today would be the final time they would interact, once Selfried had a copy of the non-disclosure agreement on her USB drive and Blosky had an envelope of cash that would more than cover creation of the legal document. “A confidentiality agreement and a non-disclosure agreement are one and the same. Here’s your copy to review.”
Blosky pushed a stack of printed papers towards Selfried and continued, “You’ll see where you need to enter your name and where your employee enters their details. I would recommend you have them initial each page, to ensure they’ve read it through.”
Selfried glanced at the first page before leafing through the entire document. “And this will keep them from blabbing about me to others?”
“While they work for you and for the next five years, at risk of serious financial penalty. If they sign this NDA, you’ve got an airtight guarantee that will hold up in court, should they breach their contract.”
Shaking her head, Selfried was growing frustrated by Blosky’s bravado. “I don’t want to win in court. I don’t want to end up in court. Period. I want to prevent them from talking at all by scaring them into silence. Will this document do the job?”
“Most certainly it will, if they have any sense at all. Our clients are the top-tier in their fields and they value their privacy. We have never had a contract breach.”
Reaching into her bag, Selfried retrieved the USB drive and slid it across the table. “Kindly have one of your staff copy it for me. Then I’ll be on my way.”
*Copyright Amanda Sterczyk 2020, all rights reserved.
When I last wrote a blog post about exercise, the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning to take hold. None of us knew how long until we could resume our regularly scheduled activities. The "world outside our windows" wasn't so much a scary place, just a really empty place.
As we enter the fourth month of restrictions on our movement and activities, many organizations in Ottawa have pivoted to offering online workshops and fitness classes. And I've been recruited to help deliver some of these offerings. So, here's what's on tap in July and August:
Workshops: How Can Seniors Prevent a Fall?
As we age, our risk of falling increases, as does the likelihood that a fall will cause an injury. How can we help seniors prevent a fall, maintain their independence, and avoid a hospital visit? Before the time of COVID-19, falls were the leading cause of injury, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations for seniors in North America, and half of all falls happened in the home. What about now? No data has yet been compiled on home-based falls during the pandemic, but the number has likely increased, as seniors have become more housebound as well as more sedentary.
Amanda Sterczyk, an independent author and personal trainer, will teach participants about the balance "sweet spot", the complexity of our balance system, and how easy it is to incorporate exercise into their daily lives to improve their balance and prevent falls.
There will be three opportunities to join this online workshop:
Friday, July 10th, 10:00 am, Ottawa Public Library's Zoom Portal. The session is free but you must register with the library to attend.
Monday, July 20th, 2:00 pm, Old Ottawa South Community Association. The session is pay what you can, and you must register with OSCA to attend. (Note: workshop listed as "Balance and Your Body: How Exercise Can Help You Avoid a Fall.")
Monday, August 17th, 2:00 pm, Old Ottawa South Community Association. The session is pay what you can, and you must register with OSCA to attend. (Note: workshop listed as "Balance and Your Body: How Exercise Can Help You Avoid a Fall.")
Classes: Online Fitness for Seniors
There is a three-week series of classes that will be hosted via the Ottawa Public Library's Zoom portal. Each class is free, but also requires registration. If you want to join all three, you'll have to register for each of these classes:
Friday, July 17th, 10:00 am, standing exercises
Friday, July 24th, 10:00 am, seated exercises
Friday, July 31st, 10:00 am, lying down exercises (can be completed on the floor or on a bed)
Thursdays at 2:30 pm, MOBA: Stretch with Amanda.* If you're missing classes with me, I've returned to teaching once a week. Please contact me for registration details.
*(MOBA = mobility and balance)
The following excerpt is from my upcoming first novel, Selfried and the Secrets, and provides a unique take on physical distancing. I wrote this scene six months ago, but it seems very relevant in our current reality. Remember, stay healthy, stay home.
"Her concern for her younger brother’s safety kept Charlotte up at night. Chris was different, he lacked finesse and social skills when it came to interacting with others. Despite the fact that his mind was a steel trap, never forgetting anything he saw, read or heard, he struggled with unwritten social norms.
As a young boy, their mother had taken him two towns over to learn about proper distancing when you were in public, because they had a shop with automatic doors. Chris couldn’t grasp that people expected you to remain outside their “invisible bubble,” as their mother had described it, and so he always stood too close to strangers. This kind of behaviour would get him into trouble, she explained to Charlotte, and was a key factor in her pulling Charlotte out of school to homeschool both children. Charlotte could help around the house during her brother’s lessons, her mother no longer needed to drive her to school—since the elementary school was even further away than the high school and the bus didn’t stop in their town—and could then focus more of her time and energy on preparing Chris for life outside their home.
And that’s how they found themselves outside the automatic doors on a summer day, waiting for a break in shoppers, and coaxing Chris forward until he was close enough to trigger the sensor and witness for himself the opening doors. Their mother explained that if the doors were a person, standing close enough for them to open meant Chris was inside the person’s privacy bubble, and that was too close. He needed to back up ever so slightly—too far away could also be off-putting as you would need to raise your voice to speak—so that the doors remained closed and the strangers weren’t on guard.
The lesson lasted over two hours, as Chris paced back and forth, counting off the number of small steps, and then the number of large steps, required to keep the doors from opening. Finally, their mother felt he was ready to test out his new social skills at another store, where he couldn’t use the cues of the surrounding environment to determine if he was remaining just outside the bubble. She piled them back into the car and drove for half an hour, before stopping in a town that was completely new to both Chris and Charlotte. Their juvenile minds were fascinated to discover new sights and sounds, despite the fact that this stop lasted less than 30 seconds. After parking the car in a new-to-them store parking lot, their mother turned to Chris and instructed him to approach the doors as if it was a person who wanted their privacy bubble preserved. Ever the obedient son, Chris hopped out and walked confidently towards the automatic doors, his older sister marvelling at the determination in his step. He stopped just shy of the door, turned to see his mother’s nod of approval, then leaned forward until he heard the telltale swish of the doors opening.
One lesson down, so many to go to keep Chris safe in a world that didn’t understand that his brain was wired differently, that he couldn’t decipher social cues or interpret nonverbal communication. Charlotte became very protective of her brother in public, working to help her mother train his brain to function outside the home without drawing attention, or worse, ire to his actions."
Image source: CDC/ Richard Duncan, MRP, Sr. Proj. Mngr, North Carolina State University, The Center for Universal Design (free of copyright restricitions)
Text: Copyright Amanda Sterczyk, 2020, All rights reserved.
When the first cruise ship was quarantined due to an outbreak of COVID-19, news outlets shared footage of passengers wearing face masks while exercising on their private balconies. My first thought was, “Oh, that’s smart of them to keep moving.”
As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 increases around the world, more and more people are going to be spending time in isolation. Whether you live in an area that is under quarantine or have chosen to self-isolate for whatever reasons, you can still—and should—be physically active every day. Not sure what to do? Read on and I’ll give you some tips on staying active. But first…
Doctor’s orders. If you are sick and have been advised to not exercise, your doctor’s orders trump mine and any other fitness professional’s advice. It is, after all, a respiratory illness that causes shortness of breath. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit a trusted source. In Canada, that means listening to Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer, and her team at the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“Don’t panic.” Those are the words on the front of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and they are relevant even today. The same principles of healthy living apply even if you can’t leave your current location: eat a healthy diet, stay active, get a good night’s sleep, stay positive (i.e., don’t panic), and maintain contact with friends and family (phone calls, emails, texts, video chats are all great ways to stay connected). All of these factors will help you maintain a strong immune system.
Move. Just because you can’t get to the gym or fitness class, you can still get up and move. Here are some tips:
I hope this list helps you to stay active and maintain a positive outlook during these challenging times. Remember: move more, feel better.
After 10 years in the fitness industry, I decided to pack it in. But not before sharing my experiences as a solopreneur (solo entrepreneur). And some funny, some crazy, things that happened to me along the way. Below, you'll find the complete table of contents, as well as an excerpt from the foreword. And if you'd like to order your very own copy, you can pick it up on Amazon.
Like I say in the introduction of this, my fourth book, "If I'm being honest, I entered the fitness industry for all the wrong reasons."
From the foreword: “Whether you are an avid fitness junkie, weekend warrior, fitness instructor, or just your everyday Joe, there's something for you in this book…As you read through Amanda's journey from beginning to end, you gain inside information and a few laughs you didn't know you needed. So sit down with a cup of coffee and get ready to have a great conversation with a friend. Because that's exactly what this book feels like — a conversation with a friend about real life.”
And here's a glimpse at the Table of Contents:
The following excerpt comes from my upcoming fifth book, I Can See Your Underwear: My Journey Through the Fitness World. It's been a decade since I first took the plunge into fitness as a profession. As I look at that experience through the rear-view mirror, I can honestly say that I entered the fitness world for all the wrong reasons. Have I piqued your interest? Read on...
Did I Ever Look Like a Fitness Professional?*
I have spent many years, decades even, focused on dieting and never being truly happy with my appearance. As I said at the beginning, a huge part of me believed a career in the fitness would accelerate the process of changing my appearance.
It has never once occurred to me to judge someone else based on their appearance. Instead, I look at their character — how they treat me and others. Are they reliable? Do they keep their word? Are they kind to those less fortunate?
Yet, when it came to me, I always assumed no one would accept me unless I was skinny and svelte, especially as I transitioned into my new career in the fitness industry. What if clients wouldn’t accept me as a fitness expert because of my appearance?
More than once, I heard, “You don’t look like a fitness instructor.” What, exactly, is a fitness instructor meant to look like? People come in all shapes in sizes. Shouldn’t that ring true for individuals, no matter their profession? Rhetorical question.
I also heard, “I like taking classes with you because you look like a normal person.” Where does that come from? An unrealistic expectation and representation of everyone in the fitness industry as rake-thin, that’s where.
Skinny does not equal fit. There, I said it. A skinny person can be unfit just as easily as someone who is not as skinny. But there’s always been a part of me that doesn’t believe that for myself. Yes, I have a double standard, in that I judge myself more critically than others.
Don’t worry, I know I’m not the only one setting up base camp here. The problem is, being in the fitness industry was a constant reminder that my internal voice was judging my fitness, or rather, my unfitness to practice.
And our new-found selfie culture doesn’t help. Too many svelte fit pros spend too much time touting their amazing bodies. Or we see the before and after photos of “incredible transformations” of their previously fat clients. The “fitspiration” (fitness inspiration) images on social media imply that you’re better off being skinny and photogenic than being your true self and healthy.
My fragile ego has had enough. Even when I was starving and over-exercising to maintain what I thought was the proper form for a fitness professional, I still lacked the confidence to have my picture taken while wearing a swimsuit.
The anxiety of not looking the part created a cycle of overeating for me that collided with the start of menopause. I’m sure you know what happened next: a self-fulfilling prophecy of not “looking” like a toned fitness professional. Yes, it was self-sabotage at its worst. But the messages online also said I should look like a ballet dancer, and I’ve always been built like a soccer player. These messages, by the way, came directly from fitness gurus and their most avid followers, including fellow fitness professionals. No wonder I wasn’t able to accept myself — I didn’t feel accepted by fitness colleagues and mentors.
*Copyright Amanda Sterczyk 2020, all rights reserved.
Repeat after me: Move more, feel better.
Again: Move more, feel better.
One more time: Move more, feel better.
Is it starting to stick in your brain? That's the slogan I adopted when I created The Move More Institute™ four years ago.
It's not "Move more, look better," nor is it "move more, shed fat." It's "Move more, feel better" for a reason. Physical activity guidelines, created and promoted by national organizations in many developed countries, recommend the minimum amount of physical activity your body needs to maintain optimal health. That means how much you need to move to reduce the likelihood of many chronic diseases that will negatively impact your health and shorten your life span. And it's not a lot; we're not talking about living at the gym, we're talking about less than 30 minutes a day. Specifically, 21 minutes and 25 seconds of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. It's an achievable goal, even for the busiest person.
Breaking down a 24-hour day: assume you sleep for eight hours, that still gives you 16 hours in which to complete your 21 minutes-and-change of physical activity. And this movement doesn't need to be accomplished in one session; you can accumulate the activity over the course of the day. So if you're strapped for time at work and you're waiting for the elevator, consider taking the stairs. Even one flight of stairs works, and won't render you sweaty for that all-important meeting. If you're running errands, try parking further away and walking briskly to your destination. Or leave your car at home and "walk your errands."
I created these activity clocks to help you audit your day and figure out how you can incorporate more movement into it, without breaking the bank. This is just one component of my movement coaching course.
If you are looking for new year's goals that are achievable, try starting out with snacks of exercise. Physical activity doesn't need to be complicated, costly, or even sweaty. But it does need to happen every day. And if you move more, you will feel better. Guaranteed.
My goal for 2020 is to update my website and offer all of my online courses for free. That's my gift to you: help you achieve your movement goals.
Amanda Sterczyk is a Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor. She offers in-home personal training in central Ottawa. Amanda specializes in helping older adults maintain and increase strength, flexibility, and mobility. No fitness goal is too small, in her opinion.