Balance. What does it mean to you? There are many definitions for this seemingly simple word. Let’s address a few of them here. And I'll share with you how I interpret balance in my life.
How do you define balance in your life? Do you have other ways of balancing?
Move more, feel better. That’s the slogan I chose for The Move More Institute™.
Just get up and move - that’s all I’m asking. As soon as you do, your body and brain will feel better.
And they’ll start to crave the movement. Trust me, I know.
Let me explain…
It’s been about 8 years since I switched gears professionally and jumped into the world of fitness. I’ve always been in the business of helping people:
You get the idea. I deal with humans - helping them improve their lives.
Well, about 4 years ago, I decided I needed to teach more Essentrics® classes in Ottawa. You know, get the word out, help people feel better in their bodies.
Ottawans are fortunate in that there are MANY fitness options in the city. And many fitness centres. So much so, that most people want fitness-on-demand: the class they want, at a time that suits them, near their home or office.
You get the idea.
I rose to the challenge and tried to start up as many Essentrics classes in as many locations that would have me. Starting up a class takes time. And a lot of computer time as well:
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
I got to the point where I was teaching 15 weekly classes in 8 locations. And spending A LOT of time on my computer in the interim. I hurt my shoulder and entire right side of my torso from too much “point and click”.
It made me realize how damaging it can be to sit at your computer too much. I was incredibly fit - 15 classes a week! - and yet I still go injured. At my computer.
I started to look into the research on physical inactivity and office workers. And I was astounded at what I discovered.*
More than bootcamps and gym memberships, people needed real help to relearn how to use their bodies in normal, everyday ways.
So, I went back to my earlier roots in health promotion research and psychology to work on a solution. Out of that work, The Move More Institute was born.
On the continuum of physical activity, I’m targeting the basics.
Your life is busy; you’ve got lots of people counting on you every single day. The thought of having to add one more location change - i.e., one hour at the gym, 3 times a week on your own, or once a week with a personal trainer - is making your head spin.
That’s why The Move More Institute™ comes to you: short segments delivered online to your home or office, when it works for you. And you don’t need to commit to a long-term training schedule. My goal is short-term coaching for long-term results.
Think about it: A 1-hour weekly personal training session accounts for less than 1% of your waking hours. I want you to get active and stay active every day of your life. If we only rely on that “less than 1%” block of time to change your behaviour, how successful do you think you’ll be? (Psst: rhetorical question alert)
The Move More Institute™ can’t make your life less busy, but it can make your life better by teaching you how to add natural movement to your busy life. What does “natural movement” mean, exactly? It’s a very literal term - it’s not deadlifts or pistol squats, glute bridges or planks. It’s about non-exercise activity to fuel your body and make you feel better.
And I’m living proof that it works. I teach group fitness classes and deliver personal training sessions in my professional life. In my personal life, I apply behaviour change models - the habit loop and nudge theory - to be more active during the day:
I could go on, but it’s time for me to take a break from my computer. It’s time for me to move more.
*You can refer to earlier blog posts for more information.
People with chronic low back pain are often looking high and low for “cures” or remedies in order to rid themselves of symptoms. Finding short term relief often comes in many different forms, but long term success can be a mystery.
Unfortunately, practitioners who treat low back pain are often excellent at the treatment portion, but they are less effective at helping clients create strategies to avoid painful movements and positions or find positions of relief. Without these strategies, low back patients are often reaggravating the injury and delaying the healing process between treatments.
The secret to long term success when managing low back pain lies in the ability to move in ways that do not “pick the scab”. We must think of a healing low back as we would a scab: if we constantly pick a scab it will not heal. The same can be said for a low back: if we constantly move in ways that cause pain, our back is telling us that it is not able to heal. What really matters to the patient is, how do you know if you are picking your low back scab? Luckily, your body has been telling you the answers!
The biggest clue involves what you are doing when your low back hurts. Think back or observe over a few days when you feel pain or increased pain. Was it after a long day of bending forwards, or does pain increase when rolling over in bed or transitioning from sit to stand? After collecting some information, look at the positions that are on list. Is there a pattern? Does your back not like bending forwards, or reaching backwards? Does it not tolerate carrying heavy loads?
If you notice a pattern, you now know what you need to avoid in order to properly let your back heal. This may require rethinking how you move during your day-to-day activities. You might have to learn to use your core as a brace in order to properly stabilize the low back when transitioning positions. Or you might have to learn to use the hip joint to bend forward and keep the spine in a neutral position when picking things up off the floor. You might also have to learn to keep the head from bending forwards, especially for extended periods, as this causes increased activity and tension in the low back musculature.
While this article should not be interpreted to belittle the role of the practitioner, it should highlight the fact that you can help yourself. How you move is an integral part of low back symptom management. Learn to move well, then move often!
About the author: With a Doctorate in Chiropractic, Luc founded The Movement Co. with the aim of providing individuals a one-stop-shop for all of their training and rehabilitation needs. Eager to treat all ranges of individuals, from the office worker, to the elite athlete, Luc uses a vast range of treatments customized to his patient's and athlete's needs.
I have spent many, many years - decades, really - focused on dieting and never being truly happy with my appearance. It started in my teens. At the time, my mother bought me a pin that said, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” I loved the pin and wore it proudly. I believed it - that you can’t be ‘too thin’, and I was always pursuing this ever-elusive ideal.
At the age of 48, I’ve finally realized that people accept me for who I am, not what I look like. And if they don’t, I invite them to take a long walk off a short pier. It’s taken me 35 years to accept myself the way I accept others. It has never once occurred to me to judge a person 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 assumed no one would accept me unless I was svelte and skinny. 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?
Ironically, that very thing happened. On more than one occasion, I’ve 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’ve also heard, “I like taking classes with you because you look like a normal person.” I used to think, “Thank you?” Now I say, “Thank you!” What’s the source of the statement? An unrealistic expectation/representation of everyone in the fitness industry as rake-thin.
Skinny does not equal fit. There, I’ve said it. You can be skinny and unfit just as easily as someone who is not as skinny. But I digress. My point is, I may not be as skinny as I used to be, but I’ve got WAY more confidence now! Because I’ve accepted myself as being more than my body.
I’m valuing myself the same way I value others. For who they are, not how they look. Not only has this mind shift boosted my confidence, I’m also a lot happier than I used to be.
If you’re still reading, thank you for listening to my story.
Ask yourself this: what makes any fitness plan truly successful? Two words: realistic goals. Without them, you find yourself trying to attain the unattainable. One of the tools available in today’s modern world that can help you monitor and record your progress is social media.
Fitness Magazine explains that through online channels you can make yourself a part of a dynamic community that offers many benefits. In the hunt for trustworthy food sources? Quickly go online and ask your friends on Facebook for recommendations. Crushed a workout you didn’t think you could handle? Mark this milestone and tweet about it.
Social media is perfect for meeting people with similar fitness goals who you can inspire. However, you should also post social media content with caution and responsibility. Real Simple points out there is such a thing as social media etiquette, so be self-aware, don’t over share, and refrain from flooding your friends’ feeds.
When it comes to social media, you mustn’t be swayed too easily with what you see and read. As far as your self-confidence goes, keep your idea of body image in check. Along with social media, traditional media platforms such as television and movies can persuade you to think twice. Just take a look at the current fitness obsession in Hollywood. More than just beauty, brawn has become both a sought-after quality and a bankable asset that stars are expected to have. Examine the modern day leading man. Men’s Journal points out that a chiselled chest, coupled with shredded abs and super-sized arms are the standard requirement. With films like Pain and Gain and Baywatch, buff and big seems to be the norm for what looks good on movie screens.
Unsurprisingly, this ripped-and-ready trend has found its way to many entertainment media, including non-traditional visual platforms such as online gaming. Entertainment outlet Slingo features thematic games that focus on mythical gods with solid, muscular physiques. Two of their slot games, Kronos and Thunderstruck, used mythical gods that have become famous in the media in recent years through the video game series God of War and Marvel’s version of Thor. The two are testaments to the fact that popping pecs are now more prevalent in popular culture than ever before. Even in aspects of life that have nothing to do with exercise, the public is bombarded with a body shape they should be aspiring to achieve.
But, does this mean we should surrender to this current global fitness obsession? The answer is no. It is best to be inspired by fitness sites and social media channels that don’t push unrealistic goals. There are many sites that promote more accessible methods of training. Very Well advises that using S.M.A.R.T. - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely - as a guiding acronym will help you stay on top of things and allow you to monitor how much you’ve achieved. After all, Improving your health and fitness is a process that takes a lot of time and effort. Your takeaway: use your social media channels wisely to keep on pursuing your personal health and fitness goals and maybe even inspire others with your own journey.
About the author: Jannette is a 22-year old barista who has recently jumped into the world of freelance writing. She enjoys a good warm cup of latte, maintains a regular week workout schedule to keep fit, and loves playing video games from time to time.
Let's face it - everyone is too sedentary these days. It's as if we've reversed the evolution of man, we’re getting slower and more hunched over than our early-20th-century counterparts. You know you need to move more, but how? That’s where movement coaching comes in.
Do you spend more than half of your waking hours sitting without much movement? Want to learn how to add more movement and physical activity to your daily life? Not sure how to eliminate the “convenience setup” at your desk? I created The Move More Institute™ to address these issues. Please read on to learn more!
Movement Coaching At Home: How do I change my behaviour?
You're retired and you've being told that you need to sit less and move more. [Note: seniors are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook.] But how to change a behaviour? I can help! The first step is to assess your current movement factor and home setup, as well as your current behaviour patterns. To change a behaviour, we work together to identify new cues and rewards. One-on-one assistance in your environment will help you turn your newfound knowledge into daily habits.
Movement Coaching At Work: How do I change my workspace?
Perhaps you've attended my workshop, “I’m Not Sitting Anymore, What Now?!”, and you’re looking for help with next steps. You know you need to move more during the workday, but where to begin? How do you change your space to enhance movement? How do you remember to get up and move around throughout your day? Personalized movement coaching in your environment will help you turn your newfound knowledge into daily habits.
If one of these descriptions speaks to you, you need to speak to me!
How Can I Help?
I have a truly unique skill set that allows me to offer movement coaching: I have two psychology degrees, so I understand behaviour and motivation. I have a background in health promotion research, so I know what the research says about the problems with our sedentary lifestyle as well as recommended solutions. Finally, I’m a fitness professional who focuses on body awareness, bodyweight training, and postural awareness.
I’ve written before about how to make fitness a daily habit (click here to read that post). With movement coaching, we’re going ‘back to basics’: working on non-exercise activity that is sprinkled throughout your day. Every day.
My goal is to work myself out of a job; i.e., get you to a point where you’ve added the necessary movement that improves your health and well-being. My slogan is move more, feel better. If you’re ready to start, I’m ready to help you!
The Good Old Days?
Remember the carefree summer days of your childhood? You’d jump out of bed with enthusiasm, ready for whatever adventure presented itself. The world was full of possibility and so were you. You didn’t think twice about hopping on your bike to race to your best friend’s house. When you arrived, you’d kick off your shoes and run through the sprinkler until you were too hungry to continue. After a quick lunch, it was time to head to the park, usually until you were called home for dinner.
You didn’t have to think about your posture, proper knee alignment when bending your legs, shoes to support your weak arches, or range of motion in your joints. You just did what came naturally to you - you moved. A lot.
What About Now?
How’s your body feeling these days? Do you still jump out of bed and run around in your bare feet? Likely not - as most adults report some form of muscular and/or joint pain. When you stand up, how long does it take you to go from sitting to standing? Do you feel stiffness in certain joints as you get up? Your joints are seizing up from lack of lubrication - aka lack of movement. When you’re stiff, you move more slowly. And when you don’t have a spring in your step, you look and act ‘old’.
You don’t have to be old to move in a slower, stiff way. You just have to be inactive - i.e., mostly sedentary. Lack of physical movement is prematurely aging our society.
Mostly Sedentary or Mostly Fidgeter?
Are YOU a Sedentary Sam or a Fidget Finn? The technical terms are “prolonger” and “breaker”. 
prolonger: Someone who accumulates sedentary time in extended continuous bouts,
breaker: Someone who accumulates sedentary time with frequent interruptions and in short bouts.
Those terms come to us from the Sedentary Behaviour Research Network. Think about that for a moment: our society has become so sedentary that researchers have had time to convene a worldwide research network to study us. I used to work in research and let me tell you, nothing happens fast. This problem has been years in the making. We’ve become a society of leisure-based, labour-saving technological slugs, and it’s killing us. Metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity are all on the rise. A recent documentary entitled “Cholesterol: The Great Bluff” tackled the topic: in it, cardiologist Dr. Mikael Rabaeus proclaims, “Yet again, it’s a sedentary lifestyle that’s the killer.”
How did this lifestyle change - this life of leisure - entrap us in bodies that are now failing us? It was a gradual process over the twentieth century and into our current times. The industrial revolution, followed by the current technological revolution, have given us many labour-saving devices. From dishwashers and garage door openers smartphones and online shopping, researchers have tracked an increase in obesity that correlates directly with an increase in the acquisition of labour-saving devices. 
NEAT is different that your workout at the gym: “NEAT corresponds to all the energy expended with occupation, leisure time activity, sitting, standing, ambulation, toe-tapping, shovelling snow, playing the guitar, dancing, singing, washing, etc.”  Even if you do a daily one-hour workout, you still need to keep your body moving in other ways throughout the day. If not, you’re what’s referred to as an “active couch potato”. 
The Move More Institute™ nudges people to be more active throughout the day. Natural, non-exercise activity spread across your day. Every day. I'm a fitness professional with a radical idea - don't exercise! Just move more!
What can you do to keep yourself independent and living your life actively and without pain? Move your body. Add snacks of movement to your day:
1. Sedentary Behavior Research Network (SBRN) – Terminology Consensus Project process and outcome, Mark S. Tremblay, Salomé Aubert, Joel D. Barnes, Travis J. Saunders, Valerie Carson, Amy E. Latimer-Cheung, Sebastien F.M. Chastin, Teatske M. Altenburg, Mai J.M. Chinapaw and on behalf of SBRN Terminology Consensus Project Participants, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2017,14:75; https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-017-0525-8
2. Too Much Sitting and Metabolic Risk—Has Modern Technology Caught Up with Us?
David W Dunstan, Genevieve N Healy, Takemi Sugiyama, Neville Owen
European Endocrinology, 2010; 6:19-23; DOI: http://doi.org/10.17925/EE.2010.06.00.19
3. Cholesterol: The Great Bluff, 2017; http://tvo.org/video/documentaries/cholesterol-the-great-bluff
4. Levine, J.A. Nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): environment and biology, American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology & Metabolism. 10. 1152/ ajpendo. 00562. 2003 AJP - Endo May 1, 2004 vol. 286 no. 5 E675-E685
5. The Role of Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis in Human Obesity, Christian von Loeffelholz, 2004, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279077/
Even before I started running my own business, I volunteered on a regular basis. When my kids were young, it was regular sessions at their school. I moved on to a local hospice, a long term care home, and a women's supportive housing facility when I was no longer needed at the school. In my opinion, philanthropy and entrepreneurship are two sides of the same coin. Think about it: when you first start a business, you put in a lot of unpaid hours to get it off the ground. In essence, you’re a volunteer for your business. You better be passionate about it at the startup phase if you want to move beyond volunteer status. Since you know you’re willing to work without being paid for a cause in which you believe, it seems a logical that you’d volunteer your time for another worthy cause in which you believe.
One Million Women, Ten Million Lives
When Pierrette Raymond asked me to donate to a charity of my choice as part of The Living Fully Show's “One Million Women, Ten Million Lives”*, I said yes immediately. And I knew which charitable organization I’d be selecting. Sidebar: to learn more about Pierrette’s fantastic organization, visit Women Living Fully. And here's the link to my podcast, "How Movement Is the Key to Longevity and Wellness".
*The Living Fully Show, which is the Women Living Fully podcast and radio show, is on a mission to help one million women support 10 million lives.
The charity I am supporting is called Voice Found, a survivor-led charitable organization that is on a mission to prevent child sex abuse and commercial sexual exploitation. Their slogan is “Giving voice to those trapped in the dark.” I’ll tell you more about Voice Found and then I’ll tell you why I’m supporting them.
Voice Found was created in 2011 by Cynthia Bland, “a survivor who had a successful career prior to disclosure. Once she disclosed (after 42 years of silence) she realized that she needed to DO something. And so in 2011, she founded Voice Found.”
Did you know that over 90% of youth who are sex trafficked have been sexually abused as children? That’s why Voice Found created The Hope Found Project: to support youth and women who are victims of sex trafficking. “This heinous crime is happening in every neighbourhood in our city. It crosses all socio-economic boundaries and with devastating consequences. Victims really can be anyone and the common age of recruitment into trafficking in Canada is 13.”
The Hope Found Project
“The Hope Found Project is currently working with 70 clients at an undisclosed, safe location in downtown Ottawa. The office is a sanctuary where professionals with lived experience help them to create new lives. Each case is unique but some of the things they offer are; paying for specialized trauma therapy, assistance with education and employment, court support, safety planning, assistance with emergency housing, help with addictions and connections to other agencies who are trauma informed and victim-centered manner. Clients are also provided with 24/7 support. This support has helped in the rescue of clients who have been taken by their traffickers to other cities.”
Why I’m Supporting Voice Found
In 2015, I was invited to donate a silent auction item to an event called Clear the Room, supporting the Canadian Continence Foundation and Voice Found. The premise behind the fundraiser was that openly discussing incontinence and child sex abuse would ‘clear the room’, since most people would be uncomfortable discussing these topics. It struck a chord with me - it must be incredibly difficult to fundraise for a cause that makes people squirm. I had never heard of Voice Found, so I endeavoured to learn more about the organization. And I willingly donated a silent auction item.
Fast forward to 2016: I approached my friend, Danielle Allard. Danielle is an incredibly talented singer/songwriter based right here in Ottawa. I love her music and Danielle is also very giving of her time and talent to charitable causes. I approached Danielle with a fundraising idea: a live music Essentrics class. She would be set up in the corner, playing songs from her debut solo album (Chameleon), while I taught an all-ages Essentrics class. Attendees would pay by donation, and all money raised would go to Voice Found. Danielle loved the idea and we immediately started planning the event.
If you only remember one thing after an Essentrics class, hopefully it’s this: full-body rebalancing. Sure, you’re more likely to remember “killer pliés” or “side leg lifts - the second leg is always the hardest”. But what I hope you take away from the experience is the full-body nature of an Essentrics workout.
We work the entire body, from your fingers all the way to your toes. Because you’re only as strong as your weakest muscle, only as flexible as your tightest muscle. This tenet is not only key in your day-to-day living, it can also help you in your sport of choice. Take strength training, for example. When you’re lifting heavy weights, are you thinking about your hands and feet? In most cases, not likely. But you should be, at least on some level.
Great quote, which leads me back to my query about your hands and feet. First, let’s tackle the hands.
Hands, aka grip strength
Think about it: how are you going to deadlift if you don’t have strength and flexibility in your hands to grasp that barbell? Weak or tense (i.e., tight) muscles impact joint range of motion and have a subsequent domino effect on muscles and joints further down the line. Remember - muscles don’t work in isolation. There are agonists, antagonists, fixators, neutralizers, muscle groups, muscle chains.
Moving right along…let’s talk feet.
Think about your house for a moment (any house, if you live in an apartment) - what would you do if you discovered that the house’s foundation was crumbling? You’d get it fixed. Right away. Because a crumbling foundation is weak and can’t safely support the structure it was designed to support.
Now think about your feet. How are they holding up? How are they doing at holding YOU up? Your feet are the foundation of your body - meant to support your entire body. If part of your foot is weak or tense, it will impact both your balance and your entire body alignment.
Like the hands, we always work the feet in Essentrics. And no doubt you’ve read my posts or seen my segments on the feet. No? Then click here for more background.
A Story of Essentrics and Strength Training
One last word on the benefits of Essentrics hand and foot work for strength training, and it goes to Certified Essentrics Instructor, Carrie James. Carrie has been a CrossFit athlete and coach since 2011. CrossFit is a form of strength training that focuses on the compound lifts - Snatch, Cleans, Jerks, Presses, Squats and Deadlifts. [You wanna know more about CrossFit? Google it, my friend.]
In 2015, Carrie discovered Essentrics thanks to her mother, and she began her journey to become a certified instructor. And take it from her, strength training and Essentrics work well together: “I love the confidence that strength training gives me and I do like having muscle definition. I love the relaxed feeling of "flow" that I get from doing Essentrics and how effectively it works to keep my structure balanced and at ease. I appreciate that both work synergistically to make me strong and healthy!”
Furthermore, Carrie has found that Essentrics can improve her strength training: “Essentrics has eased tendonitis in my elbows, eliminated persistent shoulder pain - by retraining proper muscle chains and helped a broken ankle heal with full range of motion. I believe Essentrics helps my lifting form by improving ankle, wrist, hip and shoulder range of motion. I also believe Essentrics helps me to recover more quickly after strenuous workouts, thereby helping me to train harder.”
The Final Word
Well, thanks for sticking through to the end of this post. I hope I’ve convinced you that: a) it’s important to work every muscle in your body, including your hands and feet; and, b) if you’re a weightlifter, Essentrics is a great compliment to your existing training regimen.
Special thanks to Nathane Jackson and Carrie James for sharing their knowledge and expertise!
Often during Essentrics classes, I have to cut myself off from talking. If I didn’t, the class would stop and we’d have an anatomy lesson instead! There are so many wonderful benefits for your body when you do Essentrics, and I love to share the details with my students. Partly to educate them, and partly so they understand why we do things the way we do in Essentrics.
Take side leg lifts, for example. My students “love to hate” these powerful exercises. They know I’ll keep on top of them to: “pull out, pull out, pull out”; “rotate in the hip”; “roll the hip forward to activate at the abductor muscle group”; etc. You get my drift. It’s easy to have your form slip during the side leg lift sequence. After all, your brain wants your body to take the path of least resistance. Which means using large muscles to move instead of smaller stabilizer muscles.
With side leg lifts, we want to stretch and strengthen all 17 muscles that work hip movement.* That’s right, 17 muscles for that one joint. Take a look at the images below to see the complexity of the muscles that act on the hip joint.
Muscles of the Hip
Now that the anatomy lesson is over, let’s revisit side leg lifts.
Why Do We Do Side Leg Lifts?
In order to decompress the joint, we need to constantly pull out - pull the leg away from the body, while simultaneously pulling the torso in the opposite direction. Think medieval torture rack and, don’t worry, you’ll thank me later when your hips feel more unlocked and free.
When all of these muscles are strong and flexible, you’re less likely to sink into your hips when you’re standing. That’s a good thing for improving your standing posture. As you pull the pelvis in the opposite direction of the leg, you are also strengthening your core muscles, further improving your posture.
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.