Everyone Loves a Good Origin Story! aka the Evolution of Amanda Sterczyk Fitness and The Move More Institute™
I wasn’t always in the fitness industry; I studied psychology at school. During my university days in the late 1980s/early 1990s, a professor announced that our generation would not have jobs for life. Instead, we would become the “continuous learning generation” and cycle through three to five career changes.
To be honest, I breathed a sigh of relief. At that point, I wasn’t entirely sure of two points:
1. that I could make a career with a Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, and
2. that I wanted a career in psychology.
The first realization drove me to extend my post-secondary study — first, to complete an honours thesis, and then to complete a Master of Arts, Psychology. And so I began my career in health promotion research. Not psychology — health promotion research — which I suppose qualifies as my first career change. And I loved it. I even toyed with completing a PhD in the field. But then research funding started to dry up, and the opportunities became scarcer.
That’s when I conjured my next career transition, which landed me in human resources. In high tech during the 90s tech boom. Talk about a trial by fire. Given my penchant for research, I found a home on the compensation side of HR. Numbers didn’t scare me, but having employees crying in my office did.
The HR career sandwiched two maternity leaves, and I realized that I loved being a stay-at-home mom. More on this later; be patient, grasshopper.
During a return to the workforce, a foot injury sidelined my hobby as an occasional runner, I was devastated to hear that I needed orthotics and “indoor shoes.” Indoor shoes?! I’m a barefoot babe, and in my world, shoes are for outside only. Sometimes.
During my first maternity leave, I had discovered the TV version of Essentrics® - Classical Stretch™ with Miranda Esmonde-White. I stumbled upon Classical Stretch again shortly after the shock of indoor shoes was thrust upon me. I’m not kidding when I say I was an “occasional runner.” I’ve never been a huge fan of structured exercise, which is partly why I stopped following Classical Stretch a few years earlier.
But when my foot problems began to recede, I decided I needed to become more diligent about working out. Let’s be clear, I’ve always led an active lifestyle — walking and biking almost everywhere, taking the stairs instead of the elevator — but at the same time, I eschewed structured workouts.
One day, as I was searching for a Classical Stretch DVD online, I discovered that I could train to become a “Classical Stretch instructor” from home. You mean, I could get paid to exercise? Having the accountability of teaching others whilst working out appealed to me, because it forced me to be more consistent with my workouts. And actually get out of my pjs to exercise.
Over four years — 2010 to 2013 — I studied and passed the four levels of certification to become a fully certified Essentrics instructor.* And I taught A LOT of classes. In 2014, I was teaching 15 classes a week, in eight different locations across the city. In addition to teaching a lot, I was also travelling a lot between these classes. And spending a significant amount of time in front of my computer to market and promote the classes.
All of a sudden, my enjoyment of teaching a workout I loved was taking its toll on my body:
- I developed a serious shoulder injury from too much computer use;
- I fell down the stairs when I was rushing and carrying too much (you can’t really see the stairs when your arms are overflowing with stuff);
- I was involved in a car accident when I was hurrying to complete an errand before class; and
- I generally felt burnt out all the time.
Too much rushing. Too much on my plate. Something had to give. And it did.
Around the same time, I was reading and writing about the risks of too much sedentary time. Headlines like “Sitting is the new smoking” preceded articles that were imploring people to sit less, move more. It was from this zeitgeist that The Move More Institute™ began to take shape. Even if people were going to the gym or a fitness class on a regular basis, they still needed to get off their butts in more frequent intervals. Every. Single. Day.
I wrote multiple blog posts and social media posts on the topic. And I also created workshops entitled, “I’m not sitting anymore. What now?!” The workshops were well-received. In addition to my Essentrics certification, I began taking other fitness courses and certifications, including my personal trainer certification. I was spending a great deal of time teaching my clients about body awareness. How? By teaching them how to use their muscles for their intended purposes. Even though I worked part-time at several gyms in this period, I much preferred to meet people on their home turf. In so doing, I could show them that they could be physically active without spending tons of money. Do we really need fancy clothes, complicated equipment or expensive memberships to use our bodies? Of course not! If you choose to hire a trainer, join a gym or exercise class to workout, that’s fantastic. But it’s not the only way to move your body. You also don’t need to get sweaty to get your body working. The World Health Organization defines physical activity as "any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.”* Bottom line, all exercise is movement, but not all movement is exercise.
As I looked back over the past 10 years, I realized that I was at my healthiest when my kids were young and movement was the name of the game. We were active all day long, whether I was playing with my kids or just taking care of them and running our household. Injuries began when I was sitting too much in an office job and then running myself ragged with my fitness business.
The Move More Institute™ began to take shape. My slogan became “Move More, Feel Better.” Not exercise more. Not head to the gym and lift more weights. Just move more. My goal with movement coaching is short-term coaching, long-term results. And this goal is woven throughout my book Move More, Your Life Depends On It: Practical Tips to Add More Movement to Your Day. As I say in the book’s dedication, I wrote it for people who think physical fitness is beyond their reach.
So there you have it. That’s my origin story, so to speak. After my book was published, someone asked if I had always wanted to write a book. Initially, I said no. But then I remembered a project from school; I believe I was in grade five. Our task was to create a family crest. One of the quadrants had to be how you saw yourself in the future, as an adult. I had drawn a book cover, complete with title and author - me. So I suppose I have always wanted to write a book.
World Health Organization, Fact Sheet on Physical Activity, http://www.who.int/topics/physical_activity/en/. reprinted with permission
*Classical Stretch is the name of the TV workout, while Essentrics is the live version — aka, classes and privates with instructors.
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.
Great question! As an Essentrics instructor I hear this question - or a variation of it - every so often. There are so many terrific workouts available online, including Classical Stretch and Essentrics, that people can workout wherever and whenever it suits their schedule. Don’t get me wrong - I’m all for people fitting home-based exercise into your busy schedules.
But it’s also beneficial to supplement your own workouts with an instructor-led live class.
Are you coachable?
Participating in a group class has a lot to do with your coachability. Being coachable means you have a willingness to be corrected and to act on that correction. One of my regular students had been practicing Classical Stretch on her own for years before she joined my classes. A few weeks after joining, she approached me after class to say how much class was benefitting: “I had no idea I was doing these moves incorrectly all these years!”
Not incorrectly in my view - my corrections and cues to her were to tweak her positioning and thereby enhance her workout. You’re still enjoying great benefits with your home-based workouts. What an instructor will do is correct your positioning so you’re not overloading one area of your body while another area is neglected.
An Example in Action
Take an Essentrics side-to-side lunge sequence. The main goals of side lunges are to strengthen arms, and tone the waist and hips. Depending on the type of sequence during the side lunges, there can be any number of secondary goals. What, exactly, does it mean to “tone” your waist and hips? In order to tone your muscles, you need to strengthen them.(1) This is where the “strength” part of “stretch and strengthen” of an Essentrics workout comes into play. We’re moving throughout the side lunge sequence, lifting and lowering our own body as we move through specific positions. Basically, it’s a type of calisthenics: “a form of exercise where you use the weight of your own body to build muscle.” (2)
- exercises consisting of a variety of gross motor movements
- often rhythmical and without equipment or apparatus
- to increase body strength, body fitness, and flexibility,
- using only one's body weight for resistance (3)
To strengthen all of the muscles in your waist requires a sequence that challenges all the muscles along the circumference of your waist - front, back, and sides. Too often, people lean into the movement, reducing the work of the sides and overloading the back. But the biggest challenge I’ve seen is people who struggle to keep their hips down and engage the sides - aka the internal and external obliques.
Side Lunge vs. Triangle
Once in class, a person yelled out, “this is a triangle from yoga!” Actually, no. But I realized that people can erroneously believe this and position themselves accordingly. Let’s examine the goals of a yoga triangle pose: core strengthening, open the hips and shoulders, stretch the legs. The first goal is great and in line with an Essentrics side to side lunge sequence. But “open the hips and shoulders” means flexibility - aka, another term for stretch. That’s why a triangle is typically a position that is held - it’s a form of static stretching. With an Essentrics side to side lunge sequence, we’re working strength and flexibility dynamically - by continuously moving through the sequence.
I do regularly see participants lift their hips up as if they’re in a yoga triangle. The key with Essentrics lunges, though, is to keep the hips down. But what exactly does it mean to keep the hips down? Imagine you have to keep your hips parallel with the floor - both hips, that is. As you can see in the images below, the hips are not parallel to the floor in a triangle pose, but they are parrallel to the floor in an Essentrics side lunge.*
Yoga Triangle vs. Essentrics Side-to-Side Lunge
Am I doing this right?
Is my explanation clear as mud? Not to worry - that’s what our group classes are for! I’ll help you improve your technique and enhance your workout.
*Thank you to my friend and fellow Essentrics instructor, Cassandra McCoy, for providing me with a photo of an Essentrics side to side lunge!
First, a little background:
This is my seventh year as an Essentrics instructor, and my fifteenth year - yes, I said 15 - of following its television version, Classical Stretch. The TV episodes are only 22 minutes in length - 22 minutes to feel great, unlock tight muscles, and relieve joint pain. That’s a daily habit that wasn’t too hard for me to adopt. Even when I take breaks from teaching Essentrics classes, I still do my own daily workout at home.
This summer, my teenagers joined a local fitness club. The facility has a teen fitness program that allows them free access for July and August. While my son had workout buddies, my daughter was going to be on her own. So she asked me to join with her. I promptly agreed: daily exercise is an important habit for everyone, and if spending money on a gym membership would keep my daughter physically active, I was willing to pay for the summer months.
During our first workout at the gym, I was struck by how many people had less-than-optimal posture, poor form during their workouts, and perpetually contracted muscles which inevitably leads to joint compression - aka pain! Were these people aware that only 22 minutes of dynamic stretching could improve their gym experience? Don’t worry - I resisted the urge to preach the gospel according to Essentrics. But it got me thinking: what would happen if I stopped my daily Essentrics workout and only did a gym-based workout?
The American College of Sports Medicine defines 3 fitness components on which individuals can train for optimal health: cardiorespiratory training, resistance training, and flexibility training:
Notice anything about this table? I’ll give you a hint - I highlighted it in yellow. Flexibility training - aka stretching - is recommended daily or almost daily for every population. So, how many people actually follow these recommendations? Judging from the people I was seeing at the gym, I think it’s fair to say “not many”. Since I’ve never been into resistance training, and I was now doing it 3-4 days per week with my daughter, I wondered how my body would fare if I eliminated the flexibility training from my exercise repertoire. Well, I’m a research nerd at heart, so the only logical solution was to run an experiment. Sample size = 1. It’s called a case study, people. I’ve spent enough of my life in the world of research to know the limitations of a single case study, so don’t worry, it’s not being submitted to a peer-reviewed publication.
So, in early July, I stopped doing Essentrics and only did cardio and resistance training workouts. What happened to my body with this change in workouts? Well, a lot. Every injury I’ve ever had seemed to resurface - plantar fasciitis in one foot, torn calf muscle in the other leg, severe big toe pain, recurring shoulder pain. When I got out of bed in the morning, I couldn’t put my heel on the ground and I had to walk down the stairs sideways. It reminded me of my pre-Essentrics life and what drove me to daily practice of this program in the first place.
I realized I couldn’t continue this experiment on my return to Ottawa. This was a situation where the science was hurting the test subject. I’m still doing cardio and resistance training workouts with my daughter, but first I do my own Essentrics workout at home. For me, it improves my gym workout because I know I’m still rebalancing my body on my own time.
Bottom line, Essentrics can and should be a daily habit. Not just for me - for everyone. Daily habits make life more manageable. And Essentrics is a tool for better living.
What are your daily habits? Do you:
These are all great daily habits - do you remember a time when you didn’t do them? Your daily habits are just that: things you do every day without even thinking about it.
American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer, 4th ed. (2014) Publishers: Wolters Kluwer; Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Essentrics is a full-body program designed to rebalance the entire body through simultaneous stretching and strengthening. When we do the alphabet, we’re focused on rebalancing the hip and leg, and strengthening the leg muscles. It’s a balance exercise - you’re working the standing leg as much as the leg drawing the letters. Essentially, half of the benefits are to the standing leg.
Essentrics is a also techniques-based fitness program, and these techniques are present in the Alphabet Sequence. The leg is being rotated within the joint, which improves mobility and range of motion in the often-too-tight hip joint. The leg is pulled out during the sequence - aka an eccentric contraction - which strengthens those leg muscles in the lengthened position.
The exercise can be varied, depending on the focus of a workout: a gentler version with fewer letters drawn before switching legs is recommended for older participants, and anyone with balance or mobility issues. With some of my young-at-heart populations, I'll have them hang on to a chair for safety. Being on one leg is still working balance reflexes for them, without the risk of falling.
Want to focus more on your quads? Sit on the floor and do the alphabet as part of a quad raiser sequence. Talk about strengthening for the quads!
Changing the speed at which you draw the letters can also train your body in different ways - slower movement works the slow twitch muscle fibres. (1) This is great for endurance and energy, as the slow twitch fibres contain the mitochondria, the power sources for your cells. (2) For power and speed, draw the letters faster to activate the fast twitch muscle fibres.
Amanda Sterczyk & Pixabay.com - copyright-free images
Hi! My name is Milissa Rush and I live in Grande Prairie, AB. I have been a full time Massage Therapist for seven years and I love it. I've been a body nerd since I was a little girl so I consider myself blessed to have a career that excites and challenges me and also allows me to help other feel better in their bodies.
About a year ago I stumbled upon a PBS special featuring Miranda Esmonde-White and her new book, Aging Backwards. She spoke of the Essentrics and Classical Stretch programs and immediately caught my attention with her thoughts on mobility and functional movement being central to slowing the aging process. Her words piqued my interest not only as a RMT but also for my own health and wellness. I immediately popped over to Essentrics.com and within minutes I was ordering the Level 1 instructor package. I knew I had found something special.
Over the past year I have earned my Level 1 Instructor certification and am now teaching four classes a week. It has been amazing to me to see the myriad of ways Essentrics has changed not only my body, but also my massage career.
For starters, I had been developing my own muscle imbalances after years of a full time practice. My right shoulder girdle, in particular, had become very imbalanced leading to local ache, two to three headaches a week and the occasional acute flare up that would painfully limit my range of motion. My shoulder is now symptom free, I rarely suffer from a headache (and when I do it is usually due to something unrelated to muscle tension) and my body feels stronger than it ever has. In addition, all the active stretching in Essentrics has been powerful in preventing any new fascial adhesions and muscle imbalances. The increased strength and range that I have gained from a regular Essentrics practice allows me to continue to massage as much as I do. Not so long ago I feared I would have to cut back my hours because of the toll it was taking on my body.
So clearly, Essentrics has personally impacted me, but it has also drastically changed me as a practitioner as well. When I was completing my Essentrics apprentice hours I drew upon some of my regular massage clientele to come out and let me practice on them. This was the first time I was seeing these people really move their bodies (typically I would only see them move when they were walking into my treatment room or when conducting specific range of motion tests) and was caught off guard by how stiff, unbalanced and unacquainted with their bodies many of them were. I obviously needed to incorporate more active movement into my massage practice, as well as being aware of how much I had been assuming about my clients and their abilities. As these same massage clients continued practicing Essentrics with me we began to see aches and pains that I had been treating diligently were now finally resolving. I had, of course, studied the importance of stretching and strengthening as part of my clients’ home care when I was in school, and I regularly gave people exercises to do at home but never before had I seen these kind of results. I attribute this partly to the fact that clients typically aren't overly compliant with home care, whereas these clients were attending at least one, sometimes two, classes a week. I also give credit to the “full body” approach of Essentrics as opposed to the body part specific style of exercise prescription that I had previously been using. It really shouldn't come as any surprise to us that we need to stop treating body parts in isolation. Our bodies don't move in isolation nor do they heal and repair in isolation.
So, being that I have seen such great results by having my massage clients do Essentrics, should I quit my day job? Does massage therapy still have a valid role in health care? I believe it does, but my reasons why have evolved. Sadly, I feel the relaxation component of Massage Therapy is underrated if not completely disregarded. During times of relaxation our bodies heal and restore, our parasympathetic nervous system takes over decreasing our heart rate and blood pressure and our mind-body awareness is heightened. As our lives get busier it has become more important for us to carve out these moments in time to focus on our bodies in a still, accepting and loving manner allowing the body to enact its own healing and restoration processes. Additionally, Massage Therapy has been shown to be useful in increasing local circulation, decreasing pain responses, decreasing muscle tension and adhesion and reducing stress in general. Human beings are social creatures with an innate desire for touch. It just down right feels good! I do however wish I could require my massage clients practice Essentrics regularly as it would seem that MOVEMENT is the real healer.
Milissa Rush, RMT, & pixabay.com
If you did choose to make a new year’s resolution this year, don’t feel too badly if it’s already slipped off your radar. Often, people try to pile on multiple resolutions, not even realizing that behaviour change is a challenging endeavour. Even trying to change one bad habit - i.e., do more of x, do less of y - is tough. And let’s be realistic - what’s so special about January 1st that you need to change your entire way of life, so to speak, on that date? It’s a rhetorical question; but the answer is nothing. There’s nothing special about that date. You can choose any moment of any given day to change your behaviour - you’re in control of your behaviour, thoughts, feelings. Please excuse me if that sounds trite, but it’s true.
As a fitness instructor, I often hear people’s fitness-related resolutions. Perhaps they’re sharing this with me in the hopes that I’ll validate their behaviour. I love that people want to be physically fit and exercise more, but I hope my approval is not the only thing driving this behaviour. Because it won’t last if it is. Another trite comment coming, so brace yourself. The motivation to keep exercising needs to come from within; it’s called self-motivation, and it’s a key component of sustained behaviour change.
Let’s back up for a moment and talk about behaviour change. It’s a favourite topic of mine. I have 2 degrees in social psychology, so I’ve studied it. A lot. And behaviour change is also a popular topic in the fitness industry: personal trainers need to understand how to motivate people to change. That’s kind of their job. Did I mention I’m studying to be a personal trainer as well? The textbook is fantastic - published by the American College of Sports Medicine. (3) But I digress.
I don’t want to bore you with a treatise on the theories of behaviour change. Suffice it to say that my favourite one at the moment is The Small Changes Model. Small is an acronym: Self-selected, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Linked to your life, Long-term. Pretty self-explanatory - you pick goals that you can track and measure, and that make sense in your life over the long term.
But don’t think about the long-term; think baby steps. Remember, you need to keep at something to make it a habit. That’s why Classical Stretch/Essentrics always runs a 30-day health challenge at this time of year. Have you seen Classical Stretch, the TV version of an Essentrics workout? It’s 23-minutes long; surely you can commit to 23 minutes once a day. And remember, if you slip and miss a workout, there’s no need to pack it in. Just pick yourself up and get to it the next day. After a month, it’ll probably feel like a habit and you’ll just do it.
And, if you are the type of person that needs a date to set your behaviour change plan in motion, next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. That means Lent - giving something up for 40 days until Easter. Perhaps your “give up” could be your sedentary ways, in favour of an active lifestyle.
Or just start now. What are you waiting for?
3. American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer, 4th ed. (2014) Publishers: Wolters Kluwer; Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; pp. 194-222.
But that’s not the only thing adding to our hunched-over appearance. Our increasingly sedentary lifestyle coupled with our tendency towards iPosture is wreaking havoc on our bodies. What’s iPosture, you ask? If you’re hunched over a device, you’ve got iPosture. (1) It’s also been referred to as iHunch by New Zealand physiotherapist, Steve August. (2) Do you remember when a dowager's hump could only be seen on a little old lady? Well, that's no longer the case - thanks to smartphones and other tech devices, the "upper back forward hunch" of the elderly is no longer age-specific. August has been studying and treating the iHunch for 30 years. And this posture isn't just bad for our muscles and joints - it also impacts our mood: "the slouchy, collapsed position we take when using our phones actually makes us less assertive — less likely to stand up for ourselves when the situation calls for it".
August and his colleagues found that the smaller the electronic device, the more insidious the effect: "the smaller the device, the more you must contract your body to use it, and the more shrunken and inward your posture, the more submissive you are likely to become."
Poor posture affects you physically, mentally and emotionally. You’ve heard me talk about the physical effects of iPosture - misalignment in your body that leads to joint pain and weak and/or tight muscles. But did you know that how you hold your body also affects your attitude and self-esteem? If you haven’t seen Amy Cuddy’s seminal 2012 TEDTalk, take a moment to watch it:
As Cuddy says, “Two minutes is all you need…Tiny tweaks lead to big changes.” Cuddy and her colleagues had research participants assume “powerful” or “powerless” poses for 2 minutes and they then measured their hormone levels.
The results? The hormonal changes in their brain chemistry showed increased confidence and risk-taking for those who had done power poses; while the powerless posers had decreased confidence and risk-taking. In essence, the powerless poses had increased their stress hormone (cortisol) and decreased their risk-taking hormone (testosterone).
Defining Power Poses
“The high-power poses were both expansive (meaning that the body took up a significant amount of space) and open (meaning that the limbs were held far away from the body), and the low-power poses were constricted and clenched”. (1, p. 199)
Power Poses and the Link to Exercise
Amy Cuddy has just published a book called “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges”, where she delves more deeply into how your body affects your mind. It’s social science meets fitness in a great read: “By adopting open, expansive postures, we make ourselves feel better…more powerful, confident, and assertive, less stressed and anxious, and happier and more optimistic.” (p. 207)
Open posture…expansive…this sounds to me like a job for an Essentrics posture fix!
According to a recent Fast Company review of the connection between posture and mood, people in slouched positions recall negative traits and powerless feelings about themselves more easily. (4) Conversely, people who are sitting up straight - i.e., with improve posture - more readily recall positive traits and empowering thoughts about themselves.
This month’s appearance on Daytime Ottawa was all about improving your posture to improve your mood. Take a look:
A 2-minute Essentrics Posture Fix
If you don’t have time to watch my latest appearance, I’ll summarize the exercises below:
Images courtesy of Pixabay - copyright-free images: https://pixabay.com
What if I told you that an Essentrics Plié sequence could increase your energy at the same time it promotes your brain health? Interested? Intrigued? Then please read on and I’ll explain. First, though, we’ll back up to the microscopic level and have a little biology refresher.
Mitochondria - no, it’s not an infectious virus! - are one of these organelles. So what do mitochondria do? I’m glad you asked. Mitochondria are often called the powerhouses or power plants of the cells. They convert fuel, the carbs and fat from the food we eat, into energy for the cells. Every cell in your body contains mitochondria, but the exact number varies by cell type. (2) Your muscle cells contain 95% of the mitochondria in your body. It makes sense when you consider that the role of your muscles is to move your body. Our muscles were created to be strong and our bodies want to move. The only difference between a strong person and a weaker person is what they demand of their muscles. (3)
Exercise: The Fountain of Youth
When we exercise, it not only activates the existing mitochondria in our muscle cells, it also creates new mitochondria. This is called mitochondrial biogenesis. Research has shown that “the greater mitochondrial density in a cell, the greater its vitality.” (4) Vitality - aka youthfulness, or the fountain of youth - isn’t that what most people are craving? Having youthful muscles means lots of mitochondria and a mixture of slow-twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres. (5)
Energy Source & Brain Health: More Mitochondria
So, let’s talk about Essentrics Pliés and how they can help you with your energy levels as well as boost brain activity. Think about your waist-to-knee region: it holds the largest muscles in your body. Your gluteus maximus (aka, your butt) is the largest muscle. The sartorius is the longest muscle - it starts on the outside of the hip, runs across your thigh and wraps around the inside of your knee (aka, the ‘turnout’ muscle). Your hip flexors and extensors are considered “prime movers” because the have the greatest influence on locomotion/ambulation. Essentrics Pliés works the agonist/antagonist muscle groups around the hips. And they give you tons of energy. They feel tough but they work - they will increase energy, strengthen knees and hips, reduce hip and knee pain, increase speed in movement, unlock tight hips, train correct knee alignment, tone the butt/hamstrings/quads, and increase flexibility in the hips. Not to mention create mitochondria in those precious brain cells.
Watch this video to learn more about mitochondria and how to do Essentrics Pliés correctly.
Here are some guidelines for maximum benefit:
Now, go enjoy yourself during this incredibly busy time of year. And don't forget, if you need a quick boost of energy or you've forgotten where you put your car keys - do a quick Essentrics Plié sequence and all will be good. Happy holidays and Happy New Year!
1.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zafJKbMPA8 - Parts of the Cell Rap
3. Miranda Esmonde-White (2014). Aging Backwards: 10 Years Younger and 10 Years Lighter in 30 Minutes a Day. Random House Canada
7. https://youtu.be/yWGnjokZDsQ : Essentrics with Amanda on Rogers TV’s Daytime Ottawa, Dec 9, 2015 - Essentrics Pliés for Energy
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.