Well, the kids are older now, and they’d rather tromp around the city with their friends. So, our routine has changed drastically. But that’s okay, it was still an all-Canadian experience for me this year: starting the day with an Essentrics workout, followed by a run along the canal in my Lululemon running gear. During said run, a loon landed on the water beside me, and then the Canadian Forces Snowbirds passed overhead on their way to their annual Parliament Hill Canada Day flyover.
2. Rideau Canal - we’re lucky to live just a few short blocks from the “oldest continuously operated canal system in North America”. As of 2007, it was also designate a UNESCO World Heritage Site.(2) And it’s my favourite place to go for a run.
3. Lululemon - there are many fitness clothing companies these days. And I own lots of different brands - it’s an occupational hazard when you work in the fitness industry. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, no one can dispute that Lululemon helped make fitness clothing trendy and popular. There’s even a term for it - athleisure wear, as in athletic leisure wear. Yoga pants are not just for yoga class anymore. Lululemon was founded in 1998 in Vancouver, BC.
5. Snowbirds - the Canadian Forces Snowbirds are as iconic as poutine or beavertails.(4) And it’s a long-standing tradition that they fly over Parliament Hill on Canada Day. So much so that Ottawans who aren’t downtown for the ceremonies still get outside in droves at the noon hour. They know they’ll see the Snowbirds without having to fight the crowds.
Well, that’s wrap on Canada’s 149th birthday. I hope your celebrations were as equally Canadian!
4. S is for Shhhh - Listening to your body. You’ve heard me say it so many times - listen to your body. If an exercise hurts, don’t do it. Your body is speaking to you with that pain message. Well, I’ve been so busy lately, that I haven’t taken the time to practice what I preach. My brain is telling me it needs a break. Down time - in the form of sleep and vacation - is key to reenergizing your brain. (3)
So, when I’ve completed the sabbatical and study work, I think I’ll sleep in. Take a nap. Go to bed early. Take a trip. All of the above.
Finally, S is for: See you in September! Enjoy this beautiful weather.
1. Saving Luke: https://www.facebook.com/SavingLuke/?fref=nf
Disclaimer: The following post deals with my experiences only, and should not be construed as medical advice. I’m a fitness professional, not a doctor. If you have concerns, please seek medical help.
Note: all references & links are listed at the end of this post.
1: What you put in your mouth
For those of you who need to/want to eliminate gluten from your diet, meet Darpan Ahluwalia. Darpan owns Manotick Natural Market and My Gluten-Free Bakery. Manotick Natural Market carries a wide variety of high quality, third-party-tested supplements, vitamins, herbs, teas, cosmetics, and body care products. It is the largest gluten-free warehouse in Ottawa, a “one-stop shop for all your health needs”. There are many great natural food markets in the Ottawa area, and in my opinion, Market Natural Market is one of the best. There is always a Registered Nutritionist on staff to always answer your questions and to guide you in the right direction.
Darpan is also a Certified Live Blood Analyst and a Product Knowledge Expert/Educator with over 14 years experience. She says, “I also do one-on-one consultations in Nutrition, in all areas of health from newborn to the elderly, but my specialty is Gut and Brain Health. I am the formulator of My Gluten Free Baked goods, high in nutrition without compromising taste.” Let me tell you, Darpan’s gluten free carrot cake is amazing - I highly recommend you try it.
2: How you like to spend your time (it’s not all about Essentrics!)
One of the things I love most about teaching Essentrics is hearing from participants how it improves their performance in other activities. Even professional athletes practice Essentrics to improve their game - the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens call it their “secret weapon” for increasing on-ice speed and preventing injuries.
Back here in Ottawa, this is what Michael says about Essentrics with Amanda: “Essentrics has certainly helped my golf game. At 75, I have more flexibility, strength and stamina since taking Essentrics. After 18 holes I am not tired and have no soreness.” Michael and his lovely wife Lynda have been attending Essentrics with Amanda twice a week since 2014. I introduced you to them last winter, when Michael was focused on walking 9 holes of golf: ‘Lynda has always attended regular fitness classes, while Michael is a golfer and didn’t do any other form of exercise. Then, Michael became very sick and weak, and lost 30 pounds over the course of his illness. Lynda wanted to get him back into something that he could do and would build up his confidence. Says Lynda, “as far as I’m concerned, Essentrics with Amanda has worked wonderfully.” Michael agrees, “I feel stronger and more supple, and I figure when I start golfing in the spring, I’ll be able to walk 9 holes, and walk 18 before the end of the season,” which he hasn’t been able to do since his illness.’
9 months later, they were in South Carolina for a golf vacation, and Michael is up to 18 holes. I would say Essentrics with Amanda is their not-so-secret weapon, because I know they tell everyone how much they love the classes and how it helps them.
Essentrics helps you get back to doing what you love, which is why I love it.
3: Controlling what goes into your mouth
Someone said to me the other day, "Being an adult means you can eat cake for breakfast." Ya, it does! But, being an adult also means you need to realize that 'cake for breakfast' shouldn't be the everyday choice. Heard of the "Freshman 15"? Young adults, finally away from home, tend to go overboard when making food choices and it quickly catches up with them. One of my goals as a parent is to instill proper eating habits in my kids, so they can eat cake for breakfast as well as make healthy choices the rest of the time.
And, if I've failed, I'll make sure to send them to my friend, Lydia Di Francesco. Lydia is a personal trainer and coach who's in my village. Here's how Lyds describes her role: "I help women learn how to live a healthy lifestyle the easy way. I teach simple, yet effective, strategies for easy, healthy eating that's long-lasting and sustainable. You'll feel better and save time and money too! I work with clients through one-on-on personal training, online fitness and nutrition coaching and online education courses.
4: Prevention is key
There’s a house nearby that is having its foundation repaired, and it’s taking a long time to complete. When your foundation is crumbling, you need to fix it to keep your house standing. The same goes for your feet - if your feet start to crumble, well, you know. What’s the solution? That’s right, prevention is key. If something happens to my feet, I can’t work.
Lots of my friends go to spas for pedicures; I’ve been too and there are many great ones here in Ottawa. But since I started relying on my feet for work, I’ve only gone to TiredSole Complete Medical Foot Care. They do what’s called a medical pedicure by foot care nurses. Everything but polish, but I’ve got my daughter at home to create unique finishes on my nails. And owner Lisa Garland does a great job. There’s lots they do for many people, including light laser therapy for foot pain, advanced diabetic foot care, wound care, callus and corn removal, ingrown nails, bunions, and much more. Their clinic is located in Barrhaven, but they’re also available for in-home visits.
5: The Essentrics community
The Essentrics Movement is growing worldwide, thanks in no small part to creator Miranda Esmonde-White’s book Aging Backwards, which is now a New York Times bestseller. For many instructors such as me and Miranda herself, Essentrics is a mid-life career change. The reasons that people have for pursuing the instructor training are as varied as the people themselves. There are men and women all over the world, in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, who are teaching Essentrics classes to just as varied a population.
I recently asked my fellow instructors what their passion was and how Essentrics had helped them to keep pursuing their passion. The responses were as varied as the instructors. From hiking and skiing, to dancing, running, gymnastics, volleyball, and fitness instructor - these were some of the answers I received. Pain relief, increased energy level, jumping higher were a few of the responses to my question, “how has Essentrics helped you pursue your passion?” - we get as much out of a workout as our students. Which is why we love teaching Essentrics - we know it works and that it can help so many people. Instructor Terry Nolan says, “My balance is noticeably better, as is my stamina. I can’t wait to hit the slopes with these Essentrics Quads!!”
If you’re a runner and you love it, keep running - lots of us do. But consider incorporating Essentrics into your weekly plan to make your runs that much better. Remember the mission of Essentrics is to redefine the true meaning of fitness to be measured in one’s ability to move freely, live actively, and without pain.
6: Help with healing
“Do not get carried away…backs are complicated and they need time to heal properly, so you must be patient.” Can you relate? I know I can. I’m not a superhero; I get injured on occasion, just like every other human. Yes, I teach an amazing fitness program, and let me tell you, I definitely get injured LESS than before Essentrics entered my life. And when I am hurt, my recovery time is quicker thanks to Essentrics. And no, I did not hurt my back whilst teaching. That said, let me emphasize that sometimes, you need help with the healing process. I told you in an earlier post about my second family - LiquidGym Therapy & Training Centre - and how using the underwater treadmill & massage hose has helped my back. One of the owners at LG also recommended I seek treatment at the Alta Vista Chiropractic and Massage Clinic (AVCC), and told me to book an appointment with Clinic Director Dr. Robert Laquerre.
In the highly connected, instant gratification world that we now inhabit, patience is in short supply. I’ve been reading several books by a thought-provoking Canadian author on the topic of slowing down. My bedside table is currently occupied by “The Slow Fix: Solve Problems, Work Smarter and Live Better in a World Addicted to Speed” by Carl Honoré. One of his recommendations for a slow fix is “taking the time to arrive at the right diagnosis. When asked what he would do if given one hour to save the world, Albert Einstein answered: ‘I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.”** Why, you ask, am I talking about patience and slowing down? Well, many medical practitioners rush patients through the consultation meeting. Honoré reports that, in one study, physicians interrupted their patients after only 23 seconds. That was definitely not the case in my first appointment with Dr. Laquerre. If anything, he gently suggested I stop interrupting him during the initial examination.
Dr. Laquerre is a chiropractor that utilizes physical therapy treatment. Two machines that he used on my injured muscles were the IFC (Interferrential Current) and Ultrasound; both were used to control my pain and reduce muscle spasms. After that, it was time for a chiropractic adjustment to ensure my ribs were in alignment. A pulled muscle can easily cause a misalignment in your skeleton - i.e., bones. As it says on the AVCC website, “Pain is only a symptom indicating that something is wrong.” Sound familiar? I couldn’t have said it better myself!
7: Live the Smart way
You’ve seen the books and news stories, but how do you get there? Living a gluten-free, wheat-free life isn’t for everyone. For those of us who want (or need) to eliminate gluten from the diet, you can live the Smart Way and still enjoy tasty food. That’s where Kathy Smart comes in; she’s been referred to as an expert in clever food preparation and nutritious eating. “Gourmet nutrition” - according to Wheat Belly author, Dr. William Davis.
Kathy Smart, RNC, PTS, RSNA, HTC, has over 19 years in both the health and fitness sectors. Here’s what Kathy has to say: “I am Registered Nutritionist, Sports Nutritionist, Holistic Chef and Fitness Trainer. Featured worldwide as North America's Gluten-Free Expert I am a small town Canadian gal just wanting to make this world... a little happier and healthier:) Co Owner and Co Founder of Live The Smart Way Expos ~ Canada’s largest national health and wellness expo across Canada for a FREE health and wellness expo. We allocate $500,000 to charities and associations in the health of Canadians across Canada! Join the Movement!”
8: The psychology of fitness and teaching the habit of adaptability
The ‘culture of inactivity’ is a killer and contributes to the ‘Freshman 15’; in short, we start changing our habits and become more sedentary as early as the first year of university. When people get busy, exercise/a focus on fitness is one of the first things that falls off the plate. As do healthy eating habits, which is why I’ve been introducing you to Darpan, Lydia, and Kathy. But I digress.
Ironically, self-efficacy - i.e., your personal sense of how much control/power you have over your own life - is very intimately tied to your level of physical activity: “Their inability to cope with the environmental and social changes they face at college was a big reason why many stopped exercising.” Kind of sounds like a vicious cycle to me.
What’s the solution to end the cycle? Teach individuals to adapt early on in life, instead of trying to teach them to adopt new habits later. Seat belts, brushing teeth - health promotion initiatives such as these that target children are more effective because it becomes a habit early on. The habit of being adaptable can and should be taught, in my opinion. It’s a trait that will benefit adults at many stages in their life: “it’s not just college. This rule applies to many of life's transitions -- moving into the workforce, switching jobs or moving, getting married, having kids. In each of these moments, there is a chance for people to give up on exercise, possibly for good.”
You need to set goals to exercise and then stick to them; aka, self-control. But research shows that self-control is a finite resource. You only have so much every day. Not to worry, it resets every morning! Schedule your workout and write it down; you’re more likely to stick to it.nAnd research is showing that exercising self-control helps to strengthen your self-control: “similar to a muscle, research has shown that focusing on a task that requires self-control -- exercising or managing your money, for example -- improves other self-control-related tasks, such as cutting down on smoking and drinking or helping out with household chores.”
9: The Essentrics with Amanda village
Have you ever heard the term ‘boutique fitness’? Apparently, Essentrics with Amanda has been on the cutting edge of the fitness industry for years - and not just because Essentrics is a cutting edge workout. When I first started teaching Essentrics in 2010, my classes were small because I was just starting out and no one knew what Essentrics was all about. As I’ve grown from 1 weekly class to 10-15 weekly classes, my classes have remained small. On purpose. I don’t want anyone leaving my class in worse shape than when they arrived.
There’s no hiding in my classes - sessions are capped at between 7 and 14 participants, depending on location and type of class. Basically, it’s a group class with the feel of a semi-private session.
Another wonderful benefit of smaller group classes: Essentrics with Amanda has developed into its own village. Individuals who joined with a bunch of strangers now feel part of this wonderful collective. It has become a social event for many, and participants look forward to seeing their ‘class friends’.
10: It starts and ends with YOU
It does take a village to keep an adult healthy; and it starts with you. You've heard me say stuff like, "I don't have time is the adult equivalent of the dog ate my homework"; or, "You have as much time as Albert Einstein did". The entrepreneur in this article says it so well: "Exercise must come first, or it’s unlikely to happen at all. If exercise stops, then my health goes downhill. With the loss of physical health my productivity at work goes down. I become depressed. I lose motivation to do the things that makes my business successful. I’ve learned firsthand that excellence in one area of my life promotes excellence in all other areas of my life. Exercise is the easiest area of my life to control. It’s easy to measure. Either I get it in, or I don’t. When I do, it lifts up all other areas of my life, including my business."
References and Links
What you put in your mouth: http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/anti-inflammatory/gluten-free-diet.php
What you put in your mouth: www.fithealthy365.com
Prevention is key: www.tiredsole.com
Help with healing: http://altavistachiropractic.com/
Live the Smart way: http://livethesmartway.com
The psychology of fitness and teaching the habit of adaptability: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080109173800.htm
The Essentrics with Amanda village: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244359
It starts and ends with YOU: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245224
Learning shouldn’t stop when you graduate from high school, college, or university. One of my favourite expressions is, “You learn something new every day.”
With our aging population, so many studies are now reporting that learning new things can help stave off the debilitating effects of dementia and Alzheimer disease. How? “By strengthening the connections between parts of your brain…challenging activities strengthen entire networks in the brain.” (1) What’s good for your body is good for your brain: use it or lose it applies to your muscles, and, it seems, also applies to your grey matter.
I tried a new activity last month: drawing. My daughter loves to host “drawing parties” with the family. We meet at the dining room table, and she brings out all her fancy drawing paraphernalia - markers, pens, pencil crayons, crayons, varied “how to draw” books, etc. And a colouring book for me. You see, my husband, son, and daughter are all fantastic artists. Me, not so much. I usually get overwhelmed by the process, so she knows that I’d prefer to colour while they create their works of art.
And what about physical activity? How does learning a new fitness routine affect your brain? Well, it helps. A lot. It "improves cognition and helps people perform better on things like planning, scheduling, multitasking and working memory.” (1) Another study reported that improvements in cognitive function, memory and motor skill coordination happen after just 30 minutes of exercise. "One 30-minute session of physical activity can improve the brain’s plasticity, or its ability to change physically, functionally, and chemically. Positive changes in the brain were sustained 15 minutes after exercising.” (2)
Which brings me to Essentrics. Have you ever tried it? When people ask me what I do, my response often causes a funny look on their faces. As I begin my elevator pitch of Essentrics, they typically interrupt me with, “Oh, I already do yoga.” One of two things is happening in their brains: 1. they’re misunderstanding what Essentrics is, and jumping to the conclusion that it’s a type of yoga; or 2. they do understand that it’s different but they have no interest in trying something new. Either way, their brains could use a little Essentrics.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m always happy to hear that people are active and have a fitness routine. And I know, not everything appeals to everyone. You’ll never see me at a CrossFit gym, but several of my good friends practically live at theirs. That’s cool. BUT, all I ask of non-Essentrics folks is to try it at least once. It is a great workout for body and mind. The slow, purposeful movements require you to stay fully present during the workout. In addition to improving brain functioning, Essentrics also helps with body awareness.
I’m asking newcomers to Essentrics to at least try it, which is why Essentrics with Amanda is hosting an Open House Week next month. September 10th-17th - 6 classes in 3 locations are free to anyone who’d like to try Essentics. And there are 5 different workouts offered during the Open House - you can read a description of each here: Group Classes.
If you think you’d like to try something new with Essentrics, just drop me a line (EssentricswithAmanda@gmail.com) to reserve your spot. Try it, you just might like it. And your brain will thank you for it.
Essentrics instructors from across North America learn a new Trademark sequence from creator Miranda Esmonde-White. We're always learning :-)
This month, I want to highlight the importance of proper breathing. Take a moment, please, to roll your eyes and shake your head at this last statement - I get it. You breathe every minute of every day; if you’re not breathing, you’re dead. Let’s put aside the skepticism and examine the difference between chest breathing and belly breathing. These are the everyday terms for breathing: health professionals, though, refer to thoracic breathing (chest) and diaphragmatic breathing (belly).
Impact of chest breathing/Benefit of belly breathing
So, what’s the problem? It has to do with engagement - or lack thereof - of your diaphragm in the breathing process. Try this exercise: Put your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your abdomen. Take a big breath by slowly inhaling through your nose or mouth (whichever feels more natural). Fill your lungs up and observe which hand rises more. (2) If it’s the right hand, that means you’re a chest breather; left hand indicates belly breathing. Belly breathing means you’re utilizing your diaphragm in the process. It’s an important distinction to note, because the diaphragm is intended to be the primary mover when it comes to proper breathing technique:
“The thoracic diaphragm accomplishes about 75% of the inspiratory effort, the external intercostals 25%. Expiration is largely diaphragm and external intercostal relaxation/stretch, and lung elasticity, with some help from the internal intercostals.” (3)
When you’re not using your diaphragm correctly to breathe (aka belly breathing), the impact is that chest breathing switches your body into a vicious circle of fight-or-flight that stresses every system in your body: “stress causes us to breathe inefficiently, and inefficient breathing causes stress.” (1)
What happens to your body in the long term if you’re a chest breather most of the time? One result is chronic tension - you’re in a constant state of stress, and this can lead to migraines, neck and shoulder pain, backaches, frozen shoulder, whiplash, shoulder tendinitis, and hearing and balance problems. (1,8) Reduced lung function is common in chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, and heart failure - all conditions that improve with a switch to deep, diaphragmatic breathing: “breathing exercises improve lung function by ‘stretching’ airway tissue and inducing the release of a ‘protective chemical’ known to maintain airway integrity…[deep breathing] preserves the body’s immune function and keeps blood pressure and heart rate in check.” (4)
Once you learn how to breath with your diaphragm, you can incorporate relaxation exercises into the deep breathing. In addition to modalities such as tai chi and yoga, Essentrics also incorporates deep breathing and relaxation techniques with phenomenal results. Recently, Essentrics creator Miranda Esmonde-White led instructors-in-training through such an exercise: “With each breath of relaxation, the muscles let go and allowed the joints to increase their mobility - far more than if they had forced themselves with a contracted muscle…Some of the instructors with tight shoulders noticed their posture open and their shoulders become more slender and far more mobile…As a society, we’re programmed to think that if we work fast and hard, we will see the results quicker - and unfortunately, we don’t take time to relax and breathe.” (7)
How to Change the Way You Breathe
Societal norms tells us we should suck in our guts, not push them out; how do you reconcile that behaviour with expanding your belly during diaphragmatic breathing? Add to that the poor posture of our sedentary lifestyle - it isn’t doing you any favours when it comes to proper breathing: “A good portion of people go about their day with tight traps, shrugged shoulders, rounded backs, and caved-in chests, constantly sucking in their stomachs as they try to breathe.” (2)
If you’re not sure how to start, references 1,2, 4, 5, & 8 (see below) offer guidance and directions on mastering diaphragmatic breathing. Different techniques will appeal to different people, so I’ll leave it to you to try them out and decide which method works best for you. I’ve been contemplating deep breathing (and how to do it properly) for over a month now, and I’m still trying to get the hang of it. So, don’t despair - we’ll work on it together. To be honest, I don’t remember to do it every day. But when I do, I always feel better, happier, more relaxed, less stressed, and full of energy. Isn’t that what everyone wants?
“Small efforts go a long way when practiced regularly.” (4)
Are you the ham in an intergenerational sandwich? Stress amongst the sandwich generation is mounting, and mental health experts are ringing the alarm bells. “When you’re caring for a loved one, it’s easy to forget about your own needs, putting you at serious risk of burnout.”(1)
You’re trying to be all things to all people, and your physical and emotional well-being can get pushed to the back of the line. But, let’s face it: you’re no good to anyone if you’re constantly getting sick, taking too long to recover, stressed and anxious, not getting enough sleep. And if you’re physically unfit, it’s a safety issue for both you and your elderly parent: if you’re not strong enough to help your limited-mobility mother get in and out of the car safely/climb up and down the stairs/etc, you’re both at risk for injury. Not only will regular exercise keep your body well, it is also a great way to relieve stress: “Force yourself to get moving. Exercise is the best stress reliever. Not only will you feel better right away, the surge of endorphins that exercise triggers lifts your mood, clears your head and helps you sleep better at night.”(2)
Exercise is one form of self-care to help you manage sandwich generation stress. Other techniques include:
1 & 2: http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving-resource-center/info-12-2011/caregiver-burnout.html
Image source: pixabay.com
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.