When I last wrote a blog post about exercise, the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning to take hold. None of us knew how long until we could resume our regularly scheduled activities. The "world outside our windows" wasn't so much a scary place, just a really empty place.
As we enter the fourth month of restrictions on our movement and activities, many organizations in Ottawa have pivoted to offering online workshops and fitness classes. And I've been recruited to help deliver some of these offerings. So, here's what's on tap in July and August:
Workshops: How Can Seniors Prevent a Fall?
As we age, our risk of falling increases, as does the likelihood that a fall will cause an injury. How can we help seniors prevent a fall, maintain their independence, and avoid a hospital visit? Before the time of COVID-19, falls were the leading cause of injury, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations for seniors in North America, and half of all falls happened in the home. What about now? No data has yet been compiled on home-based falls during the pandemic, but the number has likely increased, as seniors have become more housebound as well as more sedentary.
Amanda Sterczyk, an independent author and personal trainer, will teach participants about the balance "sweet spot", the complexity of our balance system, and how easy it is to incorporate exercise into their daily lives to improve their balance and prevent falls.
There will be three opportunities to join this online workshop:
Friday, July 10th, 10:00 am, Ottawa Public Library's Zoom Portal. The session is free but you must register with the library to attend.
Monday, July 20th, 2:00 pm, Old Ottawa South Community Association. The session is pay what you can, and you must register with OSCA to attend. (Note: workshop listed as "Balance and Your Body: How Exercise Can Help You Avoid a Fall.")
Monday, August 17th, 2:00 pm, Old Ottawa South Community Association. The session is pay what you can, and you must register with OSCA to attend. (Note: workshop listed as "Balance and Your Body: How Exercise Can Help You Avoid a Fall.")
Classes: Online Fitness for Seniors
There is a three-week series of classes that will be hosted via the Ottawa Public Library's Zoom portal. Each class is free, but also requires registration. If you want to join all three, you'll have to register for each of these classes:
Friday, July 17th, 10:00 am, standing exercises
Friday, July 24th, 10:00 am, seated exercises
Friday, July 31st, 10:00 am, lying down exercises (can be completed on the floor or on a bed)
Thursdays at 2:30 pm, MOBA: Stretch with Amanda.* If you're missing classes with me, I've returned to teaching once a week. Please contact me for registration details.
*(MOBA = mobility and balance)
When the first cruise ship was quarantined due to an outbreak of COVID-19, news outlets shared footage of passengers wearing face masks while exercising on their private balconies. My first thought was, “Oh, that’s smart of them to keep moving.”
As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 increases around the world, more and more people are going to be spending time in isolation. Whether you live in an area that is under quarantine or have chosen to self-isolate for whatever reasons, you can still—and should—be physically active every day. Not sure what to do? Read on and I’ll give you some tips on staying active. But first…
Doctor’s orders. If you are sick and have been advised to not exercise, your doctor’s orders trump mine and any other fitness professional’s advice. It is, after all, a respiratory illness that causes shortness of breath. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit a trusted source. In Canada, that means listening to Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer, and her team at the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“Don’t panic.” Those are the words on the front of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and they are relevant even today. The same principles of healthy living apply even if you can’t leave your current location: eat a healthy diet, stay active, get a good night’s sleep, stay positive (i.e., don’t panic), and maintain contact with friends and family (phone calls, emails, texts, video chats are all great ways to stay connected). All of these factors will help you maintain a strong immune system.
Move. Just because you can’t get to the gym or fitness class, you can still get up and move. Here are some tips:
I hope this list helps you to stay active and maintain a positive outlook during these challenging times. Remember: move more, feel better.
After 10 years in the fitness industry, I decided to pack it in. But not before sharing my experiences as a solopreneur (solo entrepreneur). And some funny, some crazy, things that happened to me along the way. Below, you'll find the complete table of contents, as well as an excerpt from the foreword. And if you'd like to order your very own copy, you can pick it up on Amazon.
Like I say in the introduction of this, my fourth book, "If I'm being honest, I entered the fitness industry for all the wrong reasons."
From the foreword: “Whether you are an avid fitness junkie, weekend warrior, fitness instructor, or just your everyday Joe, there's something for you in this book…As you read through Amanda's journey from beginning to end, you gain inside information and a few laughs you didn't know you needed. So sit down with a cup of coffee and get ready to have a great conversation with a friend. Because that's exactly what this book feels like — a conversation with a friend about real life.”
And here's a glimpse at the Table of Contents:
The following excerpt comes from my upcoming fifth book, I Can See Your Underwear: My Journey Through the Fitness World. It's been a decade since I first took the plunge into fitness as a profession. As I look at that experience through the rear-view mirror, I can honestly say that I entered the fitness world for all the wrong reasons. Have I piqued your interest? Read on...
Did I Ever Look Like a Fitness Professional?*
I have spent many years, decades even, focused on dieting and never being truly happy with my appearance. As I said at the beginning, a huge part of me believed a career in the fitness would accelerate the process of changing my appearance.
It has never once occurred to me to judge someone else based on their appearance. Instead, I look at their character — how they treat me and others. Are they reliable? Do they keep their word? Are they kind to those less fortunate?
Yet, when it came to me, I always assumed no one would accept me unless I was skinny and svelte, especially as I transitioned into my new career in the fitness industry. What if clients wouldn’t accept me as a fitness expert because of my appearance?
More than once, I heard, “You don’t look like a fitness instructor.” What, exactly, is a fitness instructor meant to look like? People come in all shapes in sizes. Shouldn’t that ring true for individuals, no matter their profession? Rhetorical question.
I also heard, “I like taking classes with you because you look like a normal person.” Where does that come from? An unrealistic expectation and representation of everyone in the fitness industry as rake-thin, that’s where.
Skinny does not equal fit. There, I said it. A skinny person can be unfit just as easily as someone who is not as skinny. But there’s always been a part of me that doesn’t believe that for myself. Yes, I have a double standard, in that I judge myself more critically than others.
Don’t worry, I know I’m not the only one setting up base camp here. The problem is, being in the fitness industry was a constant reminder that my internal voice was judging my fitness, or rather, my unfitness to practice.
And our new-found selfie culture doesn’t help. Too many svelte fit pros spend too much time touting their amazing bodies. Or we see the before and after photos of “incredible transformations” of their previously fat clients. The “fitspiration” (fitness inspiration) images on social media imply that you’re better off being skinny and photogenic than being your true self and healthy.
My fragile ego has had enough. Even when I was starving and over-exercising to maintain what I thought was the proper form for a fitness professional, I still lacked the confidence to have my picture taken while wearing a swimsuit.
The anxiety of not looking the part created a cycle of overeating for me that collided with the start of menopause. I’m sure you know what happened next: a self-fulfilling prophecy of not “looking” like a toned fitness professional. Yes, it was self-sabotage at its worst. But the messages online also said I should look like a ballet dancer, and I’ve always been built like a soccer player. These messages, by the way, came directly from fitness gurus and their most avid followers, including fellow fitness professionals. No wonder I wasn’t able to accept myself — I didn’t feel accepted by fitness colleagues and mentors.
*Copyright Amanda Sterczyk 2020, all rights reserved.
Repeat after me: Move more, feel better.
Again: Move more, feel better.
One more time: Move more, feel better.
Is it starting to stick in your brain? That's the slogan I adopted when I created The Move More Institute™ four years ago.
It's not "Move more, look better," nor is it "move more, shed fat." It's "Move more, feel better" for a reason. Physical activity guidelines, created and promoted by national organizations in many developed countries, recommend the minimum amount of physical activity your body needs to maintain optimal health. That means how much you need to move to reduce the likelihood of many chronic diseases that will negatively impact your health and shorten your life span. And it's not a lot; we're not talking about living at the gym, we're talking about less than 30 minutes a day. Specifically, 21 minutes and 25 seconds of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. It's an achievable goal, even for the busiest person.
Breaking down a 24-hour day: assume you sleep for eight hours, that still gives you 16 hours in which to complete your 21 minutes-and-change of physical activity. And this movement doesn't need to be accomplished in one session; you can accumulate the activity over the course of the day. So if you're strapped for time at work and you're waiting for the elevator, consider taking the stairs. Even one flight of stairs works, and won't render you sweaty for that all-important meeting. If you're running errands, try parking further away and walking briskly to your destination. Or leave your car at home and "walk your errands."
I created these activity clocks to help you audit your day and figure out how you can incorporate more movement into it, without breaking the bank. This is just one component of my movement coaching course.
If you are looking for new year's goals that are achievable, try starting out with snacks of exercise. Physical activity doesn't need to be complicated, costly, or even sweaty. But it does need to happen every day. And if you move more, you will feel better. Guaranteed.
My goal for 2020 is to update my website and offer all of my online courses for free. That's my gift to you: help you achieve your movement goals.
Early last year, I had the crazy notion that I should write and self-publish a book. So I did, and I loved every moment of the process. At the time, I figured I would be a one-hit wonder, a personal trainer that had written a book, as in, ONE book.
But something magical happened when I started sharing my book with people. It was well-received. One person in particular gave me the boost I needed to continue writing. Although we’ve not yet met in person, we have been interacting for the past year. Let me explain. Last Christmas, I was completing continuing education credits to maintain my personal trainer certification. In my case, I had purchased a block of lectures from my licensing body, ACSM—the American College of Sports Medicine.
One of the lectures was by Dr. Barry Franklin. I quite enjoyed his presentation and sent him an email to thank him for the session. In my note, I mentioned that I had just written a book, Move More, Your Life Depends On It, that was in line with the key messages in his presentation, and I offered to send him a copy. He thanked me for my note, accepted my offer, and in turn offered to send me a copy of his book, One Heart, Two Feet: Enhancing Heart Health One Step at a Time. He also invited me to his conference later that winter in Michigan, Advances in Heart Disease Prevention and Rehabilitation.
Fast forward a few months, and Barry had again emailed me to suggest we collaborate on a book. I was flattered, but didn’t think about his invitation any further. At the time, I had no inclination to pen another book. But then I was inspired to write a second book, and I again reflected on Barry’s offer. I even sent him a copy of Balance and Your Body: How Exercise Can Help You Avoid a Fall along with a request: Would he be wiling to write the foreword for book three, Your Job Is Killing You: A User’s Guide to Sneaking Exercise Into Your Work Day.
He agreed and again suggested we talk about a potential collaboration. A few months ago, we finally found a suitable time to chat over the phone and hash out the beginnings of a book. Today, I am pleased to announce the title of our upcoming collaboration:
So, who is Dr. Barry Franklin? Here’s his bio from Wayne State University:
Barry A. Franklin is Director of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program and Exercise Laboratories, William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Michigan, and Professor of Physiology, Wayne State University, School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan. He is the past Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention and the American Journal of Medicine & Sports, and is a past president of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (1988) and the American College of Sports Medicine (1999). Currently, he holds formal editorial board appointments with 15 different scientific and clinical journals, including the American Journal of Cardiology, Chest, Preventive Cardiology, Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, American Journal of Health Promotion, and the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. He is also the current chair of the American Heart Associations’ Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism. Dr. Franklin and his associates have studied the hemodynamic and cardiorespiratory responses to numerous occupational and leisure-time activities. Other areas of research interest include the primary and secondary prevention of heart disease and the risks associated with sporadic, high-intensity exercise. Dr. Franklin has written or edited more than 500 publications, including 375 papers, 77 book chapters, and 27 books.
Pretty impressive, don’t you agree? We will begin writing in the spring of 2020, with an expected publication date of late 2020.
I’ve been carrying a secret around with me for over three months. Partly out of embarrassment — for me and for you, should I decide to share this secret with you. And partly out of a feeling of failure — as in, there must be something wrong with me to let this happen. Are you ready to hear my secret? It has to do with unmentionable parts of my body.
Some people, both women and men, make faces, plug their ears, and exclaim absurdities like, “Ew!” when unmentionable topics are finally mentioned. If you’re one of those people, let me be blunt: it’s time to grow the fuck up and have an adult conversation. There are many conditions that impact women’s bodies, including the space south of the belly button, that are not discussed openly. And that’s a problem, because….well, there are many reasons this is a problem. Suffice it to say, I believe we all need to be more open about health issues so we can help ourselves and others.
So, here goes, I’m going to share my secret. For over three months, I’ve been struggling with pelvic organ prolapse — aka POP. In my case, my bladder has prolapsed. That’s right, my bladder decided to pull an Elvis — as in, she wanted to leave the building.
Who knew after I turned 50 that I’d join a new group — those women with POP. As in, half of women over the age of 50, and one third of ALL women struggle with POP at some point in their lives. Yet we don't talk about it. I didn't know it was so common, and it's taken me a while to feel comfortable talking about it.
It’s not just the diagnosis that can seem like an uncomfortable topic of conversation. The symptoms of POP can also render women shy and withdrawn:
In recent years, there has been an uptick in physiotherapists who are certified to treat pelvic floor conditions like POP. This makes a lot of sense to me: the pelvic floor is a group of muscles that supports the pelvic organs and physiotherapists are trained to help with malfunctioning muscles in every other part of your body. It was the right decision for me to first visit a pelvic floor physiotherapy. I knew exercises would help me sort things out with my body, so a visit to an expert was in order. When I finally visited my doctor’s office, the idea that a specialized physiotherapist could diagnose a prolapse was summarily dismissed. But that's a story for another time.
Prolapse is not the only manifestation of pelvic floor dysfunction. Incontinence can also result, along with a host of other conditions. And, in fact, men can also experience pelvic floor dysfunction. In my mind, this is another great reason for us to be discussing what’s happening in our ‘nether regions’ in a non-sexualized fashion.
Discussing unmentionables doesn’t begin and end with the pelvic floor. Within the pelvic region, other systems can break down and cause problems. Take endometriosis, for example. It affects 10 to 20 percent of women in their childbearing years (ages 15 to 49).
So what exactly is endometriosis? It is “a condition in which tissue similar to the lining inside the uterus (called “the endometrium”), is found outside the uterus, where it induces a chronic inflammatory reaction that may result in scar tissue.”
Just like pelvic organ prolapse, the symptoms of endometriosis can be difficult to discuss openly:
Recently, my friend Lara Wellman shared her journey to a diagnosis of endometriosis. Like many girls and women who suffer with undiagnosed endometriosis, she too has been experiencing painful periods since her teenage years.
As Lara explains, “I put up with them my whole life. Then, last May, the pain was off the charts the entire day. To the point that I went to the ER to make sure I wasn’t dying. I haven’t had a pain-free day since.”
Let that comment sink in: so much pain that she thought she was dying. And Lara has had kids, so she gets vaginal pain from childbirth.
Like many “female issues,” the pain we experience during our periods is often dismissed as “just another thing we shouldn’t complain about.” After all, that’s what Midol is for — so the advertisers and medical community tell us. Yet this “normalization” of pain, and the need to not be seen as whining, keep women from talking about their symptoms.
As Lara told me, “Doctors aren’t being taught about endometriosis, so they can’t put the pieces together.” Though they acknowledge menstrual pain, they also brush it off: “Oh ya, periods hurt. Try the pill or lots of Advil,” explains Lara.
It’s yet another case where women put others' health and wellness ahead of their own. If our child or spouse was in so much pain, we’d be packing them off to the doctor immediately. When it comes to our own bodies, we let things slip when something’s not right “down there.”
Look, I know I’m only scratching the surface here when it comes to unmentionable conditions. I haven’t even broached stuff like interstitial cystitis, polycystic ovary syndrome, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids, or gynecologic cancers. My point is, we need to start being more open about what’s happening with our bodies. Because someone else is probably also suffering in silence.
Later today, I’ll be delivering the first of three workshops on fall prevention. Each one takes place in a different branch of our local library, and cover the east, west, and central parts of Ottawa.
I’ve designed an interactive session, where I’ll teach participants the various balance exercises that are featured in my second book, Balance and Your Body: How Exercise Can Help You Avoid a Fall. It seems only fitting that I’m delivering workshops based on my book, since it was a workshop request that precipitated the creation of Balance and Your Body.
Here’s another excerpt from my book that addresses static balance.*
Is It a Photo or a Video?
Balance is a “sweet spot” between our base of support — typically our feet — and our centre of gravity — our weight distribution — while we’re moving or standing still in an upright position. As we move through life, the dynamic aspect is key. We are creatures of movement, and most people want to continue to move. But our aging bodies sometimes have difficulty balancing the key balance components (pun intended). Our balance can suffer as we become less mobile.
Imagine a dog walking on a slippery surface. They appear more sure-footed than their human counterparts, who are often slip-sliding along the ice. That's because the dogs have a lower centre of gravity and a wider base of support.
Static balance involves maintaining your centre of gravity over your base of support. I like to compare the practice of standing upright to a still photograph. Dynamic balance is when your centre of gravity moves away from your base of support, but you are still in control. That is, your muscles are firing to keep you from falling to the ground. That’s when your balance is more like a video.
The exercises in this book target both static and dynamic balance because they’re both important and need to be maintained.
As you reduce your base of support, you want to be able to remain standing. There are five foot positions that have you moving from a wide, stable base of support to a narrower, less stable one. They are:
*copyright 2019 Amanda Sterczyk, all rights reserved.
Frequent, flexible, and free. That's my motto with Your Job Is Killing: A User's Guide to Sneaking Exercise into Your Work Day. Please read on to enjoy an excerpt from my upcoming third book. It will help you understand why I wrote this book, and how it can help you and your fellow professional sitters to sit less and move more at work. Your very life depends on it.
(copyright 2019 Amanda Sterczyk, all rights reserved)
It was an office job that precipitated my career change into the fitness industry. After spending several years at home with my young children, being confined to an office took its toll on my emotional and physical well-being. Endless meetings and conference calls where I felt chained to my chair were the norm. All I wanted to do was get up and go for a walk. In fact, at one point I was reprimanded for spending too much time visiting colleagues’ offices. Even though I was applying a 1980s solution to a 21st century problem, my boss thought my added movement was making me unproductive.
Do you have a desk-based job? Are you a professional sitter? The knowledge-based economy means that many adults sit at their desks and in meetings for hours at a time every day. Productivity, profit, and professionalism lead people to remain seated at all times. But we're not in an airplane, and there is no turbulence. This physical inactivity is killing us.
This book will help teach you how to sneak “snacks” of exercise and movement into your work day. This is not some “let’s crush it with squats in the boardroom” type of book. It’s not about how to get the most out of your new treadmill desk. And it’s not an exercise manual either. There are plenty of resources available to show you how to exercise at work, including my free online course, “Add Movement at Work.”
With this book, I want to show you that adding stuff to your office to encourage movement is not the most practical or cost-effective solution. Instead, I’ll show you that moving more at work needs to be frequent, flexible, and free. I’ll leave the sweaty, costly, and complex office workouts to others.
If you read my first book, Move More, Your Life Depends On It, you’ll notice some similar content in this book. When Move More was first published, I was often asked, “Who is this book for?” My response was: for anyone who sits too much — for physically inactive office workers, for sedentary older adults, and for anyone who needs to break up the time they spend on their duff.
Regrettably, some of these groups didn’t identify with the message in Move More because they didn’t “see” themselves portrayed in my first book. Hence this updated perspective, which is targeted specifically to professional sitters.
You can visit Amazon to purchase your copy today.
Last week, the world of professional football was stunned when starting quarterback Andrew Luck announced his retirement. It was at the end of a pre-season game, and few saw it coming. After all, Luck is only 29 years old; he’s in the prime of his NFL career. But he’s been saddled with injuries and pain. I think he made the right decision for his body. To be so young and in so much pain — pain that can be avoided.
We discussed it a few days after the surprise announcement. The general consensus at the family dinner table was this: he’s smart to get out while he still has a chance to recover from his injuries and enjoy life. The topic got me wondering about my sudden departure from the world of fitness. (If you’re just tuning in, let me catch you up: I announced in July that I’m putting my fitness business on hold and returning to the paid workforce.)
Although I was sad when I made the decision and began dusting off my resume, I was also relieved. You see, I sustained two foot injuries in two consecutive years — and yes, the second injury was a direct result of lack of healing time from injury number one.
After I got through the emotional journey of saying goodbye to my business that I’ve been nurturing and growing for nine years, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. Relief that my foot could finally heal properly and no longer cause me pain. I was still soldiering through classes and privates with clients, even though I was in pain most of the time. But the pain was impacting my personal time. In a nutshell, I wasn’t enjoying life.
So consider this my official retirement…from fitness. You know I’ll still be writing books — Your Job Is Killing You will be out this fall — but the only workouts I’ll be doing, or not doing, are ones for myself. Because some days, I like to take a break and let my body rest. It’s tough to take a break from working out when fitness is your business.
As I write this, I still haven’t found a job. But I’m optimistic that I’ll find the right role in the near future. It’s a retirement from fitness, but a new beginning in another field.
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.