A few days ago, my book cover designer sent me the cover roughs for my upcoming fourth book, I Can See Your Underwear: My Journey Through the Fitness World. It was a set of four options on the design for my cover. In less than 24 hours, we were back and forth twice more, and I had my final design. (And if you keep reading, you’ll see it for yourself.)
We had actually started the process a few months ago, but I asked her to hit pause on the design. You see, I thought I was fine with the title and subtitle, but I was having second thoughts. No point having my designer go through a full round of editing if the text was liable to change!
And that’s a key part of the creative process, especially when you’re a self-published author: having a catchy title that’ll will be noticed, but that also includes multiple keywords. You know, the words someone might type into a Google or Amazon search bar to find a book. In the case of my fourth book, I jumped the gun on naming it. Luckily, I realized my error before I had spent money on the cover design.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I unpaused the cover design, asking my designer to continue with this project. We again had a few back and forth emails, and in one she asked about font.
“I trust your design expertise on the font front.”
Well, that was probably the best response I could have sent, because she replied along the lines,
“If you trust my design skills, can I give you feedback on the image you chose?”
When planning my book covers, I browse stock photo websites and purchase images there. In this case, though, my cover designer felt the image I had chosen was of lower quality than my other cover images. Basically, it wasn’t the right look for the overall theme of my books. She then recommended I hire a graphic artist to create an image that worked with my other covers.
Thus began a multi-day search for a suitable artist. I vetted half a dozen artists and settled on one who, it turns out, lives about 15 minutes away from me! I was speaking with artists from around the world, and found the most suitable one very close to home. Small world indeed…
What a fun process it was to have a talented artist create the image that I would eventually use! First round saw him send me a black and white image for approval:
Next up, he filled in the colours and sent me several drafts over the course of a Saturday afternoon and evening. By the fourth draft, I was pleased with the final product and signed off on it. So that was the image I sent to my cover designer, along with a mockup of my cover—this time, with all the right words in the title and subtitle.
Would you like to see the cover of my next book? Keep scrolling down this page…
What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment below.
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.
This month’s blog post is an excerpt from my third book, Your Job Is Killing You: A User's Guide to Sneaking Exercise into Your Work Day, which will be published later this year. If you like this — or any of the excerpts you’ve read from any of my books — please buy a copy. Authors depend on sales to pay the bills. If you’re in Ottawa, you can contact me to purchase your copy. If you’re elsewhere in the world, you can visit Amazon to purchase a paperback or e-book version.
Are You a Professional Sitter?
Do you work in a knowledge-based environment? That is, do you spend most of your working life either at a desk or at a table in a meeting room? If so, then congratulations, you are officially a professional sitter! But you’re not alone. Many adults around the world spend 50 per cent (or more!) of their waking hours mostly sitting.
You know who you are — office workers who nab the first available seat on the daily commute, colleagues who remain seated during the breaks in meetings (seriously, the seat belt sign is off, you’ve been granted permission to move about the cabin), individuals who opt for the elevator/escalator/moving sidewalk instead of employing the heel-toe express, “watch watchers” who take a seat and await the timer countdown on their microwaved lunch. You get the gist — too much sitting and not enough moving.
My slogan is “move more, feel better.” This simple message holds much power: the solution to your aches and pains, lack of motivation, and foggy brain is in your control. You can do it! Get off your butt and move about the cabin.
As my client Janice said, “This is needed! I am retired after 35 years at a desk, getting up only to sit in a meeting. Only in the last few years was there recognition of the need to move more during the day. Good luck with your book!”
And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Take biomechanist and movement guru Katy Bowman. I’ve been reading her books for years, following her social media posts, and sharing her insights with my clients. You could say we’re kindred spirits in the world of natural movement. And she even has a book to help people incorporate stretches and movements at work. Bowman, like many of us in the world of practical fitness, feels strongly about more movement, more of the time:
“For decades, researchers have been trying to figure out the best way to organize the body for optimal performance at the office. The underlying flaw in much of the research—or at least in the presentation of the research—is that it fails to highlight the use of a single position as the problem. Our quest to find an optimal position for stillness will always be frustrated by the problems inherent in a lack of movement.”*
Copyright, 2019 by Amanda Sterczyk, all rights reserved.
*Katy Bowman, Don’t Just Sit There: Transitioning to a Standing and Dynamic Workstation for Whole-Body Health (United States of America: Propriometrics Press, 2015), p. 10. Reprinted with permission.
Now that my second book, Balance and Your Body: How Exercise Can Help You Avoid a Fall, is available to the public, I’ve had several people ask me who this book is for. As in, who is my target audience?
I wrote this book as a self-help exercise guide for caregivers, family members, and, most importantly, seniors. It features a dozen foundational exercises with step-by-step instructions and illustrations that they can use as a home-based exercise plan.
What’s different about my book? The exercises don’t require special equipment or the need to get on the floor. Each exercise also includes modifications on how to make it easier or harder, depending on abilities. Falls are the leading cause of injury, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations for seniors in North America. The goal with my book is to help seniors increase their confidence — after all, the fear of falling contributes to the risk of falling — and improve their strength and balance so they won’t sustain a life-altering fall.
So let’s see how these distinct groups can utilize my book.
Caregivers. “Would you present to our staff about how to help our senior clients? You know, teach them easy exercises that they can do with clients during visits.” Be it a personal support worker, care aide, nursing assistant, or nurse, there are many professionals that provide care and support to seniors in their homes, in retirement homes, and in long term care facilities. Knowing how to help senior clients maintain balance and strength improves their ability to serve their client group. When I’ve presented to caregiver groups, they are so appreciative of the information I have shared. My book is easy to read and compact, so they can easily carry it from one appointment to the next.
Family Members. “Can You Help My Aging Parent? They’re living alone and I’m in another city. I’m worried they’re going to fall and hurt themselves. They won’t go to a gym, and I saw on your website that you offer in-home fitness training to older adults.” I’ve seen many emails and received just as many phone calls like this. Increasingly, adult children are living in different cities from their elderly parents and they feel helpless. They may see their parents infrequently, and each time, the changes in their loved ones can be an eye-opener. Time is marching on and the physical declines are more marked with each passing visit. In many cases, they want to help their parents maintain their independence and stay in their homes. And they know one slip, trip, or fall is all that separates their mother or father from permanent residency at a long-term care facility. When I do visit their parents, we begin to work on the main components of fall prevention: balance, strength, and mobility.
Do you have aging parents or grandparents whose lives you need to monitor in addition to your own life? You can pick up a copy of Balance and Your Body for your loved one, go through the exercises with them — remember, each exercise includes instructions on how to make it harder if you’re doing it with them — and/or leave the book with them for their own practice. Or are you an employer whose staff have aging parents? I’ve also presented to businesses, so their employees can help aging parents stay in their homes longer. These card-carrying members of the sandwich generation don’t have the time to research fall prevention exercises that they can teach their parents/grandparents. A lunch and learn to cover the basics of balance and how to prevent a fall will ease their minds and let them focus on how to help their aging loved ones when they’re not at work.
Seniors. “I want to be able to go for a walk with my husband.” This is just one of many fitness goals I hear from my senior clients. Finding time to do these exercises doesn’t have to be complicated. When I work with clients in their homes, I send follow-up emails that list and describe the exercises we’ve done together. My goal is to make clients comfortable doing the exercises on their own. In many cases, they write out the exercises on a sheet of paper for quick reference. You know, something that they can leave on the counter and refer to throughout the day. They often tell me that their list allows them to tackle the exercises one at a time, without feeling overwhelmed. I decided to compile these exercises in a book, as a quick reference guide for other seniors. And each exercise is a standalone passage. You can start with just one or try them all in one session. Whatever works for you. You will benefit either way.
How to buy. Would you like a paperback or e-book version of Balance and Your Body? It’s available for sale worldwide on Amazon. And if you’re in Ottawa on July 11th, why don’t you join me for the official book launch? Because even if this book isn't geared to you, there's probably someone in your life who could benefit from it.
Recently, one of my class participants chimed in with the following, “Will you please tell us what we should do for exercise over the summer?” To which I replied, “Move more.” You see, I take a teaching break every July and August, and she was wondering about workout suggestions.
I was only partly kidding when I responded with “move more.” Most people sit too much, even if they do attend weekly exercise classes. Heck, I’m in the process of writing my third book on the topic. But I would also like to address her question more specifically.
When I take a break from teaching Essentrics, I take a break from Essentrics altogether. Don’t get me wrong, I love Essentrics. But I also love other ways of moving and working out. And our bodies need variety in movement and exercise.
That’s what fellow fitness professional Kathryn Bruni-Young says about variety in exercise. Kathryn is the founder of Mindful Strength and I’m taking one of her online courses this summer. Her amazing Facebook group is one of the reasons I’ll never be able to fully extricate myself from Facebook. She is a pioneer in the fitness industry and an ardent promoter of mindfulness as it relates to body awareness. Her podcasts, blog posts, and online workouts take me outside my comfort zone both as a teacher and a student.
But please don’t ask me what class you should take when we’re on a break. Before I became a group fitness instructor, I rarely attended group fitness classes. I’m more of a loner when it comes to exercise. If you’re interested in joining a group fitness class, we are fortunate in Ottawa to have so many exercise options available. I honestly don’t keep track of other group fitness options — I’m busy enough with my own classes and clients. But if someone asks me about a different type of class, I tell them, “Try it! You may love it.” One of my other regulars recently tried Nia dance for the first time. She commented that she enjoyed how it was a bit similar and a bit different from Essentrics.
With that in mind, I thought instead I’d share what my fitness plans are this summer. You may have different plans entirely, and that’s okay. Try a few things and see what sticks. You may be surprised at what motivates you to move. And I’ll tell you now, many of my workouts happen in my living room — thanks to YouTube!
I hope this list helps you choose your fitness options this summer.
Remember: Move more, feel better. And have a great summer!
"Can you help my aging parent? They’re living alone and I’m in another city. I’m worried they’re going to fall and hurt themselves. They won’t go to a gym, and I saw on your website that you offer in-home fitness training to older adults.”
I’ve seen many emails and received just as many phone calls like this. Increasingly, adult children are living in different cities from their elderly parents and they feel helpless. They may see their parents infrequently, and each time, the changes in their loved ones can be an eye-opener. Time is marching on and the physical declines are more marked with each passing visit.
In many cases, they want to help their parents maintain their independence and stay in their homes. And they know one slip, trip, or fall is all that separates them from permanent residency at a long-term care facility. When I do visit their parents, we begin to work on the main components of fall prevention: balance, strength, and mobility. The exercises I teach them all help to alleviate the fear of falling.
And it inspired the topic of my next book, Balance and Your Body: How Exercise Can Help You Avoid a Fall. The rest of this post is an excerpt from my upcoming book. As we age, our risk of falling increases, as does the likelihood that a fall will cause an injury. In Canada, falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians. Twenty to thirty percent of seniors experience one or more falls each year. Falls are the cause of 85 per cent of seniors' injury-related hospitalizations. You may be surprised to learn that falls are the cause of 95 per cent of all hip fractures. And fully half of all falls causing hospitalization happen at home.
In the United States, data reported by the National Council on Aging show that one quarter of Americans over the age of sixty-five will fall each year. A fall is the prevailing source for hospital admissions in the elderly. An emergency room in the United States treats a senior fall victim every 11 seconds. And if you’re an older adult, you’re more likely to die from a fall than any other cause.
In the past, research attributed the risk of falls exclusively to aging. That is, the older we got, the more likely it was that we will fall. In fact, it’s more like aging and lack of physical activity are working in concert to increase the likelihood that we will fall: as we age, we are typically less active, our bodies gets weaker, our bones get more brittle, and we’re more likely to fall. And when we do sustain a fall later in life, we’re also more likely to be injured.
￼Finding time to do these exercises doesn’t have to be complicated. When I work with clients in their homes, I send follow-up emails that list and describe the exercises we’ve done together. My goal is to make them comfortable with doing the exercises on their own. In many cases, they write out the exercises on a sheet of paper for quick reference. You know, something that they can leave on the counter and refer to throughout the day. The following list is your quick reference guide.
Want to learn more? Balance and Your Body will be available in paperback and e-book format this summer.
The following is an excerpt from my book, Move More, Your Life Depends On It: Practical Tips to Add More Movement to Your Day.* As a Canadian, I researched and wrote about Canadians’ physical activity levels, or lack thereof. But the shockingly high levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour are seen across the globe. Indeed, the newest physical activity guidelines for Americans emphasize that every minute of movement counts, and they should sit less and move more.(1)
How Much Do Canadians Move Every Day?
Our bodies were designed to move, but how much do most Canadians actually move every day? Not enough, according to healthcare experts. And it’s costing us as a nation to the tune of 3.7 per cent of overall health-care spending.(2)
The World Health Organization defines physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.”(3) I don’t see anything in that definition that mentions sweating, special clothing, “feeling the burn,” or expensive gym memberships. What it does tell us is that movement—any movement—is physical activity. You need to move your muscles, or you will lose them. It’s not rocket science, people!
Increasing the physical activity of Canadians would save lives—in excess of 6,600 premature deaths, or 2.4 per cent of the national population over a 25-year period. What’s more, as a country that provides universal health care to its citizens, national healthcare costs and chronic conditions would decline with a modest increase in daily physical activity. We’re talking thousands of fewer cases of cancer (31,000), type 2 diabetes (120,000), heart disease (170,000), and hypertension (222,000).(4)
Regular movement—loading your muscles and bones by working against gravity and then walking away from your desk—is what your body needs. Statistics Canada crunched the numbers and reported that you’ll have a lower risk of premature death if you stand or walk around regularly, as opposed to staying seated for most of the day.(5)
So, how much should we move as Canadians? I’m glad you asked. Let’s have a look.
How Much Should Canadians Move Every Day?
According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, adults need 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per week to maintain optimal health.(6) In the “moderate” category, examples include brisk walking and bike riding, whilst in the “vigorous” category, jogging and cross-country skiing are listed.
So, why exercise? It improves your fitness, strength, and mental health (morale and self-esteem), and it reduces your risk of premature death, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and obesity.(7)
These are the minimum guidelines for physical activity. However, Statistics Canada data indicates that only 15 per cent of adult Canadians meet these minimum requirements.(8) Broken down to a daily level, the minimum exercise requirements—which were measured with accelerometers—equate to 21.42 minutes of daily exercise.
What are Canadian adults doing with their time when they are not exercising? They’re being mostly sedentary, that’s what—over 9.5 hours per day, which accounts for 69 per cent of their waking hours.(9) And, as we saw earlier, too much sedentary behaviour is creating a global health-care crisis.
Even if you meet the recommended physical activity guidelines, sedentary behaviour in the remaining hours of your day is still detrimental to your health.(10) Those remaining hours are the focus of this book. I will help you add non-exercise activity in common sense ways. Consistent with my original goal when I first created The Move More Institute™, I will share easy to implement and low-cost or free options. Let’s go.
How Do You Accumulate Physical Activity?
Ready for some good news? The activity our bodies crave and need can happen in minuscule increments. Indeed, a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association reported that physical activity that was accumulated in sporadic bouts throughout the day still reduced the risk of early death.(11) The total amount of daily physical activity is more important than how you accumulate that activity.
What are your health or fitness goals? Disease prevention or injury prevention? Enjoyment of life? If you fall into one of these categories, there really is no need to go all out at the gym. For many people, their unspoken goals of fitness are basic to existence—prevent premature death and live life fully and pain-free. If you fall into this group, don’t despair about people who may have more specific or rigorous fitness goals. You can focus instead on accumulating small, sporadic bouts of movement throughout your day. Every little bit counts toward your total physical activity: walking to the store, taking the stairs, or getting up from your desk and pacing during a conference call. As I mentioned before when describing my mission with The Move More Institute™, I call them “snacks of exercise.” And these snacks don’t require fancy workout clothes or special equipment, or the need to shower before continuing your day. Every little bit of movement matters. Just ask actress Eva Marie Saint.
“Did you know I’m older than the Oscars? Just keep moving.”(12) Just. Keep. Moving. Those were the words Saint uttered at the 2017 Oscars. She was pondering the fact that the awards show was celebrating 90 years, and she was older at 93. And she looked fantastic, standing proudly, displaying every inch of her 5’4” frame—not stooped over and shuffling like many others later in their lives.
And she’s right, you know. There is no secret elixir for aging well. You just have to keep moving. No fancy equipment or expensive gym membership required!
You know the drill: Time for a break! You’ve been sitting long enough; time to get up and move. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be right here, waiting for you. Now go move your beautiful body!
If you enjoyed this excerpt, please consider buying the book. It’s available globally on Amazon and locally in Ottawa (contact me for more details).
*Copyright 2018 Amanda Sterczyk, all rights reserved
1. Katriana L. Piercy & Richard P. Troaino. "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans From the US Department of Health and Human Services." Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, 11 (2018): 1-3. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.118.005263
2. Ian Janssen. “Health Care Costs of Physical Inactivity in Canadian Adults.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 37, no. 4 (2012): 803–806.
3. World Health Organization, Fact Sheet on Physical Activity, http://www.who.int/topics/physical_activity/en/. Reprinted with permission.
4. Hayley Wickenheiser, “We must move more to improve Canadians’ health,” Ottawa Citizen, March 15, 2017, http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/wickenheiser-we-must-move-more-to-improve-canadians-health.
5. Fares Bounajm, Thy Dinh, and Louis Thériault, Moving Ahead: The Economic Impact of Reducing Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour (Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada, 2014): 15, http://sportmatters.ca/sites/default/files/content/moving_ahead_economic_impact_en.pdf.
6. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults—18–64 years, (first viewed October 10, 2017), http://www.csep.ca/CMFiles/Guidelines/CSEP_PAGuidelines_adults_en.pdf.
7. CSEP, Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.
8. Rachel C. Colley et al., “Physical activity of Canadian adults: Accelerometer results from the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey,” Health Reports 22, no. 1 (January 2011): 4, http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2011001/article/11396-eng.pdf.
9. Colley, “Physical activity of Canadian adults”, 4.
10. Carol Ewing Garber et al., “Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 43, no. 7 (July 2011): 1334–1359, https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2011/07000/Quantity_and_Quality_of_Exercise_for_Developing.26.aspx.
11. Pedro F. Saint-Maurice et al., “Moderate‐to‐Vigorous Physical Activity and All‐Cause Mortality: Do Bouts Matter?” Journal of the American Heart Association (March 22, 2018), https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.117.007678.
12. “‘I’m older than the Academy’: Eva Marie Saint hands out Oscar at age 93,” CTV News, March 4, 2018, https://www.ctvnews.ca/i-m-older-than-the-academy-eva-marie-saint-hands-out-oscar-at-age-93-1.3828591.
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.
What, exactly, is balance? It’s “the state of having your weight spread equally so that you do not fall”.(1) Think about it like this: it’s your centre of gravity over your base of support. That’s why four-legged creatures have an easier time maintaining balance on slippery surfaces: they have a lower centre of gravity and a wider base of support.
We all need good balance to safely move around our world on a daily basis, but have you ever thought about it? If you’ve ever lost your balance, fallen and sustained an injury, you get it. Balance is a critical component of walking - because walking is essentially a weight transfer and balance exercise. One foot, then the other. Repeat. If you’re having trouble with balance, how will you be with walking? Well, walking will also be difficult, and that’s when you’re most likely to risk a fall.
If balance is a challenge for you, you’re likely more aware of its importance. The ability to maintain an upright position without falling over — it’s cute when a toddler is learning to walk unaided. A young child falls regularly, but over time, their balance improves and they fall less. As adults, poor balance can be life-threatening and, frankly, quite frightening.
As we age, our balance is impacted negatively by our aging bodies:
- cells die in our vestibular system, which is connected to the centre in our brain that controls balance,
- our vision declines and with it, our depth perception,
- changes to our blood pressure may cause dizziness, lightheadness or blurriness,
- we lose muscle mass, strength, and power — this can slow our reaction time if we trip,
- our reflexes and coordination also decline, and
- a variety of health problems may also impact our balance, including arthritis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.(2)
So, how is your balance? Did you know it’s actually one of your senses?(3) The myth that we have only 5 senses - sight, taste, touch, feeling, & hearing - can be traced back to Aristotle. But scientists know that we have many more than five. These include the sense of movement, temperature, hunger, thirst, pain, balance, and proprioception. Fitness professionals in the functional fitness realm regularly refer to proprioception - your ability to sense where the parts of your body are without seeing them. You know, how you can get up in the dark and walk to your bathroom without falling over. And think about a law-enforcement official asking you to close your eyes and touch your nose as a sobriety test. That’s proprioception!
Regular physical activity is key to maintaining good balance. An exercise program that focuses on specific balance exercises as well as core strengthening and movement patterns will improve balance and stability, not to mention daily function.
- Test yourself: set a timer and stand on one leg; repeat on the other side (this is your baseline)
- Check your feet/remove your shoes to engage proprioception
- Bend your standing leg to lower your centre of gravity
- Focus on a static point (e.g., during class, not me, but a point above my head)
- Think about your joints, making them as light as possible
- Slight pelvic tilt, engage the abs
- If in doubt, reset by lowering your leg to the ground
- Airplane arms out to the side to increase your base of support
- Stand near a wall/chair or gently touch a wall/chair with your hand
- Need more help? Sign up for one of my online courses, “3 Days to Better Balance” or “Balance 2.0”
What’s on your bucket list? Are you missing out on life? Has a fear of falling or a past fall impacted how and when you go out? As we get older, the risk of falls that can injure us increases. As a result, individuals like you curb their activity levels. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you take ownership of your body, you can be as active as you like. Working on improving your balance and strengthening your muscles will increase your confidence and reduce the risk of a fall. So you can get back to enjoying your life, and continue to tackle that bucket list.
Your body was designed to last a lifetime; but you need to use it daily for lasting effects. I have created online courses that can help: “3 Days to Better Balance” and “Balance 2.0: Progressions in Motion”. Both include daily videos with exercises and instructions on how to use more muscles in daily life. You’ll also receive daily check-ins with me via email or text message - this will help keep you on track with your goals.
Here’s some feedback from participants completed my online balance courses:
“I found as I stood at the sink doing my teeth, and at the bus stop, being very aware of my standing base.”
“Wow so great for my unconscious winter hunched shoulders’ posture!”
“I really needed the 3 Day Balance work. It was great.”
A. How often do you walk sideways? It’s a great way to strengthen your inner and outer thighs - aka, your adductor and abductor muscles. Sideways walking can help improve your balance, by strengthening these smaller stabilizing muscles. And it’s great brain training too - since we don’t typically walk sideways, your body and brain have to exert more effort to move.
B. Backwards walking to improve your balance? You betcha! It’s important to rely on more than just your eyes when you’re moving around in life. Walking backwards helps you improve your proprioception, by relying on the input from your feet.
It’s also strengthening your brain-body connection by creating new pathways in your brain. AND improving coordination in the lower half of your body.
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.