It’s been five years since I published my first book. At the time, I thought I’d be a one-hit wonder. But I’ve gone on to publish a total of 11 books and one audiobook. So I now confidently introduce myself as a writer, especially since I’m working on my next few manuscripts.
In recognition of my five-year authorship anniversary, I’ve been reflecting on what led me to write my first book, Move More, Your Life Depends on It. That was published in 2019, but I founded THE MOVE MORE INSTITUTE™ in 2016. It was an initiative I created to help sedentary individuals learn how to incorporate non-exercise activity into their daily lives. You know, how our grandparents used to live when they didn’t have so many labour-saving devices at their fingertips.
Here’s a post about it from 2018, when I appeared on local television to promote my initiative:
Living in the nation’s capital—home to the federal government and a multitude of associations and institutes—I wanted a whimsical, tongue-in-cheek title for my initiative. That’s how THE MOVE MORE INSTITUTE™ came into existence. But there was nothing formal or regimented about it. In reality, I was trying to work myself out of a job. You see, as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer, many clients participated in weekly exercise with me. But for many, that was the extent of their physical activity. The rest of their waking hours, they were mostly sedentary at work and home. I was trying to inspire people to sit less, move more--even if that meant they no longer felt the need to attend my classes or hire me for personal training.
And that was a problem, because sitting had been identified as the “new smoking." You see, exercise alone isn’t enough. Daily movement that breaks up long periods of sitting is vital. I first read about this concept in the 2011 book, Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, by Dr. Joan Vernikos—the former Director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division. Vernikos was instrumental in astronaut John Glenn’s return to space at the age of 77.
Although I wrote about Vernikos’ important work as early as 2014, Vernikos published her first book on the topic a decade earlier— The G-Connection: Harness Gravity and Reverse Aging. Although I can confidently say I’ve been ahead of my time with many of my publications, it is Dr. Vernikos’ ground-breaking research at NASA that led the movement to reduce sedentary time. When I realized in 2018 that many of my blog posts had already touched on this important topic, I knew I wanted to expand on my previous writing and turn it into a book.
So that’s my story of how NASA inspired my writing career. If you haven’t had a chance to read Dr. Vernikos' work, I’d recommend any of her books. But my favourite is still Sitting Kills, Moving Heals.
Other books by Joan Vernikos, Ph.D.:
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I fell this morning.
Correction: I tripped and fell. While I was running. I’m okay, thanks for asking. Just a bit stiff and sore, but I’ll survive. No broken bones and I thankfully didn’t hit my head, so no concussion either.
Here’s how it (I) went down: It was early. It was dark. I was tired. I didn’t notice the uneven sidewalk. I didn’t lift my foot up enough—I was tired, remember? And then it happened.
It happened so fast, I didn’t even realize I was falling. So I didn’t have time to try and prevent myself from hitting the pavement at full force. All of a sudden, I was on the ground thinking to myself, “What just happened?!”
That’s the problem with falling: when it happens, it happens fast. You often don’t have enough time to react. And as we get older, our reaction times slow down even more. Coupled with the fact that our bones can become more brittle, falls in older adults can be life-altering. In some cases, falls can be life-threatening.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), falls account for 80% of seniors’ injury hospitalizations. Those same seniors make up half of the injury hospitalizations in Canada. That means when a senior falls, they’re more likely to be severely injured. And if you’ve fallen once, you’re more likely to fall a second time within the next 18 months.
These life-altering falls reduce a person’s independence—they often can no longer stay living in their own home.
What’s the solution? Avoid falling. I’m not being facetious: fall prevention is a big deal and can mean the difference between injury, hospitalization, even death. Simple exercises that don’t require special equipment, fancy clothing, or sweating. They can be done in your own home. Ideally, they should be done every day to improve balance, coordination, and mobility. These exercises increase muscle and bone strength, as well as posture—which is important to avoid a momentum-based fall.
Not sure where to start? I’ve published 5 books of balance exercises for fall prevention:
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It’s another new year, which some see as an opportunity to change their behaviour and incorporate healthy new habits into their daily lives. Can you relate? Have you set a new year’s resolution to, for instance, join a gym and get fit? When I used to teach group fitness classes, I’d often see a bump in attendance figures at the beginning of a new year.
Instead of new healthy habits, I’m pausing a long-standing habit. This new year, I’m taking a break from exercise. You can too and still feel good about yourself and your physical wellbeing.
Let me explain. Although I’m not exercising per se, I’m still staying physically active. How is it that possible, you ask?
Physical activity is not an all-or-nothing thing. In fact, physical activity lies on a continuum, from NEAT to elite. Let me break it down with a few definitions first.
Physical activity encompasses all activities, at any intensity, including exercise. What’s the alternative to exercise? NEAT, non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or incidental activity. NEAT is all the ways your body burns energy that is not eating, sleeping, or dedicated exercise.
NEAT relates to moving about in daily life. Our bodies need both exercise and non-exercise activity, but much of that non-exercise activity has been lost to technology and labour-saving devices.
So, you see, I’m taking a break from exercise, but I’m still moving lots every day. My exercise break isn’t permanent; it’s just a temporary pause while I recover from an injury. I’m still staying physically active with lots of NEAT/incidental activity, because I know that all activity leads to benefits for both physical and mental health. That’s because I don’t live to exercise; I exercise to live. And I want to live a long time.
If you’re not up to joining a gym this month, if you don’t want to live to exercise, you don’t need to.
Let’s reframe physical activity: All exercise is movement, but not all movement is exercise. No special equipment, change of clothing, fancy exercise sequences, or location changes are required to just get off your butt and move more. If you move more, you will feel better. Guaranteed.
Want more tips to help you incorporate non-exercise activity into your life? Check out my first book, Move More: Your Life Depends On It.
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:
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.
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.
Amanda Sterczyk is an international author, Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor.