I tell my students that if your fitness class doesn't challenge you, it won't change you. Well, guess what? The Universe decided to make me walk my talk.
Ever since my bi-lateral hip replacement ten years ago, I've told myself that HIIT classes out of the pool are too intense for my artificial hips. Never mind that they're made of titanium, the strongest metal currently known to man, or that the only restriction my orthopedic surgeon gave me beyond three months post-op was doing the splits. I was convinced that gravity-based plyometric jumps and moves like burpees were too intense for me.
I've taught a variety of classes since my surgery: Zumba, Drums Alive!, yoga, water fitness, Aqua Zumba, Aqua Tabata, Zumba Gold and most recently, POUND. I've danced in community theater shows. Each of these presented their own challenges as I re-learned how to walk and move again with Bionic Woman body parts. But none have been as challenging as teaching Tabata out of the pool.
After taking on a Tabata class two months ago and being inspired by the variety of participants who attend, I realized that I needed to walk my talk. Instead of solely coaching the class, I've been both participating and coaching. And the results have been impressive.
I couldn't do push-ups two months ago. I used the excuse that I was teaching too much to add in additional strength training. Well now I can do pushups again. I'm developing more muscle definition all over. My leg power has increased. My anaerobic and aerobic capacity has increased. My weight has remained the same, but my measurements are shrinking. And best of all, when my students find out that I'm almost 54 and have two artificial hips, they're inspired to challenge themselves.
What I've learned from this is to never underestimate my ability to challenge and change, even with seeming limitations. The only one holding me back is, well, me. Being a student again puts me in what the Buddhists call "beginner mind." Being in beginner mind allows me to understand where my students are coming from and how I can help them move beyond their own perceived limitations--physical, medical, emotional, etc.--one tiny step at a time.
"What doesn't challenge you, doesn't change you." What challenge are you ready to take on? Remember, challenge doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition. I firmly believe in baby steps. After all, the quote the Buddhists again, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single footstep." And as we all know, one footstep is a baby step compared to even one mile.
I'd love to hear about your recent challenges and positive changes!
Adult Coloring is all the rage. Not only is it fun and expressive, but it's incredibly mindful and relaxing. Add relaxing yoga music and/or a gratitude practice as you color and you've got an active meditation that can decrease stress, increase your artistic ability and relaxation and leave you with a beautiful piece of art when you finish a page.
So how do you start and what's the right way to color? First, set aside any rules or preconceptions on what adult coloring is. Find an adult coloring book that calls to you. They're sold in book stores, online, and at retailers such as TJMaxx, Marshalls and Walmart. You can color with colored pencils, markers, paints, pens and a combination of these. And know that there's no right or wrong way to color. If you'd like to learn professional artist techniques for adult coloring, just google Adult Coloring Tips on YouTube and apply one or two tips at a time. Although there's no wrong way to color, using certain techniques can prevent finger/hand pain from bearing down on the pencils and will also help prevent your pencil leads from breaking.
Before you begin, lay out your art supplies, find a comfortable, yet supportive place to work, and warm up your hands, fingers and wrists and stretch your neck, shoulders, chest and back. Periodically take little breaks to stretch and get up and move around a little. And enjoy yourself. After all, coloring is about having fun and expressing the artist within. Instead of a workout, you're experiencing a mindful zen-in--so important in our modern culture of rush, rush, rush, overdoing, under relaxing, and not being in the present moment.
Activity & recovery, yin and yang, sleep and awake, day and night...opposites that balance each other.
We all need balance in our lives. Fitness encompasses the whole person, not just working out to extremes to compensate for poor eating habits or to try to recapture the body we had 20 years ago.
It's about loving yourself, nurturing yourself and taking time to rest, recover and sleep after movement. It's about choosing wholesome foods to nourish your body 80% of the time. It's about moving wisely to make your body stronger, not break it down with "killer" workouts without adequate recovery which could be anywhere from one to THREE days--yes, three days.
Nor is it about skimping on sleep to cram everything on your To Do list into each day. In a study reported in ACE Fitness Journal, teenaged athletes needed ten hours of sleep a night to adequately recover for optimal sports performance. Personally, I've found this to be true for myself on days of long or intense movement sessions and don't see why this study wouldn't apply to adult athletes as well.
It's about taking time to relax and meditate. Meditation could be active meditation such as art therapy while practicing gratitude or mentally "letting go" as you listen to soothing music. It could be yoga. It could even be chopping wood and washing dishes as the Buddhists say, if those are done mindfully.
To quote Confucious, "The wise man eats when he's hungry, drinks when he's thirsty, and sleeps when he's tired." How opposite this is to our modern Western society. No wonder we're chronically exhausted, feeling as if our wells have run dry.
If you feel you need permission to take time out and to be kind to yourself, I grant you that.
Bright blessings and Namaste
(Namaste: the divine in me acknowledges the divine in you.)
Last week I spent four fabulous days at SCW Mania Atlanta, a large fitness & wellness conference held in ten cities around the country. I attended workshops in shallow and deep water aquatic fitness, yoga-tai chi-dance fusion, and shoulder/hip mobility, as well as a fantastic keynote address by Dr. Len Kravitz and the day-long workshop--Moving to Happiness: the Happiness Coaching Method by the captivating Petra Kobler.
One of the highlights of the conference was being selected to dance onstage at the end of the keynote address with Dr. Len Kravitz, SCW owner Sara Kooperman, two Fitness Idol winners, and four other conference attendies. The other highlight was getting to compete in the second annual Fitness Idol competition. The top ten applicants were chosen to perform a 3 minute routine at the conference in front of four conference presenters and an audience of conference attendees. Contestants were judged on originality, verbal/non-verbal teaching skills and the ability to connect with an audience. All of the contestants were exceptional. I didn't place, but was honored to have made the top ten.
Pictures coming soon!
Choosing the right music for your playlist can make your classes "funtastic."
I'm currently using a water-themed playlist in my Splash Dance classes at the YMCA. Every song has some connection or reference to water, including Jimmy Buffet's "Fins." During the chorus, my class sings the lyrics about shark fins to the right and left with gusto. Afterwards, one of the men told me that the routine was "fin-tastic." Then he added, "No, it was "fun-tastic!"
Let's look at the ways music can inspire, motivate and leave your class with an emotional high.
1. Music can be a time machine: people associate certain songs with important events and significant times during their life, especially their youth. Choosing songs that were popular when your participants were teens and young adults takes them on a journey back in time to positive memories.
2. Our bodies all contain a natural rhythm maker: our hearts. Our hearts pump blood rhythmically like a bass drum pounding out beats per minute. Interestingly, people tend to exercise at a heart rate that corresponds to the beats per minute of the music they're moving or dancing to. Faster music tends to elicit a higher heart rate, which is why yoga tends to be performed to slow peaceful music and spinning is done to fast, high energy music. There are exceptions to this, such as working double time to a slower song.
3. Music that inspires us to sing, clap our hands and snap our fingers helps relieve stress and raise our energy levels, especially in a group. Thus, using music that gets your class doing the same will raise the energy not only in your class, but in you and your participants.
4. The right music can make the time pass quickly. Personally, there are very few classes that I would take if music wasn't involved. I find the prospect of working out w/o music to be boring. But a great playlist can make a fifty-minute class seem like half that amount of time.
5. Music can also inspire theatricality, which can entertain and motivate your people. I like to think of my aqua classes as "Water Fitness Theater." All the deck is my stage and my playlist gives me ideas for fun hats, props, costumes and choreography. Tempo changes and musical quirks also suggest choreography, drills, and fun games and formations.
Examples: During the 60s song "Red Rubber Ball" we play a game with balls. The theme to JAWS inspired a game of tag with "it" wearing shark goggles. For "The Stars and Stripes Forever" I wear flag-inspired attire as we perform a variety of marching moves. "Welcome to Burlesque" by Cher has me wearing a feather boa and dancing the tango. The possibilities are endless.
So if you've never taught exercise to music, think about the type of class or classes you teach, who your participants are, and then brainstorm some ideas for a playlist. If you're not sure about taking the plunge, try dipping your big toe into the water of using music in your class and incorporate a few songs into the sounds of silence. You may find yourself hooked and your class begging for more.
Today I tackle a heavy subject: weight. What is it and do you want to lose it?
Weight is a scientific term defined as the force of gravity on an object and is calculated as mass times the acceleration of gravity. [w = mg] In regular speak, weight is your size (mass) multiplied by how much gravity is pulling on you. So what you weigh on Earth would be different than what you'd weigh on the moon since the moon has less gravity than Earth. And in space you'd be weightless. Imagine that--no matter what your mass, you would weigh absolutely nothing in outer space.
In terms of health and fitness, we tend to be obsessed with our body weight. Some of us want to lose it, some of us want to gain it and some of us just ignore it. But do you really want to lose weight?
In a nutshell, no. And here's why.
The more you weigh, the more calories you burn.
I can hear some of you protesting: "But my clothes are too tight, I have love handles, my thighs are too large, my butt jiggles, I need to lose weight."
In these instances, what you're really wanting to lose is body fat. Because your weight, or more accurately, your body mass, is comprised of muscle and organ tissue, skin and bones, blood and other fluids, and fat.
A certain amount of body fat is needed for good health. Men need at least 2-5% of their bodies to be composed of fat with up to 24% being acceptable. Women need a body composition of at least 10% fat with up to 31% fat being acceptable. Anything more than that is considered obesity.
Muscle tissue, on the other hand, is metabolically active and burns calories. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn even at rest...even while you're sleeping! Muscle is more compact than fat. A pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat which is why if you gain muscle tissue and burn off fat, your net weight/mass might not change, but your clothes will fit better, your measurements may decrease, and your metabolism will increase. And this is a good thing.
Another type of weight you want to be careful about losing is fluid weight. If you weigh yourself before an exercise session, workout and sweat vigorously, and then weigh again right after, what you've lost on the scale is not body fat but fluid. And you need to regain that weight by drinking water to prevent dehydration. The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking at least 8 ounces of water before exercise, 8-16 ounces during exercise, and at least another 8 ounces after exercise. That's almost a quart of water.
So to summarize:
Weight/mass = body fat, muscle and other lean tissues, fluid.
Muscle mass = maintain/build this
Fluid = replenish fluids lost via exercise; drink 8-10 glasses of water daily and eat plenty of vegetables and fruits that contain water. Go easy on the salt which causes the kind of water retention you don't want. Remember, your body is 98% water. Fluid intake is vital to good health and proper body functioning.
Lean body tissue = eat a healthy, balanced diet so that your body doesn't break down and consume your organ tissue for nutrients. If you're not sure what a healthy diet is, check out http://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate
And lastly, I say throw out your scale. Weighing yourself is deceptive because the number on the dial doesn't tell you what % is fat, fluid and lean body tissue. But you know what isn't deceptive? Clothing. Clothes don't lie. Buttons, zippers and belts are brutally honest. When your clothes become tight, you know it's time to make some lifestyle changes. And when you find you can comfortably notch your belt a little tighter or your pants slide on easily, or you can zip up that little dress you've been wanting to wear, then you know you're making good progress in changing your body composition.
So wait on checking your weight. Focus on acting like the person you want to become. When you live like a slim, active person, you'll become a slim, active person.
"I feel the need...the need for speed."
While this line from the movie TOP GUN is appropriate for jet pilots, is faster really better when it comes to your fitness program?
If your goal is to run a faster 5K, then yeah, speed training would be appropriate. This is called Specificity of Training and means that your training needs to be specific for your goal, i.e., if you want to lift heavier weights, you need to weight train rather than surf. If you want to become a better dancer, you want to take dance lessons rather than play hockey.
In a general fitness program where the goal is to improve health and fitness and maintain or reduce body fat, then speed should be added to your program AFTER you've mastered a move, exercise or dance step at a slower pace with a full range of motion (abbreviated as ROM.) Going faster doesn't necessarily equate to burning more calories because you start using more momentum rather than muscular force to execute a move. And using your own muscles to move is what burns calories.
Too often participants think faster is better, even if they can't execute the moves properly with good form at a higher speed. There seems to be an erroneous assumption that if their instructor is moving at 90 mph, then somehow (by osmosis?) they're moving 90 mph, even if they're not.
Ask anyone who has ever taught water aerobics from the pool deck if slow with full ROM is challenging and they will resoundingly say, "YES!"
People who attend my Zumba Gold classes are often surprised that they're sweaty at the end. "But it's so much slower than basic ZUMBA," they say. "I can't believe I worked up a sweat."
I tell them, "Yes, but you were performing the dance steps with a full range of motion, which actually works you more than going fast with a small range of motion."
My advice as a degreed Exercise Specialist and certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach is to walk before you run. Master the moves of whatever activity you enjoy at a slower pace with a full range of motion before adding speed and acceleration. This is not only more effective, but will also reduce the chance of injury. It also gets momentum out of the picture and allows you to really feel your body moving through space (which is called kinesthetic awareness.)
And if you're a beginner, an older adult, have medical issues, or are returning to movement after a hiatus, then "walking before you run" gives your body time to adapt to the physical stresses of exercise before you place greater demands on yourself. After all, you wouldn't build a house starting with the roof because without a good foundation, a house will collapse. The same is true of the human body.
So be kind to yourself and focus on proper execution, form, and range of motion. Add speed only after these are mastered.
For new fitness instructors and the general public, the terms "licensed" and "certified" can be confusing and are often used interchangeably. But are they really the same thing?
The answer is no.
In the fitness world, a license is permission granted by a branded fitness company to teach their brand of classes and use their logo and brand name to market classes. A fitness-brand license does not give the license holder qualifications to teach movement education nor does it imply such. Very often the only prerequisite for acquiring a brand license is paying the workshop registration fee. Anyone with the cash to attend gets a license. Literally anyone.
A certification, on the other hand, usually involves a written exam and could also include a skills test. A good certification will require months of study before the exam and will cover a comprehensive body of material such as anatomy, exercise science, First Aid, teaching skills, musicology, liability and legal issues, and equipment usage. The really good certifications have a high first-time failure rate, meaning that a large percentage of people who take those exams do not pass the first time they take them.
So if you've recently started teaching fitness, you owe it to yourself and your students and participants to become certified in the areas that you teach, such as group fitness, personal training, health coaching, water fitness, etc. How can you lead others if you don't know the science behind your movement selections? How can you effectively design a class or a personal training program if you don't have any education in those areas? How can you safely teach movement to a variety of ages, shapes, fitness levels and medical issues?
And in this day of lawsuit happy citizens, why take the risk of being held liable if someone should sue you when they get hurt due to your lack of knowledge and skill?
So what are some good certifications?
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), The American Council on Exercise (ACE), The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) and The Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA), to name a few. These four are a good starting point and also require CPR/AED certification.
And once you become certified, you'll be able to keep your certification current by acquiring CECs or Continuing Education Credits every year or two to keep your knowledge and skills up to date.
So are you just licensed, or certified and licensed?
And if you're neither, then jump on your cyber surfboard and check out the certs I mentioned, order a manual and start studying for an exam.
Once you pass your first certification, you'll join the ranks of professional instructors rather than remaining an amateur. You'll feel a sense of accomplishment for getting an education in what you teach and your students will benefit.
How can you tell the difference between a complaint and a complainer? At first blush, it would seem the two are inextricably linked. After all, isn't a complainer someone who makes complaints?
The answer is yes and that's how you tell the two apart.
A complainer is someone who chronically complains. For example: the pool is too hot, too cold, too wet, too noisy, too large, too small, too deep, too shallow, too something. And it's rarely just the pool, but everything the complainer comes in contact with. And they love to vocalize their dissatisfaction.
A complaint can and does come from a complainer, but a legitimate complaint is a concern by a member, guest, client or customer. They can range from constructive criticism--"I was wondering if your facility might be able to buy some more free weights" or "I don't see any yoga on the class schedule. Could you schedule a regular yoga class a few mornings a week?"
Or they can be informative, letting you know something isn't functioning properly or a staff member isn't performing optimally--"Did you know that treadmill #4 isn't working?" or "The ten o'clock instructor is always late."
They can also be passionately unsatisfied, yet factual--"The women's restroom has been filthy for a week. When are you going to do something about it?" or "Please fix the leg curl machine; it's been broken for a month!"
A complainer usually begins their complaint with the words, "I don't like" and very often the word "too" is used in their complaint--"I don't like your pool. It's too small." or "I don't like the beginner class, it's too easy." or "I don't like your facility, it's too far from where I live." Chronic complainers love to spread their misery with chronic complaints for which there is usually no solution other than that they find a new class or facility to join or a new personal trainer to hire. In the examples above, there is no fix for their complaint.
Then there are also complainers who like to make subjective statements that are beyond their expertise. For example, a group fitness participant may complain that a new instructor is terrible, yet the fitness director knows from the instructor's credentials, audition and job performance that they're actually an excellent instructor. This is one of those complaints where the complainer is really upset about change and not the instructor's actual ability.
Don't take complainers personally, but do listen to them with compassion. Offer suggestions to counter their complaint and then let the complaint go emotionally. For example: the easy beginner class--suggest another class the complainer might want to attend that would be more in line with the intensity they desire. If alternative suggestions don't curb your complainer's complaints, politely let them know that you hope they find another class, pool, facility, etc, that meets their needs.
Remember, it's your job to provide sound classes and/or a clean facility with courteous staff and properly functioning equipment, but it's not your responsibility to "make" people happy. Each person has to take responsibility for his/her own joy and happiness.
And knowing this will allow you to have more joy and happiness.
For the past 37 days, I've been making small lifestyle changes that are adding up to a big positive. I'm sharing this because fitness professionals are human and subject to the same stresses and temptations as anyone else. Sometimes the stresses become too much and we succumb to unhealthy choices that wreak havoc on our bodies, minds and spirits.
All too often I see social media posts from people trying to make major changes all at once like going from inactivity to jumping into an insanely intense exercise program or extreme diet with the idea that they'll beat their body into some kind of submission.
What you don't hear is how they manage to maintain this all or nothing approach for a short time and then revert back to their former lifestyle, losing everything they gained and gaining everything they lost while telling everyone that diet and exercise doesn't work or that it isn't for them.
However, psychologists and exercise scientists have shown that a series of small positive changes implemented slowly over time is much more likely to be maintained indefinitely than trying to tackle too many changes at once or making changes that are too large.
Make a list of all the changes you'd like to implement to reach the lifestyle you'd like to have and then implement one small change each week until you've implemented every change on your list. An example of a small change might be: drink an additional glass of water each day this week. Or: Walk briskly for 20-30 minutes 2-3 times this week.
Small steps add up over time to create positive changes in your spirit, mind and body. Incorporate positive lifestyle changes into your life and your body and mind will follow. Living an active, healthy lifestyle will become a habit and a way of being. You'll get more personal rewards from living well than from making poor nutritional choices or remaining inactive.
You can accomplish amazing progress by making your changes one at a time and it will certainly be less painful. Think of it as nourishment for yourself rather than deprivation. Trust me, your body is worth it.
Lover of dance, Zumba and aquatic fitness. And Wave Webs aqua gloves.