The answer is absolutely!
Zumba Fitness has capitalized on play as a workout by marketing their classes as "Exercise in Disguise." Recreational sports and games are workouts masquerading as play. And personally, I find activities like dance, walking my dog, and beach combing to be playful workouts.
In my fitness classes I like to incorporate play using games and imagination. Recently, I had my aqua class play a game of tag in the pool to the theme music from JAWS. One class member volunteers to be the shark who then chases everyone else around the pool. Once tagged, fifteen wall push-ups and wall climbs have to be completed to get back into the game. I was tickled pink at how much fun my class had with this simple, but playful game. The shark volunteers really got into their part, sinking down to their shoulders and undulating through the water like a great white. Class members would shriek with glee as the shark honed in on them and everyone wound up laughing by the end of the JAWS theme. The shark got the biggest workout of all.
Dr. Stuart Brown, M.D. states that play is a biological necessity for humans in his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul. Workouts can incorporate play and/or be playful and still be effective. Oftentimes play can make the exercise time seem to pass quickly while increasing engagement and satisfaction. Play in exercise can also be used for social interaction and building community within your class. Studies have shown that play improves learning in children, adults and even animals. Many people love to play but have to make themselves exercise.
And yet, surprisingly, a few folks resist play during exercise because it doesn't seem serious enough. I wonder if they grew up hearing that play isn't productive and that success can only be accomplished through hard work. It's a belief that harkens to a Puritan work ethic of putting one's nose to the grindstone and working fingers to the bone. Perhaps they should be reminded of the old saying, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
One last thing to remember is that not all workouts must be intense. Integrating a variety of workouts and play-ins keeps motivation high, allows your mind and body a break while remaining active, and keeps life interesting. And as Dr. Brown writes, "Play invigorates the soul and opens the imagination." Both important for overall wellness and quality of life.
Now go out there and play!
So what does Sir Isaac Newton have to do with water fitness, I hear you asking?
Well, quite a lot, actually.
Newton was a curious fellow. He observed the natural world around him and devised theories as to why things were the way they were. Then he tested those theories. And if his experiments proved a theory, that theory became a law of natural physics.
Newton's Third Law of Motion states that for every action, there is an equal, but opposite, reaction.
Here's how this relates to water fitness. When you push water around, the water's resistance pushes back with equal force. So if you push harder, the aquatic resistance increases proportionally to how hard you're pushing.
The take away from this is that you've gotta push water around to get a workout. While this may seem obvious, I've had people tell me that water doesn't work for them. My response is, "Well, of course not. Water doesn't work. YOU have to WORK the WATER."
This is a difficult concept for many folks who are used to gravity-based resistance training to wrap their brains around. If you pick up a ten-pound weight in the gym, it's going to remain a ten-pound weight no matter what you do with it. But in a water workout, you're dealing with a liquid environment. Liquid has viscosity, or thickness. And that thickness is what makes it such an awesome workout medium. Water also has buoyancy, which is another type of resistance that I'll discuss at another time. There's also drag resistance, frontal resistance and turbulence.
But the key concept for today is that what you get out of a water workout is what you put into it. No more, no less. And the stronger you get, your ability to push and pull the water increases, which means that the amount of resistance from the water increases. How cool is that?
So now you can amaze your friends with your newfound knowledge of Sir Isaac Newton and his third law of motion. You probably never thought you'd get a physics lesson from water fitness. I aim to train the brain as well as the body.
Now go find a pool and push some water around. I dare ya!
POUND Fitness is just a bunch of people clicking drumsticks together to music, right?
Wrong! It's so much more than people realize.
I became a licensed POUND Fit Pro last November and began teaching my first POUND class in March. In the past six months, POUND has transformed my body.
* My hip and lateral torso flexibility and muscular endurance have increased: I can squat, lunge and lean much deeper than when I began and I can perform those deep moves throughout an entire 45 minute class. I can easily POUND my ripstix on the floor from flexing at my hips due to my deep squats, lunges and leans.
* My hip flexors, hip extensors and core have all gotten stronger: before POUND, I had trouble lifting my left leg without pain due to a full hip replacement. 6 months into POUND I can lift and lower that leg repeatedly pain free and my foot is lifting quite high on seated Bass Kicks with minimal effort. This is a significant change considering that the range of motion in my left hip flexors has been compromised for ten years post-op and none of my other activities have strengthened it. I can perform all of the seated core work fully without having to modify any of it. And I can extend my legs (rear hip extension) much higher now.
* My legs and arms are more defined: It's one thing when you notice more definition in your body, but when other people notice, you KNOW your body has changed for the better. When people ask me what I've done to get my legs nicely defined, I tell them: POUND Fitness.
* My brain is stronger: YES, you read that right. My BRAIN is stronger. When I started POUND, I found the choreography alien and challenging. It wasn't like any movement I'd ever done before. Now I pick it up pretty easily. And that's from my brain building new neural pathways from having to learn a new movement language.
* My balance has greatly improved: I teach water fitness on the pool deck which involves having to balance. Before POUND I would hop around or have to hold onto something to keep my balance. Now I don't due to having stronger legs and core muscles.
* My posture has improved: I catch myself using good posture more often nowadays. It reminds me of when I took ballet as a child. Because my back is now stronger from POUND, standing and sitting upright is easy and natural.
So if you've been thinking about joining a POUND Fitness class, but weren't sure if it would be beneficial beyond the fun factor, try it for at least 6 months to give your body time to adapt. I think you'll like the changes.
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.
Lover of dance, dance-fitness and aquatic fitness.