Ironically as I write this blog, I am A). sick and B.) contagious. And no, I have not gone in to work to teach.
And here's why.
1. People go to fitness classes to be healthy, not to get sick. If you're sick and contagious, you'll infect everyone within six feet of you and quite possible even more when they touch what you've touched. Unless you teach in a plastic bubble or hazmat suit, you're going to sneeze, cough, and/or blow your nasty germs onto something or some part of you that is going to touch doors, equipment, etc, on your way to and from and during class. And that's not what people signed up for when they joined your class.
2. YOU'RE sick. That's right. Sick. No amount of denial is going to change the fact that a cold or flu virus has infiltrated your immune defenses and has your body working hard to expel the nasty invaders by increasing mucous production, revving up your temperature, and making you feel like one of the walking dead. Do yourself and everyone a favor. Stay. At. Home. Get in bed. Rest. Drink fluids. Be still. Be quiet. You're an instructor, not the world's only hope.
3. On the heels of #1 & #2: it's just gross trying to teach a fitness class when you're sick. And let's not forget, contagious. You're energy is lower than low, your eyes lack their usual sparkle. Your voice has dropped an octave. You constantly cough into your sleeve and you have to teach with a box of tissues in one hand for the runny nose and frequent sneezes. You feel like hell and no one is really impressed that you dragged yourself out of bed to come in and spread your germs everywhere. A role model of health you aren't right now.
4. Matyrs don't get any rewards unless being unkind to yourself is some kind of machochistic reward. Someone will sub your class, and guess what? If no one can sub, here's what the fitness director can tell everyone, "We thought it more important to cancel the class than to get everyone sick." Personally, I am disgusted when I'm out in public and visibly sick employees are still at their posts coughing, sneezing and blowing their snotty noses. Ewwwwww! No thanks! Hand me the sani-wipes and GO HOME!
5. Health and fitness begin with the instructor. There's a reason doctors advise you to rest and drink plenty of fluids when you have a cold or flu. And that reason is it will help your body heal by not depleting its energy and resources trying to go to work. It will decrease the misery of pushing yourself to go work when all you really want to do is stay in your jammies with a bowl of warm chicken soup. If doctors thought otherwise, their cold remedy would be to teach 2-3 fitness classes a day until you collapse from exhaustion. But wait! I've never ever heard a doctor say that. In fact, everytime I've gone in to see my doc for a cold, flu, or bronchitis, they tell me to--say it with me--stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids.
Forgetting to bring important teaching tools to work happens to the best instructors, even seasoned teachers with decades of experience. I've forgotten a variety of things for my classes over the years, including appropriate footwear, props, equipment, sweat towels, change of dry clothes, cover-ups, hair bands, snacks, water bottle and even *GASP!* underwear. (I'll come back to this one in a moment.)
Two weeks ago, I forgot my Ziploc bag containing my mp3 player, back-up mp3 player, whistle and stopwatch. And I had four classes back-to-back to teach! Oh, the horror! As I unpacked my rolling tote stuffed with four classes worth of clothes, shoes, props and equipment and got to the bottom without finding my music, I had one of those "OH NO!!!!" moments. You know, the one where your stomach drops to your toes and you frantically replay the night before trying to figure out what you did with your music.
I ran out to my car and double checked, just in case, you know, I'd done something totally out of the routine like stash my music in the tailgate or glove box or under the seat.
But noooooo! My music was nowhere to be found. I had my portable Ion speaker, but nothing to hook up to it.
I rolled my teaching cart out to the pool with dread in my heart, mortally embarrassed that I'd forgotten something so crucial to my classes. Now for what it's worth, I HAD suffered a physical trauma the night before, sustaining an injury that wound up requiring a visit to urgent care the day after all this happened, and I probably shouldn't have even gone in to teach the next morning, but trooper that I am, I went in anyway. Personally, I find group fitness without music to be horribly boring and hated having to subject my class to such an experience. But the lifeguard was able to pull up some 80s hard rock on his device and the tempo actually worked for my Deep Water class so I taught my usual routine to that music.
My next class was Splash Dance--aquatic dance fitness. I hate to confess that I did not do so well at this point. Dealing with last minute crises is not my strength--I'm a planner. I tried finding a radio station on my Ion but all I could find without static was gospel and talk radio. Nuh huh. I tried singing and humming our usual music. Umm, sure if my class wanted comedy hour. Eventually I abandoned attempts at music and taught an impromptu aqua ballet barre for the rest of the class. Next time, I'll have a better attack plan.
My third class was low-impact dance fitness. My boss was in by then and loaned me her mp3 player with Aqua Zumba music. I totally improvised the class, having no idea what songs were going to play and was unfamiliar with most of them, although I recognized the Zumba rhythms from seven years as a ZIN. My problem with improvising is that I tend to blank out and teach too much repetition. But my class said they enjoyed what I taught, even if I was a bit uncomfortable.
My final class of that morning was Color & Relax--an Adult Coloring relaxation and pencil-art class. I usually play yoga music to set the mood, but I had everyone focus on socializing as they colored and all went well.
So now for the story about forgetting underwear. I was changing from business attire into Zumba clothes
for my Zumba class. The pants I'd packed were Zumba jazz pants, form-fitting and prone to visible panty lines if anything other than a thong is worn. The only underwear I had was what I'd worn to work that day under my khaki pants: comfortable, roomy, granny panties. Uh huh. The way I saw it, I only had two choices. 1) go commando or 2) wear the granny panties and have nerdy VPL. Since I was teaching at a YMCA, I didn't want to go commando and wind up with embarrassing sweat outlines in the wrong places or show a camel toe or God knows what other compromising situation going without any underwear could cause. So I sucked up my mortal embarrassment and wore big ole granny panties under my form fitting jazz pants. The panty lines were, indeed, visible, and I looked like a major nerd trying to look cool. If I'd had a jacket or shirt I could have tied around my waist to cover my butt, I would have, but alas, I had neither. But I taught the Zumba class, no one pointed and sniggered, and I survived to tell the tale.
What have you forgotten to take to work and how did you handle it? Do tell.
A life-long dream of mine recently came true when
I had the opportunity to film several water fitness
videos for Fitmotivation, an online streaming company
founded by Mark Grevelding who is an AEA training specialist, consultant, and continuing education provider for AEA, ACE and AFAA.
The first video, Fribata, debuted today at www.fitmotivation.com and is an aqua Frisbee Tabata/HIIT workout. Only Fitmotivation subscribers can access the full workout, but you can checkout the preview below.
After a weekend of filming, I have a new appreciation and respect for film makers. Hours and hours of prep work are involved to make a short video, including script writing and rewriting, memorizing lines, gathering props and equipment, traveling to location, setting up shots, filming segments (so that when something is flubbed, the entire shoot thus far doesn't have to be scrapped), and then doing any required voice-over work in a sound studio, and finally, editing to create a whole out of individual parts. Our shoot involved several cameras including an underwater camera! I enjoyed learning the process of making a short video and was overjoyed to get to share my passion for creative, yet effective, aquatic exercise.
I highly recommend a Fitmotivation subscription if you're a water fitness instructor! So many awesome workouts to choose from. Visit the website (www.fitmotivation.com) for subscription rates and services. You won't be disappointed. And Fitmotivation is also perfect for water fitness enthusiasts who travel but want a guaranteed great water workout or who want to work out in their home pool. You can prop your laptop or tablet poolside and follow along with the video, or watch the video and then use the audio version in the pool with waterproof earbuds.
Stay tuned for more of my water workout videos forthcoming over the next two months from Fitmotivation!
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!
Lover of dance, dance-fitness and aquatic fitness.