Resolutions are often created around the premise that we’re going to add a new behavior. Certainly it’s good to focus on what we want to create (as opposed to that which we don’t want to). But, if you’re already struggling with your best dietary intentions this New Year and you’re thinking about beating yourself up, let’s encourage each other to reframe it. Let’s call it feedback, not failure. We know that our dietary choices are often a symptom of a deeper issue. With some curiosity that comes from a more mindful eating approach we may get some new momentum.
Let’s assume your NY resolution involved spending more time in the kitchen. Most realize that preparing more of our own food with less reliance on dine out and processed foods creates a bed rock of nutrition for our self and our family. But, creating new habits to meal plan, shop and cook takes mental space.
We only have so much mental space in a day. We need to get clear on what we’re spending these precious resources on. Michael Pollan in his new book “Cooked” reminds us that we’re spending on average about 27 minutes a day in the kitchen preparing food. Contrast that with how much time we spend on our smart phones or other media. Interestingly, he suggests the increase in watching cooking shows like those on The Food Network over the past decade is linked with our desire for a deeper connection to our own kitchen. It’s a bit of kitchen porn – satisfying our desire to be connected to cooking while we’re sitting in our living room distracting ourselves from how frazzled, unhappy or bored we are.
Having said all of this – I don’t know what the answer is for you – what are the unneeded distractions that are eating up the space in your life – the space needed to create a healthier habit. For me personally, I have decided I don’t need my smartphone pinging me every other minute about another email delivery. I’ve gone back to checking it on my laptop once or twice a day and have told my friends, family and colleagues to text me if an immediate response is required. I finally came to this decision when a recent phone crash occurred and as a result I immediately felt calmer and more focused. I then read an interesting article about a recent study – participants productivity was decreased by 20% simply from having their phone nearby – often pinging them with email. It didn’t matter if the participants checked their email or not – simply the mental space that it took to decide if they were going to check their phone or not decreased their productivity and concentration toward their task.
Again, you can only know what it is taking up the mental space you need to create lasting change. Keep in mind that you may not even be clear what the next steps are in building your healthier life until you remove some distractions. Think subtract before you add. Ask yourself what mental resources you can free up to create the space for change this New Year.
You’re welcome to email Kathryn at firstname.lastname@example.org to comment on this blog or to meet to discuss/evaluate your goals toward healthier eating this New Year.
A Personal History
I first encountered the world of chiropractic care in the same way many of you did: I was in pain, and I needed help. I first started to have low back pain when I was 15 and I woke up one morning unable to feel my legs. I was living with my aunt, a pharmacist, back then, and after some initial panicking she gave me some anti-inflammatories and I slowly began to feel better. However, the medication didn’t make my low back pain go away—it just covered it up. I couldn’t sit still in class, play sports, or function normally the way I wanted to. Because my physical ailment was invisible, my coaches, classmates and teammates couldn’t understand that I was in too much pain to run, push, jump or do anything I had been able to just a few days before. But I knew I wasn’t a “wimp” or a “baby”— I was in agony.
After a few months my mom took me to see all kinds of doctors. My medical doctor prescribed pain medications but no cure. A physical therapist failed to find out exactly what the problem was. Even after several tries, acupuncture couldn’t help me, and any relief from massages was only temporary. Finally, during the course of a conversation a family friend asked “Mike, have you considered seeking help from a chiropractor?”. I didn’t know what chiropractors did, but I would have tried anything at that point—and, as you can probably imagine, that first visit changed my life. The relief I felt after my first session was so great that I became an instant believer.
Throughout the injuries that occurred during my high school sports career and during college, I kept reading everything the libraries had to offer on the subject of injury management. After I graduated, I applied to school for both physical therapy and chiropractic care, and opted to focus on chiropractic, which had given me my life back after months of being injured and miserable.
From Pain to Passion
I truly hate that my profession often gets a bad reputation as being part of “alternative” (read: unnecessary) care, and for dragging treatment on with few results. Whilst I can’t speak for all of my peers, I have always strived to make my patients get better as fast as possible. If I cannot help you feel improvement over the course of our initial treatment plan, then I will make sure you get the help you need, even if that means finding you someone more suited to your needs.
A common feedback I hear from patients are “You are not like any chiropractors I have seen or heard of.” My response to them is that this is because “I do whatever works for the patients!” I’m trained as a chiropractor, but with my personal experience and history of severe low back pain, continued learning and understanding that everyone is different, I have found the best approach to any aliment is an integrated approach. In any given day I will use the traditional chiropractic manipulation on one patient, the Graston Technique technique on another, and spend time with a different patient teaching them how to lift properly from the floor. Whilst many of us may have experienced the same low back pain I did as a teen, for each person the path that led to that pain is always quite different, which is why I emphasize individualized care and treatment. I’m just happy to now own Mobility Plus Sports Rehab, so I can practice my own personal style with Seattle residents.
Once a patient’s initial complaint—an injury or the source of pain, whether from a fall, an auto accident, a sport or something else—has been located and dealt with, and a patient has satisfactorily completed treatment, I do believe regular checkups are a core aspect of maintaining a high level of physical wellbeing. I call this the Wellness Phase of one’s chiropractic care, and I find it is perhaps the most important service we provide for our patients. By regular checkups, I don’t mean anything drastic. Periodic examinations allow for early detection of joint and muscle dysfunction before they become painful. If allowed to go undetected and untreated, minor dysfunctions can develop without symptoms until they are aggravated by work habits, lifestyles activities, or other stress factors. Many people will invest a lot of time and effort into obtaining better health—eating right, working out, and sleeping better and so on— only to let it slip away. I believe that investing in early detection and treatment is fundamental to cost-effective healthcare.
We all go to the dentist’s twice a year because we believe that our teeth need periodic check-ups and preventative cleaning. People should notice aches and pains as much as they would notice getting daily or weekly toothaches. We should feel the same way about our spine, our backs, necks, muscles and bones. Those aches and pains you might feel after waking up or working at a desk are not “normal.” They tend to indicate a fundamental aspect of how we are moving or holding ourselves is wrong, and should (and can) be located and fixed.
Many gym goers fall out of exercising within their first 90 days of joining a gym or starting a new exercise routine. One of the biggest reasons people stop exercising is because they do not have a very structured workout and/or do not know where to start with their exercising. A new and very beneficial program offered here at the Seattle Athletic Club Downtown is called “The First 90 Days of Fitness”. It’s a structured introduction to fitness involving meeting with a nutritionist to get your diet analyzed in order to meet the demands of exercising; three consultations with fitness trainer where you get measurements and body fat taken and then training session. The Fitness trainers can also get set up on a structured workout program called ActivTrax.
If you are looking for a little more structure to your workout program, there is also our 12 week Evolve program; offering personal training twice a week, fitness assessments, 5 nutritional consultations, two RMR (resting metabolic rate) tests, a shopping trip to your favorite store, educational literature each week.
One of the club’s members, Chris Davidson, has been on this program and just completed his first 90 days of fitness. During his final assessment he was pleased to find out that he had lost 7.6 lbs of fat while gaining a considerable amount of muscle and strength. The major contributing factors to his fitness achievements were that he was at the SAC every day working out or playing racquetball; and that he exercised with a workout partner. This is just one of many success stories at the club. Fitness success is more attainable if you have a structured workout routine and with someone there to keep you accountable, whether it’s a Pilates instructor, personal trainer or workout partner.
Have you ever wondered what that sound is when your neck or knee or any part of your body pop’s and cracks? I know I have! Here is a brief explanation of what could be happening in your body when is makes some unexpected or rather common sounds of the popping nature.
Gases are making an escape!
Because the inside of the joint is primarily synovial fluid, (think the inside of chewels chewing gum) a wonderful fluid to keep the joint lubricated. It can have a tendency to become full of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. Weird huh? When you stretch the joint capsule via movement it will pop or crack to release the gas build up or bubbles that can occur in a joint.
Tendon or Ligament slippage
Sometimes, (maybe more for some of you due to your own special anatomy….) when you move a joint a tendon/ligament placement will change and it might move over a boney area causing a popping or snapping sound. This is pretty common in ankles, knees and wrists due to the many things that are gliding over one another.
Arthritic areas make tons of sound due to the lack of smooth cartilage and lack of fluid in the joints.
Should you be worried when a joint pops, cracks or snaps? I would generally say no. Unless there is pain with the sounds then it’s nothing to be too concerned about. However, if there is pain it would be best to consult your doc to get a better clue about the cause.
A one-on-one session is a great way to start your Pilates training, but when you learn your routine, you can work out with a partner or small group to cut costs.
It’s only for women
Joseph Pilates was a man, and he created a system of exercise meant for every body, male or female. Pilates requires concentration, focus, coordination and agility.
Pilates builds a foundation of core strength, and that requires some deep, precise, consistent work. Only after your core is established and muscles correctly firing can you move on to the more complicated, advanced Pilates exercises. So yes, Pilates can seem repetitive in the beginning. But be patient! Your repertoire will expand as you become stronger and are able to demonstrate control in your body.
It’s only for dancers
Joseph Pilates was not a dancer; he was a boxer and wrestler, studied yoga and gymnastics. When Joseph and his wife Clara set up shop in New York City, George Balanchine sent many dancers to Pilates to rehabilitate their ballet injuries. The news of a workout that promoted strength with stretch spread quickly through the dance community, and has been popular ever since. However, Pilates is beneficial for all populations.
Pilates can be modified to accommodate nearly any injury, but true Pilates, once the basic concepts are understood, is challenging to the most fit person.
Let’s all breathe in together… and sigh out a big exhale and relax. Usually that’s the sound made when coming into your first Downward Dog of the day. Of course if your hamstrings and hips or shoulders are tight, you’ll let out a few grunts, but like most forward bends, the function of relaxation and total body stretching out ways the groans.
Downward Dog is an extremely popular pose in most Yoga sequences. Ashtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa, Power, Anusara, Hot Vinyasa all use this excellent pose to warm the big muscle groups and strengthen the arms and shoulders for the rigors of a more strength building practice. Downward Dog focuses on stretching the shoulders, mid back, hamstrings, calves, arches of the feet, hips and hands. The “yoga buzz” you might feel at the end of class, when mind, body and breath are in alignment are often directly related to downward dog. Yoga Therapists have known for along time the benefits of forward bending and stretching to calm the mind, ease mild depression and anxiety.
Ok, let’s examine this pose more closely and practice.
Set your mat, and come to hands and knees (Cat/Cow) from there tuck your toes under, ground the palms and first finger and thumb toward the floor and come to Downward Dog. Set your feet hip width apart and lift up on your tipy toes. Once on your toes, you’ll take the pressure off your hamstrings so you can roll your shoulders back, straighten your spine, lift your sit bones to the ceiling.
As you’re lifting everything up, LENGTHEN, your heels to the floor, without rounding back and shoulders. Remember when you were in eight grade, chewing gum, if you clenched 1/2 the gum in your teeth and pulled the other half out like string, THAT’S lengthening. If your shoulders hunch, put a bend in your knees, grind your palms more firmly and press your chest closer to your legs.
While holding Downward Dog for 5-10 breaths, engage your core and lift your kneecaps, keep micro adjusting shoulders and lengthening. Rest, by coming down to Child’s pose or Cat/Cow.
If you have shoulder, wrist or acute hamstring, eye injury, please do yourself a favor and HEAL before coming into a full on Downward Dog. You can get the benefits of a hamstring stretch by lying on your back, and strapping up a lifted leg and gently pulling it toward you. Go slow.
If you can’t yet comfortably ground your palms, grab two blocks as support props under your hands and come into the pose. You can also use a strap around your upper arms for more stability if your elbows poke out.
Like any yoga pose or practice, please consult your instructor before continuing if you have an injury or contraindication. I work with a lot of athletes, and often they work with incredible pain to stay on the field. Coaches have different theories on this, but my feeling, as a Yoga Coach is if you are in acute pain, stop and examine what’s going on. I like to push people to there limit, not drive them into pain.
That being said, enjoy. Downward Facing Dog is one of my favorite poses and this combined with stretching hips, neck and a slight back bend, and sitting in silence for 5 minutes, can be your whole practice routine to re focus and energize your body daily.
For athletes who spend a lot of the game balancing on one leg, like kicking a soccer ball, or pushing off a dominant foot for a jump shot- Eagle Pose is an excellent pose for you to strengthen the standing leg, while improving balance. Eagle also targets a tough muscle group between the shoulder blades, that include your Rhomboids and Trapezes, which need to remain flexible especially in sports like tennis, and basketball to take the stress off shoulders.
The benefits of Eagle include:
strengthening ankles, calves and adductors (inner thighs)
Stretches hips, shoulders and upper back
Improves concentration and breath flow under stress
Start at the top of your mat with both feet together and find a point of focus about 5’ in front of you. Get in tune with your breath; slow rhythmic breathing through the nose.
Bend your knees and cross your right thigh over the left, balancing on your left foot.
Squeeze inner thighs firmly together, and get active in core to increase your balance.
Reach your arms out in front of you and cross your right arm over left, bend elbows and bring palms together. If it’s difficult to wrap your arms, hug your shoulders instead.
To increase the intensity, sit lower in chair till your thighs are parallel to the floor and reach your fingertips forward. A slight rounding in the back and you ‘ll really feel the stretch between your shoulder blades.
Have Fun! Remember to Breathe! It’s only yoga after all, and the more you can keep your sense of humor and come back to the pose if you fall out, the more relaxed and determined you’ll be under pressure; in sports or in life.
For more instruction on Eagle, or any pose, please come to my classes at the SAC or schedule a private yoga lesson, now offered at SACDT, by myself or any of our many wonderful yoga teachers.
Let’s raise a glass to Summer!!
As someone who makes a habit of eating healthfully and exercising regularly, from time to time I find myself defending my lifestyle choices. I am sure many of you who are reading this have experienced this as well. People are often interested, and sometimes appalled, to hear that I would rather spend my Friday night in the gym than at happy hour, or that I would gladly choose some dark green leafy vegetables over a side of bacon. In effort to explain (and perhaps justify, depending on the audience) my lifestyle choices, I have tried out many different lines of reasoning. Nothing I have come across does a more effective job summarizing my overall reasoning than the concept of the life curve.
I have noticed that generally we think of our lives as a s*tring with a definite beginning and an end. Your life begins when you are born, and it ends when you die. When you think about your life this way, it leads you to consider health in a one-dimensional fashion. Most health-related matters eventually boil down to whether or not they will immediately sever your lifeline. I am sure you have often heard someone lament that a particular activity or food “is not going to kill you” implying that if death is not a likely outcome, then it is without consequence. This sort of thinking also makes healthful eating and regular exercise somewhat easy to dismiss because, let’s face it, your life could end abruptly at any moment. And it seems reasonable to conclude that since “life is short” you may as well have a good time while you can and not worry all the time about extending your lifeline, right? That all seems logical given the information that we have, but perhaps there is more to the story.
The concept of a life curve expands on the idea of the lifeline by adding a second dimension, and it looks something like this:
In the above illustration, the x-axis represents how long we will live, just as it does in the one-dimensional representation of your life. The y-axis represents our quality of life. The higher up the life curve is on the y-axis, the better the quality of life. Here ‘quality of life’ represents many things. For example, immune system strength, bone density, body composition, energy levels, the ability to concentrate, and how long you can run are all examples of quality of life. The list is seemingly endless, and can best be prioritized by you.
‘Quality of life’ is a relatively abstract term, but this concept can significantly change our thinking. Length of life is no longer paramount, but secondary to how we will feel each and every day while we are alive. And believe me, all of our actions matter. Everything that we eat, all of the exercise that we do, how much sleep we get each night, and our overall level of stress, among many other things, all impact quality of life. Our behavior has real and tangible consequences that will be felt not only in the short-term, but in the long-term as well. Everyday decisions that we make have the potential to impact the rest of our lives.
The next time that someone is giving you a hard time for choosing water instead of wine, spending an extra fifteen minutes on the treadmill, or forgoing the cheese on your sandwich, encourage them to add a second dimension to the way they consider their lifeline. You may just have an easier time justifying your position.
What part of your work day are you guaranteed to have at least an hour to yourself? Before work, maybe if you don’t have to be at work at 6:00am, if you don’t have kids you have to get to school, if you don’t like to sleep in, if you don’t have dogs to walk. After work, maybe if you are still energized enough, if it’s not dinner time, if you don’t have to pick up the kids from soccer practice, if you don’t have a late meeting. Lunch time, for sure! This is the best part about working out on your lunch break, you’ll always be guaranteed to have that time to yourself. Maybe you might have a lunch meeting but for the most part that is your one hour out of the work day that is yours to do what you wish. Sounds like the perfect time to get a quick, strenuous, fun, energizing, and beneficial workout it! Besides having it fit nicely in the middle of your day, here are a few great reasons to workout at lunchtime:
Get in, get out and it’s done for the day. No worries about having to make time for a workout after work, this way there are no excuses.
Stop the after lunch crash, no more coffee or energy drinks required. After a lunchtime workout you’ll be energized with endorphins and will be ready to finish off the last half of your work day.
The quality of your lunch meal will be so much more beneficial. Most of the time you go for a salad at lunch but sometimes you grab a pizza, a pasta dish, or maybe even some heavy Thai food. After a good workout you will want nothing but good fuel for your body, I mean you didn’t do all that hard work just to turn around and un-do it all in 10 minutes – right!?
It’s easy to get your co-workers involved. Sometimes you go to lunch with your friends from work, but now make it a healthier get together and come down to the gym together. It’s always more fun if you have a partner in crime!
You are awake enough (as opposed to bright and early before work) to be alert and strong but not tired enough (as opposed to after an 8 hour work day) to not have enough gas in the tank to put forth good effort.
Come down during lunch, try it out and experience the benefits of a lunch time workout first hand. There are plenty of classes, programs, trainers, and gym partners for you, making this a great way to break up your work day. Plus, when you are done you can enjoy some of the healthy sandwiches, salads, smoothies, and fruit that available at the SAC Café.
Adriana offers a great Lunchbox Express workout that works for all fitness levels and is scheduled perfectly to suite the lunch hour.