If you have ever taken a Pilates class, you have most likely done the 100s. This is a great exercise that can be done anywhere and has modifications that make it great for beginners or advanced students. All you need is a towel, or yoga mat and a few minutes and you will be on your way.
Lying on your back bring your knees into your chest. I like to take a moment here and rock my knees side to side and maybe make small circles with the knees. When you are ready, extend your legs up at a 90 degree angle and extend your arms long at your side. Take the time to feel your spine fully pressing into the floor. If you are a beginner, stay here. As you exhale lengthen your hands towards the end of your mat lifting your head and shoulders to look at your belly button. Continuing to feel your spine from the low part of your shoulder blades to your tail bone pushing into the mat. Begin pulsing your arms up and down – really feeling the strength coming from your shoulders, not letting the arms flop. Through this exercise begin taking 5 short inhales and 5 short exhales to the count of 100.
If you are advanced, you can lower the legs towards the floor. Continuing to engage the abdominals to support the weight of your legs. A few other variations are to place a ball or magic circle between your ankles through the exercise. You can also hold small weighted balls in each hand as you pulse the arms. Personally, I don’t find either modification necessary, but it does mix up the exercise a bit.
The key with any exercise is to listen to your body. See what feels good and what doesn’t. You always want to feel the exercise, but never pain. As a beginner you can always come in and out of the exercise building the strength to do it correctly. It is key to have a strong foundation and you will continue to have better results through any form of exercise.
I diligently attended yoga class after yoga class, looking to enhance my dance technique. I was a good student and did everything the teacher asked, but as I took each pose I kept wondering, “what is this doing?”. With each class, I didn’t feel that I was close to standing on my head. I was already standing on my shoulder in dance class, what was yoga going to teach me? It wasn’t until I attended class just to go that I got it. Once, I completely let my mind go and moved through each asana (pose) as the teacher instructed, my love for yoga began. Now, I practice almost daily and feel off when I haven’t. It creates balance within my body and allows me to shut out any worries for an hour or even ten minutes when I don’t have the full hour.
Another class that I hated – cardio. It didn’t matter if it was kickboxing or a basic aerobic workout. I couldn’t stand it. Then I was asked to teach a kickboxing class and I began taking class every day. It wasn’t long before the endorphins were pumping and the sweat was clearing out all the toxins. I was in the best mood after teaching these classes and realized that I do like cardio classes.
I recently read that when trying a new form of exercise, you should give it 30 days. The thought is that it gives you time to learn the routine, your body will adjust and not be as sore and then you can make a decision as to whether or not you like the class. I thought this was great advice as it has taken me time to discover what classes I enjoy taking. It is also said that it takes 40 days to form a new habit. Perhaps, you can extend the 30 day trial ten more days and you will find a new exercise habit
I found this saying on my tea tag. I absolutely love Yogi teas (http://www.yogiproducts.com/) not only do they taste great, but each tea bag has a meaningful saying. This particular saying really struck me. It is universal. You can use great or you can replace it with a variety of words such as, happy, successful, thoughtful, present, etc.
My favorite variation is, to be happy, think happy, act happy. It is amazing how far a smile can go in any situation. By simply smiling, you are telling your brain you are happy and it will emit endorphins. If you work out frequently, a smile will help you get through the hardest part of your routine. If you are stuck in line at the store and are in a rush, a smile will help you relax and receive great service. Remembering to smile randomly with your children or spouse will encourage them to be friendly back. I recently stumbled across this article and felt that it is fitting. Here is “Top 10 reasons to smile” from Mark Stibich, Ph.D. http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongbeauty/tp/smiling.htm
Happiness is a key component in any healthy, balanced life. Some could argue it is more important than the extra rep at the gym or skipping the french fries. Instead of keeping a food or fitness diary, try to keep track of how often you smile in a day and even better how often you laugh. Let the smile enhance your day-to-day life and perhaps your approach to fitness and healthy eating.
No matter how old your kids are (well, your high school student might roll his eyes) they LOVE to dance! I’m not talking about being classically trained. There is no need for tondues and flaps in the kitchen (unless you really want to) but kids like to move. Most kids start bouncing their knees to music before they can walk. The love for bouncing and moving around to a beat continues until someone tells them it isn’t cool or looks funny. When was the last time you turned the stereo up and just danced around the house? Maybe it’s been a while or maybe you dance while you’re cooking dinner.
My kids LOVE having a dance party in the dining room. It doesn’t cost any money or create a scheduling conflict. We simply turn the music up and everyone dances. The sillier the better. Kids will dance to any type of music. Maybe Barney isn’t what you want to dance to so put on music that you like. A happy compromise is the Rio soundtrack. It has great Latin beats and kid friendly lyrics. Having taught dance classes for many years, kids love current music. There are clean versions of many songs, make sure to listen first and make sure it is a song that you are comfortable with, but they love the beat. Many songs written for kids don’t have the complex rhythms that kids enjoy.
Lastly, be sure to dance yourself. It is a great way for you to relax, get the heartbeat up and enjoy some quality time with the kids. You can start off bouncing your knees like young kids and I am sure if you relax those shoulders you will be dancing around the room too. If you like more structure, there are many Zumba for families classes popping up all over. Many are free with your gym membership or a family membership at the local YMCA.
Turn up that music and dance the day away!!
Having little ones at home can make finding time for yourself difficult, let alone time to work out or even just move a little bit. In the beginning it seems like you are always moving. Checking on the baby, moving mountains of laundry and carrying the heavy car seat. Then they start moving and you are constantly running after them. At this point, mommy time is key. Whether you work or at home it seems impossible to find those ten minutes for yourself. There are a few options out there.
If you work and are bombarded by craziness when you walk in the door a ten minute yoga video might be what the doctor ordered. It will help you stretch those tired muscles and hopefully find you a little alone time. If the little one is moving there are fun kids yoga videos (even onDemand) that are quick and will help you both move and relax. If you are lucky enough to be home and want both time with other adults and to get out of the house there many stroller clubs popping up all over. Here on Cape Cod, there are groups who walk the track at the community center (you could even do this with a friend or non-parent at your convenience) there is even a group who takes the strollers on the skating rink and they skate while they push the stroller. Some cities and towns have organized groups that walk near beaches, in parks or at malls during inclement weather. These are great ways to get a few minutes of adult time and also some fitness.
Today, I was looking forward to my first yoga workshop with Zack Dixon at the Dharma Connection yoga studio in Sandwich, MA. Unfortunately, we had our first snow of the season. No plows have ventured down our street to let me out for the afternoon. Fortunately, the studio cancelled the workshop taking the decision making out of my hands. Instead, I had the joy of playing in the snow with my two boys and my husband. We ran around with sleds (no real hills in the yard, but they are still fun to slide on), made snow angels and of course had a snowball fight. What an easy way to get some exercise and fresh air! After the fun in the snow we had hot chocolate and tea and built a fire in the fireplace.
Earlier today, I was faced with the choice of being disappointed in missing a workshop I looked forward to for many weeks or embracing the change with quality family time. I chose to embrace the opportunity to act like a kid and play in the snow. It is always surprising how many choices we face in a day and how easy it can be to have fun and get some exercise. We often think of needing a long period of time for fitness, when we can find it around every corner. Each 5, 10 or 15 minutes of movement is a step in the right direction.