The Ant Philosophy

Ever think about ants? Me neither! Not until I moved down south and discovered FIRE ants! Then it was a MUST to think about them – they were all over! They do that – ants. They are all over, all the time. It’s like they never quit! They are always doing something, carrying something on their backs, building an ant hill, or just THERE! Ants are survivors! You know why? Because they have an 4-part process to success! Yes, it might be “ant success”, but Jim Rohn has coined this action of ants as the “Ant Philosophy“.
The Ant Philosophy is a plan for success. Think about it for a minute. They never give up. No matter how many times you squish their little ant hill, they build it again. No matter how many times you flick them away from your food, they come back. They will go over, under, and around anything in their way to get where they are supposed to be! They are always looking ahead. In the summer, they are storing up for winter. They stay positive. In the winter, under the ground, they are thinking that this won’t last long – summer is coming. They look forward to the summer. They do all they can do. In the summer they will gather all they can and do all they can to prepare and store for winter. Ants are the workhouse insects that we don’t think much about. They are survivors! Just like you!
Did you know that ants can lift 20x their body weight? In relation to a human, ants can run as fast as a race horse! Ants have two stomachs, one to hold food for themselves and one to share with others. How cool is that? If a worker ant has found a good source for food, it leaves a trail of scent so that the other ants in the colony can find it. They do whatever needs to be done to get the job done! Just like you!
The Ant Philosophy can be applied to class and to every day life. If you never give up, always look ahead, stay positive, and do all that you can do – you will succeed at life! I know you all have an ant inside of you!
Find your inner ant and never give up, always look ahead, stay positive, and do all that you can do!

Benefits of the Get up. The what? The Get up!

A few of my class got to experience the baby get-up in the past few weeks. It sounds easy right? “Baby get-up”. If you did it, you know it wasn’t easy. The baby get-up isolates your oblique muscles. They are the muscles responsible for rotating the body and preventing rotation of the body, which is equally important. The baby get-up is the pre-cursor to the get-up exercise and the Ultimate Sandbag leg threading exercise. Remember that one? The get-up works your entire body and specifically your core! Your core includes several muscles beyond your 6-pack abs, way more muscles that are superiorly important to function! Check out these core muscles!
You’ve heard me say the word “cross patterning” or “cross body”, especially when we are working with an uneven load (Sandbag/Kettlebell on one shoulder). This picture gives you a visual of what I’ve been talking about. Cross patterning is how our body works. It is how we stay upright and stable. It’s not just about the 6-pack abs, it’s about doing life and not falling over! According to Dr. Mercola, “In addition to building strength, Get-ups increase your overall body stability, awareness, balance, and coordination.” They also have the following benefits:
  • Promotes upper body stability
  • Stimulates the proprioception system, which contributes to balance
  • Promotes cross lateralization (getting right brain to work with left side)
  • Hip and leg mobility and active flexibility
  • Closed and open chain shoulder stability
  • Stability in two different leg patterns – lunge stance and squat stance
  • Single leg hip stability during the initial roll to press and during the bridge
  • Develops upper body strength, trunks strength, and hip strength
Who knew you could do so much from the get up exercise? Maybe we should practice them more? 🙂

Aches n’ pains – vinegar to the rescue?

With all my activity it’s no wonder my body aches – some days more than others. I was telling my health care practitioner and she recommended apple cider vinegar to help with muscle aches/pain. I completely forgot how she told me to take it and rather than Googling it, I just downed a shot glass’ worth of apple cider vinegar. One quick gulp and it was in my body! OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!!!! Yah, it was IN my body because I could feel it burning and clearing out my sinuses all at the same time! What on Earth was I thinking? It was VINEGAR!!!! I fumbled for a glass of water and sloppily gulped that down! That was my first experience with apple cider vinegar! Did it scare me? You betcha! It tasted horrible!!! I knew it was healthy and that I really needed to take it so I did Google it to find out how to take it. I now take it three times a day, in the recommended dose, and it’s totally fine! So why all the hype over apple cider vinegar? This stuff is pretty potent and amazing! Check out the benefits of apple cider vinegar!
  1. Helps heart burn and acid reflux: Acid reflux usually results from

    having too little acid in the stomach. Apple cider vinegar is full of antibiotic properties. To improve the acid content of your stomach, drink one tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar mixed in a glass of water.

  2. Promotes healthy cholesterol: it can protect from arterial damage or oxidation.
  3. Aids in healthy weight maintenance: The acetic acid it contains helps to suppress your appetite, increase your metabolism and reduce water retention.
  4. Promotes healthy blood sugar: strong anti-glycemic properties that support a healthy blood sugar level. The vinegar actually blocks some of the digestion of starch, preventing it from raising your blood sugar.
  5. Is an antioxidant: contains many antioxidants to help keep your body healthy and running smoothly, including catechin, gallic acid, caffeic and chlorogenic acids.
  6. Improves nutrient absorption:The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar can increase your body’s absorption of important minerals from the food you eat.

 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg! This stuff is really a super food/liquid! NOW that I’m taking it correctly, it’s not so bad at all!!! Click  HERE to learn more about apple cider vinegar!

 

The F-word

Got your attention? LOL! The F-word! In the studio, the F-word is “foam rolling”. HaHa, had you wondering didn’t I? Foam is a nasty 4-letter word if your muscles are tight or you have pain. You might even let out some other 4-letter words while you are foam rolling if you are tight! Foam rolling is a highly effective, yet non-pleasurable way to free your muscles!
Foam rolling functions to break up/loosen fascia. Fascia is connective tissue in your body that covers your muscles. If you are a meat eater, it’s the shiny white stuff (not the fat) that separates parts of your steak. Fascia is responsible for free movement of your muscles. If the fascia is tight or adheres to your muscles then you have aches, pains, and reduced movement. Because of that, the body will compensate to perform an activity and lead to other dysfunctions in the body. Your body is all connected so a dysfunction in one area will trickle into another area.
You may have heard me affectionately refer to your tight muscles as ropes or knots. According to Breaking Muscle, “Many times dysfunctional areas of fascia are referred to as knots, ropes, gristle, adhesions, and scar tissue. There aren’t actually knots and ropes under your skin. Instead, what we have is mal-alignment of tissue due to trauma and injury, poor motor patterns, and emotional distress. Releasing these tissues is simply creating a biochemical and mechanical change that will give us an opportunity to create more efficient movement patterns in the future.”  Foam rolling helps release those “knots” and “ropes” through a process called self-myofascial release: fancy wording for painful self massage that leads to smiles!
In addition to loosening up your fascia, foam rolling also warms up your muscles. When you foam roll, you will see just how quick your body gets warm. Thus, foam rolling also serves as a warm up prior to exercise. I am introducing this concept to you now because it will be your new warm-up, muscle loosener, and overall “fixer” routine. We want to do everything we can to keep your bones and muscles moving the way they are supposed to, your body pain and injury free, and you as functional as possible EVERY day.
Watch these videos below to learn more about WHY you foam roll and HOW to foam roll. Try it before class the next time you come in. I promise that after a week (or two) it won’t hurt as bad!

 

This is another video with more details on HOW to foam roll your entire body.

YOU BOUGHT ME A PAIR OF JEANS?

I was doing laundry and noticing that I have an array of sizes in my drawers. No lie – I have a SMALL, MEDIUM, and a LARGE in my workout pants and shirts! How can one body, the same body, fit into all three sizes? I wonder that often myself! That’s why it’s impossible for someone else to buy me clothes! Let me tell you a story about the first Christmas Michael and I spent together.

He went shopping and bought me a pair of jeans. MISSES jeans! Size 5 Aeropostale! No stretch. When I opened my gift I didn’t know what to say out loud because under my breath I was thinking “you stupid idiot – you seriously thought I could fit into a size 5!” (that was the nice version). He didn’t know any better at the time. He thought he did great! Insisting that I try them on (GRR!), they came to my calves! Michael innocently told me to pull them up and I let him know (nicely) that they DON’T go up any further. In disbelief he tried himself! “Yah, I’ve been buying myself jeans for years and I’ve not fit into a size 5 since I was 12 years old! And girls with thighs like mine don’t wear non-stretch jeans!” As if that was not enough to convince him, we spent 90 minutes in Lucky Jeans because they claimed to be able to fit anybody! EXCEPT ME! FINALLY, the light went on and Michael realized that I can NOT wear jeans without stretch and that he’d be safer if he didn’t buy me clothes – ever!
The blame wasn’t on him because sizes are totally erroneous and misleading! In my closet right now I have jeans that are a 6, 8, and 11! Seriously, how could anyone get the sizing right! And my shirts range from Small to Large. The ONLY things that are consistently sized in my wardrobe are my socks, underwear, and sports bras! That’s it! That being said, WHY do we get so hung up on a size? The number doesn’t matter – your health does. Stand naked in front of the mirror – accept your body – love your body – and realize that your healthy body IS beautiful and can’t be narrowed down to a number! xo
P.S. Michael now gets Athleta gift cards for me!

BMI vs BODY FAT

Body mass index (BMI) and body fat are very different measures of obesity/health.  Unfortunately they are all too often used interchangeably. Last year my Doctor told me I was borderline Overweight (based on BMI).  Based on height and weight measures, I do weigh “too much” for my 5’2″ stature.  BUT, I’m not fat nor am I unhealthy. My body fat is 25% at 43 years old. Politely I let her know that BMI wasn’t an applicable measure of obesity/fitness for me and this is why . . .
Body mass index (BMI) is used to determine if a person is overweight. Generally speaking, for the mass population, it’s “related” to body fatness and is inexpensive and easy to perform on a large group of people.  However, for someone who is active – this measurement is meaningless.  Because BMI is based solely on height and weight, there is no accounting for muscle mass.  We all know that muscle weighs more than fat.  An athlete who is short and has a lot of muscle mass (low body fat), may fall into the overweight or obese BMI category because the BMI standards say she/he is too heavy for her/his height. Even if that extra “weight” is muscle mass, it doesn’t matter for BMI calculations.  Using myself as an example, being 5’2″ tall and weighing 142lbs, my BMI is 26.  When I did my bodybuilding show, I was 5’2″, 137 lbs; my BMI was 25.  According to the measure of BMI – I’m overweight! Now let’s consider a more accurate indicator of overweight. Calculate your BMI HERE.
Body composition is a measure of your percentage of body fat compared to your lean muscle mass. Body fat is the percentage of your body that is fat. This can be measured by several different methods, but the easiest is biolelectrical impedance. It sounds worse than it is, but it requires you to stand on a device that measures the resistance to flow of a super small current passing through your body. This speed is entered into an equation that calculates the percentage of your body weight that is due to fat. Body composition does take into consideration your muscle mass – not just height and weight.  Although more accurate than BMI, the measurement of body fat does require a trained individual and it is more time consuming.

In the graphic, both ladies have the same BMI, but vastly different body shapes. The lady on the right has significantly more muscle so she would have lower body fat than the lady on the left. According to BMI, both are the same measure of “obesity/health”. Again, for someone who has muscles, BMI is meaningless.  For more reading, the New York Times published an article on the difference between BMI and body fat. Very interesting.

BOTTOM LINE: BMI is a gross estimation of overweight.  It is NOT indicative of the true measure of fat in the body. Rely on body fat measures rather than BMI as your indicator of fatness.

BODY DIVERSITY

I learned a new word recently, body diversity.
BODY DIVERSITY. 
Think about it for a minute. Body diversity. That’s a great word! That wording promotes acceptance of differences in bodies! While the media embraces individual differences in many realms, body diversity is NOT there yet. According to the media, all female bodies should be Victoria Secret size/shape and all male bodies should be a pic from Men’s Health magazine. Seriously! How many people do you know that actually look like the people in magazine ads, on TV, in movies, or on the internet? Yet, this is the ridiculous ideal that has somehow corrupted our expectations of what we should look like. Let me hope on my “soapbox” for a minute here:
Being in the field of fitness all of my adult life (that’s a whopping 25 years!), I have seen many different shapes and sizes of bodies – including my own. All throughout MY changing body, I’ve been super healthy and fit. Regardless of wearing a pair of size 11 jeans or a size 2, I was still able to bench press 205 lbs at my puny 5’2″ frame, 145lbs! So . . . bring on the shallow, superficial media who think that “a look” is more important than HEALTH. I’ll smash you into the ground! (just joking of course!).
I’ve had two roommates in college (aerobics instructor and fitness enthusiast) who had eating disorders (bulemia and anorexia). One threw up every time she ate anything because the pressure to be a certain size while she was wearing spandex teaching classes was insane. The other one didn’t eat more than an orange a day while she ran nearly 3 hours per day! Why do we do this to ourselves? Because the media tells us we are supposed to look a certain way to have “value”. Bah-hum-bug!! Before you think that I’m just speaking for women . . . I’m not. Men also have distorted body images. The media suggests that they should all be beefcakes (old school word!) and if you’re not, then you’re not desirable. Bah-hum-bug to that too!!
Recently I watched the documentary film  Embrace. Wow, it was amazingly informative, sad, and angering, yet I left feeling hopeful! The movie sought to bring awareness to the pressures women feel about their bodies, how the image of women’s bodies has changed over the last century, and closed by celebrating the diversity of women’s bodies! Their message: “A negative perception of our own body is both destructive and unhealthy and can result in a damaged sense of self or poor self esteem. So the message here is – accept your body.”  I left hopeful because they are aggressively trying to help women improve their body image! On their website, they provide resources and links to other resources for support and encouragement. They even have a six-week program to help you find joy within!
ALL of us should aim to be healthy and LOVE our bodies and accept diversity in other people’s shapes and sizes. Health, contrary to what is thought, is NOT a one size fits all trait! Health is an emotional, mental, and physical trait – that comes in all sizes!
Embrace your body. Love your body. Be healthy.

PLAYING TO YOUR STRENGHTS

Each of us has strengths and weaknesses in our personality, and our bodies. Unfortunately, most the time it is our weaknesses that we talk about. Why? Why only talk about our weaknesses, the things we’re not so proud of or the things we want to improve? Not in a boastful or conceited way, our strengths are just as important! Our strengths are what give us that internal edge to push through another day, to help someone in need, to show love, or to simply get things done in our daily life. We are more than our weaknesses – we are strong! Below are some tips to help us play up our strengths while of course remaining humble.
  1. Risky Business: Commit to delegating some of your daily workload to someone else. Take a healthy risk on a person who has shown honesty, integrity and a strong work ethic.
  2. Hold Your Ground: This week, analyze your motives on small decisions. Keep the long-term health of your personal life/business in mind so you’ll be ready when big decisions need to be made.
  3. Build Bravery: Do one small thing every day that scares you. Courage is like a muscle. Build it with deliberate and repetitive action.
  4. Vitals Check: Write out the 10 most important things in your life. Place that list on your bathroom mirror as a reminder of the things that need to stay at the top of your priority list.
  5. Give Back: Sign up to volunteer for a program in your community this month.
  6. Tiny Tweaks: Instead of punishing yourself with an “eat this, not that” diet, compromise by downsizing portions of your favorite guilty pleasures.
  7. Watch and Learn: Do you feel stuck in your career? Find someone who is where you want to be. Meet with him or her to develop a plan that will take you where you should be.
  8. Perk Up: Commit to doing one thing that makes you happy for at least 20 minutes per day. Take note of your increased happiness.
  9. Assess Yourself: Do circumstances make you apprehensive about standing up for your values and beliefs? Identify the five triggers that hijack your moral courage. Focus on eliminating one per month.
  10. Dare to Be Different: Jot down the top three things that make you unique. See how you can implement them in your personal life/business.
These sound simple, and they are. They just have to be implemented. Most likely you will feel happier, more confident, less stressed, and full of more joy. Of course you will, you’re focusing on your strengths! Don’t ever let them be downplayed by your or anyone else. Michael makes fun of me, but I tell him that my rainbow will squash his black cloud any day of the week! It’s true – happiness and self love will win against negativity every time! So go out there and spew rainbows and sunshine and let your strengths shine!

IDEAL POSTURE, WHAT IS IT?

Last week I talked about bracing. Bracing aligns your body properly. Thus, bracing is a part of maintaining good posture. Most of the time we don’t think about our posture until we hear someone say “stand up straight” or “pull your shoulders back”. I do this often. 🙂 Good posture is important: You feel more confident, you are at less risk for injury because your body is properly aligned, emotionally you feel better, and your muscles work better together! What does this “good posture” look like?
Good posture is aligning your body over your feet. Let me explain. Standing with your feet hip width apart, slight bend in your knees, you will squeeze your glutes, which will tilt your pelvis. This stabilizes your pelvis over your feet. Tighten your core by bracing. Lift your rib cage up, straighten your back, and pull your shoulders back and down. This stabilizes your upper body over your pelvis and lower body. Pull your head back slightly so that your chin is parallel to the floor and your ears are in line with your shoulders. Now breathe! You are standing in good posture!!
Your posture says a lot about you. It can be an indicator of health, how you feel, how you communicate (or don’t), and how you look. Slouching may indicate poor self esteem, fatigue, tight hamstrings or chest muscles, and weak back muscles. A belly that sticks out often can indicate weak core muscles, tight lats, or a heart condition. Standing with one foot pointed outward suggests a weak hip muscle. One shoulder higher than the other can suggest muscle imbalance. An ideal posture is self confident, typically muscles are healthy and strong, and the person is generally open to new ideas. Your posture is also related to your body language and how you communicate with others. Check out this interview by Heather Post, Body Language Expert.

 

The exercises we do in class can help support ideal posture. Most exercise we do with the sandbags are working your whole body and your core. Specific exercises for the back include the row, lat pull down, pull up, bent over row, and deadlift. Although we do not hold stretches in class, we increase flexibility by increasing our range of motion in exercises. This is dynamic stretching. Although not a class favorite, reptile crawling or forward crawl on the ladder is a great hip opener. Push up kick-thrus are great for your upper body and core. As we get into using the TRX, you will realize that you have some weak links in your body. The more we challenge your muscles to work under different circumstances, the more well rounded your strength will be. Thus, your posture improves. Now, that’s not to say that if you sit all day for work that just practicing during class will fix everything. It will help, but you will have to be mindful, all the time, about your proper body alignment.
So, tuck your pelvis, tighten your glutes, squeeze your core, lift your ribcage, straighten your back, pull your shoulders back, and breathe. You will now be more mindful of you posture. 🙂

WHY I TELL YOU TO SQUEEZE YOUR GLUTES

The rear-end is one of the areas of the body that people typically want “harder”, “more toned”, or “tighter”.  Why not? Who doesn’t want a butt that’s high enough to NOT hit the back of your legs? Or to not crease when you squeeze into a pair of jeans? Yeah, you get the picture! Looking great in a pair of jeans isn’t the only thing your glutes are good for! You’ve heard me repeatedly saying “squeeze your glutes” for the past few months. It’s not because I’m obsessed with your butt, it’s so I can get you to engage those beasts!
Your glutes consist of three different muscles. They function to extend your leg behind you, raise your leg to the side, and to turn your leg in/out. They’re a huge muscle group that is super important for most every daily activity you do, especially if you’re standing! Plus, engaging your glutes will tilt your pelvis, which will allow you to better engage your core. (Remember the bracing sequence a few months back?) Yah, yah ,yah . . . squeeze your butt. So what?!
Your glutes are more important than giving shape to your backside. Strong glutes are necessary to walk, run, hike, etc. Ever see the glutes on a sprinter? They’re huge! That’s because the glutes extend the leg, which gives the sprinter more power. They also function to stabilize your pelvis, which reduces back and knee pain. Stronger glutes means reduced back and knee injuries and better performance. Who wouldn’t want strong glutes?
That being said, this is your exercise butt-lift recipe!  Remember, they’re the biggest muscle group on your body – work them hard and they’ll work for you! They’re big calorie burners!
1. When doing a squat exercise, push through your heels and squeeze your glutes throughout the entire range of motion.
2. Lying on your belly, arms & legs straight. Lift your entire leg off the ground. Repeat 15 times then switch to your other leg.
3. Lunges – reduce your range of motion when you step forward or backward, bend both knees deeper, and place more weight on your front leg, pushing through your heel as you stand up. *Split jump lunges (deep) will work your glutes even more!
4. Single leg squats – always a great butt exercise! Just remember to put all your weight on that one standing leg and to push through your heels and squeeze glutes. The deeper you go, the more you stretch your glutes, the more you work them. Just be careful not to let your knee turn in toward your other leg.
5. Ball leg curl or heel press – lying on your back with the ball under your feet.  Really squeeze your glutes as you pull the ball in and out or as you push down into the ball. Hold your butt as you do this to make sure you really are squeezing your glutes. It works!
NOW do you understand why I keep telling you to squeeze your glutes? 🙂