Making Life MORE work

Last week, I bought a new garbage can for the bathroom. This may not sound exciting but I had been searching for a small, lidded one to replace my tall, open-mouth one for months and lucked up at The Container Store. Had my son not been with me I probably would have made many more fun purchases because that place is my version of Toys “R” Us. Yes, color-coated bins and kitchen organization tools make me giddy.

Excitementhttp://orzzzz.com/8-things-you-cant-do-if-you-want-to-become-president.html

Now, you might not think that the swap of one garbage can for another would impact my health, but it has. Before, I would stand at the sink and let my floss drop into the can’s open mouth, requiring virtually no exertion. Now, I have to squat and hold it for a couple of seconds while I open the lid with one hand and deposit my floss with another. The same activity has now become a total-body movement. And I do this new pattern several times a day, whenever a refuse opportunity crops up. And, life with a toddler provides many such opportunities.

I made this swap with the understanding that I’d have to work a little harder to achieve a task that used to be easy. In fact, I’ve started making a concerted effort to work harder at a bunch of small chores that definitely add up by the end of the day.

Examples of how I increase my daily movement quotient:

• Holding the water pitcher for several seconds as I fill it rather than letting it rest in the sink
• Squatting to my son’s level in order to take his shirt off rather than sitting on the couch to do it
• Eating some meals while standing or sitting on the floor instead of at the dining table (depending on how much time I spent sitting during the day)
• Buying only the food I need to make dinner for a single day so that I will walk to the store more frequently
• Wearing my son in a carrier while carrying groceries home rather than pushing him in a stroller and putting the groceries underneath it

Rather than eschewing exertion I’m embracing it

Part of the reason I’ve done this is to actually use the strength, endurance, and mobility that I build in the gym for something other than gym activities. After all, what’s the point of training if you don’t ever test its results in real-world scenarios (to know if your gym time is being used wisely)?

And, when my time is tight and I can’t make it to the gym or I’m not able to swing some ketllebells at home because I’m on mom duty, I can count on chores to provide me with a chance for movement.

Scrubbing floorshttp://www.ourgom.com/5-simple-tips-on-how-to-make-cleaning-more-relaxing-and-fun/

Another reason I’ve changed my approach to everyday tasks has to do with being influenced by a very smart lady at the heart of a relatively new movement, aptly called Nutritious Movement. Katy Bowman is a biomechanist and admitted science nerd whose work I first came upon when doing research for my forthcoming book on pre-natal fitness. Since discovering her I’ve read three of her books and frequently listen to her podcast. She’s as prolific as she is influential.

One of Bowman’s main arguments is that we are designed to move and that living a more movement-based lifestyle will solve a lot of our physical ailments (and diseases). For example, she has gotten rid of almost all of the furniture in her home because sitting on the floor is more beneficial to our bodies than sitting in a chair. That’s because our muscles and joints are asked to do more to get down and up from the ground than when sitting on a couch.

If that’s hard to imagine then picture your knee. In a couch or chair your knee will be bent at about 90◦. If you sit on the floor the joint will likely be bent at a much greater angle, forcing it to use a bigger range of its available motion. Not only will using more range of motion mean that it will be there for you when you need (hence, the principle of use it or lose it) but maneuvering to and from the ground is a vital life skill that will be preserved with more floor-sitting.

Old person sitting on groundhttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2247402/Can-floor-using-hands-If-heading-early-grave.html

A final reason that I’ve bought into the idea of making my life less convenient has to do with the recent abundance of research that highlights the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. The longer you spend sitting throughout the day the greater the rise in mortality rate. And, even more scary to me, is that these findings apply to those who regularly go to the gym but who still may sit for hours (1,2). As one study concluded, “Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity (1).”

So, it seems that overall lifestyle patterns trump a concentrated effort of intense activity sandwiched by long stretches of inactivity.

What you can do

A simple adjustment can have an additive effect and I urge you to start looking in your environment (home, work, mall, leisure locations, etc.) to create more opportunities for movement. See if you can squat to accomplish tasks that occur low to the ground instead of rounding your back or sitting. Try carrying packages or bags instead of using a cart or other object with wheels. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator is an oldie but goodie. And vary the positions in which you work at your computer: standing (elevate the keyboard on a crate), kneeling or sitting on the floor (use the crate as a desk on the floor). You are only limited by your creativity.

Your homework: make a list of common tasks that you perform in each environment you occupy during the day. There may be times and places in which you cannot change your habitual patterns. However, I bet there are a host of ways that you can make changes that will benefit your health. And then let me know what changes you make. The more you share your clever hacks the more you can inspire others to get healthier too.

Keep on Movin’
-CA

 

References:

1) van der Ploeg HP, Chey T, Korda RJ, Banks E, Bauman A. (2012). Sitting Time and All-Cause Mortality Risk in 222,497 Australian Adults. Archives of Internal Medicine. 172 (6): 494-500.
2) Patel, A.V., Bernstein, L. Deka, A., Feigelson, H.S., Campbell, P.T., Gapstur, S.M., Colditz, G.A. & Thun, M.J. (2010). Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults. American Journal of Epidemiology.172 (4): 419-429.

My Fit Pregnancy: Due Date Edition

     Today is my due date but the bun seems quite content in the oven. No labor signs yet so I’m enjoying maternity leave and getting my preparations done, including working out. Since the baby could come at anytime within the next 2 weeks I’m in a bit of a holding pattern: I want to maintain my strength but without overexerting myself to avoid exhausting my resources before labor.

      In order to better target my workouts for this special event I’ve shifted the focus to match the demands of the birthing experience. Let me explain.

      After taking a comprehensive birthing class a month ago, in which the teacher explained the characteristics of each stage of labor, I got a much better sense of how the body gets stressed. Labor is a long event that can last hours (and hours, and hours) and the ability to endure discomfort (physically and mentally) seems to be a key component.

      Initially contractions can be short and mild with several minutes of calm in between but will progress to longer and more intense with less recovery time. So, from a training standpoint, I look at the time spent in discomfort (i.e. 30-60 seconds) and practice holding postures for that duration while focusing on breathing in a regulated pattern.

Working on holding postures like these to open up the pelvis, while focusing on a regulated breathing pattern.

Working on holding postures like these to open up the pelvis, while focusing on a regulated breathing pattern.

      I’m still lifting weights at the gym (where I can’t take photos, sadly) to maintain much of my strength. However, I’ve made some specific adjustments:

  • Reduce the overall amount of weight that I’ve been lifting and lower the volume of sets
  • Spend more time holding positions (isometrics)
  • Incorporate deep squat postures and other gravity-friendly birthing positions to open up the pelvis
  • Emphasize regulated breathing patterns, which helps to create an external focus of attention so that I can better endure the discomfort of long holds.

      It’s also important to mention that a primary goal of exercise is usually to produce force to lift and move things, with the main focus on creating tension. However, labor requires some parts of the body to be in tension (especially during active pushing) while other parts need to relax. Being soft and relaxed are important so as not to burn the body’s resources too quickly and so that the baby can come out more easily. I’ve been trying to work on this balance as well.

      Finally, tapering before a big event is crucial and I’m trying to stay “fresh” for labor day. However, the challenge in this case is that I don’t know definitively when that will be.

      With this lingering uncertainty I am feeling physically and mentally confident because of my preparation. But I’m also very much aware that there is no way to plan for and know exactly how this will unfold. All I can do is try to remain calm and flexible, reduce tension when possible, and enjoy the ride of this new and exciting journey.

      Thanks for your support and I’ll be back with news as soon as I get the hang of the whole mom thing.

Keep on Movin’
-CA

The Perception-Reality Gap

     Have you ever been in the gym and thought your body was in a certain position only to look in the mirror to discover that it wasn’t? Or maybe you were convinced that you were squatting to parallel when your workout buddy told you that you were only doing partial reps. I encounter both surprise and confusion when my clients experience this disconnect, when they think they are doing X and I tell them that they’re not. I call this the perception-reality gap and it happens more often than you might think.

      One of my clients, Jackie, routinely proves the existence of this phenomenon because she swears that she’s blazing through her set of lunges only to discover, when looking at the video I’ve taken of her, that she’s moving at a painfully slow pace. She’s incredulous when confronted with the evidence because it feels fast to her. The way that she perceives the movement has become her reality.

      Another example: a senior client has feet that love to turn out and knees that relish staying bent (there are physiological reasons for this that I won’t go into). This is his default standing position, which has become his reality, and now he has trouble perceiving what straight feels like. Same goes for his feet. When I ask him to stand with his feet parallel he says that they feel pigeon-toed. The perception-reality gap strikes again.

Pidgeon-toed

      Sometimes my verbal cues work: “Keep pigeon-toed while sideshuffling.” I’ve also had moderate success demonstrating to clients the difference between what they’re doing and what I want them to do. Likewise, I might intentionally put them into the “wrong” position and then guide them to the “right” position, alternating between the two until the difference becomes obvious.

     However, the best way that I’ve found to close the gap is to provide video feedback to my clients. Nothing beats the power of seeing oneself in action because the footage doesn’t lie. I love watching the aha moments, like when Jackie sees herself lunging and says, “God that’s slow, just like you were telling me. I don’t have a single fast-twitch fiber in my body!”

     Video feedback is employed in sports training programs for athletes all the time so why not for exercisers too (whose outcomes and safety depend on sound mechanics)?

     If you don’t have the benefit of a workout partner, coach, or trainer then set up your smartphone near your workout space and hit record. You’ll likely be amazed at what you see. The more feedback you can give yourself the bigger the improvements you’ll be able to make. And if you can’t exactly tell what’s wrong (even if you know something doesn’t look right) then ask a trainer to review the video and give you pointers. We love helping people who are genuinely interested in improving and we’re trained to analyze movement, so we see things that you are likely to miss.

     If you are interested in having me critique your form, please email one of your videos to ca@carolynappel.com and I’d be happy to provide some technical feedback.

Keep on Movin’
-CA

My Fit Pregnancy-8 months

Here’s a recap since my last pregnancy post (which you can see HERE):

     Overall, I’ve been feeling really good with minimal changes to my lifestyle. My body overcame a month of sharp stabbing pains (sometimes debilitating) in my left hip during month 4-5 but I don’t have any problems there anymore.

     Truthfully, I wouldn’t know I was pregnant until I had to tie my shoes, squeeze into my winter jacket, or go to sleep (the little one is very active at night). I haven’t had any strong cravings, although I tend to want citrus more than I did before, and smells don’t seem to bother me as I’ve heard they can for many women.

     Having said all that my workouts haven’t been quite as stellar as I’d like. Between a vacation and two colds last month my workouts have definitely suffered a bit, but I haven’t stopped moving.

     As you’ll see in the video below I’m still able to move around pretty well but my endurance is certainly lacking–I was sucking air in between takes more than I’d like. But I guess having a human squeezing against my lungs and other organs might also have something to do with that. At 8 months and 20 pounds gained I suppose I should expect that.

   In today’s video I’ll be showing the following moves from my home workout:

  • A kettlebell complex: clean, squat, press, windmill
  • Bent-over row on one leg
  • Lateral lunges with kettlebell swing, alternating sides
  • Deep squat with sidekicks, alternating sides (tapping into some old martial arts training)
  • Crab reach, alternating sides

     I’m really trying to encourage that deep squat position to prepare my body for labor. I also incorporate some pelvic floor exercises during my rest breaks to get those in too.

     If you happen to be a pregnant woman watching this, DO NOT do this workout. I’ve prepared my body for these exercises long before I was pregnant–this isn’t the time to be experimenting with new, higher-intensity movements. Stick with what you’re used to and then amp it up once the baby makes it into the world.

I hope that, regardless of your physical condition or limitations, you work on the things that you still can do.

Keep on Movin’

-CA

Fit Pro Feature: Nerijus Bagdonas

This series is designed to bring you voices from the fitness industry so that you can learn from different approaches, in addition to my own.

Featured Fitness Professional: Nerijus Bagdonas, CSCS
Nerijus head shot

CA: Tell me a bit about your career as well as outside interests.

I am a strength and conditioning coach in NYC and I have created a training method called Train P3, which stands for Performance, Power, and Physique. I teach private, semi private and group training. Most of my clients are dancers, bodyweight athletes or anyone interested in moving better, becoming more functional and developing an athletic physique while focusing on multi-modal movement.

In my own life, I constantly try to experiment with various training styles (e.g., bodyweight training, gymnastics, dance, Olympic weightlifting, parkour etc.) to become a better athlete and express my creativity.

I am also a fitness model with Wilhelmina Models, I love elephants and my favorite color is purple.

CA: How long have you been in the industry?

I got certified as a personal trainer when I was 18 and I have been professionally teaching for almost 18 years. However, growing up in Lithuania, I started recruiting kids in my neighborhood to train with me when I was 9 years old. I made them do agility and sprint workouts, practice martial art kicks and punches and perform bodyweight conditioning, splits, and other types of flexibility training.

CA: Why did you get into the fitness industry?

There was never really a question that this was what I wanted to do with my life. My modalities have changed, my place in the fitness industry has evolved, but I have always had a passion for becoming stronger, faster, more flexible and being able to express myself through movement. Training, moving and learning new skills have been the most consistent things in my life. They have helped me stay balanced, establish core values and made me a better person. It’s only natural that I want to share this gift with others.

CA: What is your coaching philosophy/approach?

My philosophy has evolved many times during my training career, going from aesthetics to strength to movement based training– until I developed Train P3. While all of those are still main goals of Train P3, performance and quality of movement come first, strength and power second, with physique coming later as a reflection of our training–never the main focus.

Initially, we emphasize gaining back the movement we start to lose as a dysfunctional, sedentary society. We practice basic patterns like crawling, hanging, deep squatting, multi directional bending, rotating, lunging, throwing, jumping, and sprinting. We concentrate on building skills and becoming efficient at using our own bodies before using a lot of external load. We then keep increasing complexity until our athletes can perform intricate hybrid exercises that fully integrate their nervous systems and challenge all their energy systems. Once people can move better, training becomes a lot more explosive, skillful and fun!

CA: What are a few of your biggest coaching successes?

I had a client who lost 100 lbs and multiple clients who have significantly improved strength and transformed their physiques in as little as 6 weeks while doing my program. The ones that make me most proud, however, are the ones who have changed their lifestyle and stuck with training and nutrition changes years after we stopped training together.

CA: What are the main reasons your clients don’t achieve their goals?

Clients who don’t achieve their goals are always malnourished, sleep deprived or overstressed. Especially in NYC, people are very driven and easily get overextended in multiple areas of their lives. They underestimate the daily commitment it takes to stay healthy and fit in our society.

CA: How do you coach them through their “sticking points”?

If my clients aren’t achieving their goals I don’t believe beating them up or training them harder will necessarily get better results. Instead we re-evaluate their original goals, current lifestyle and commitment level. I educate them on the changes they need to make or we readjust their goals and expectations. Then we continue measuring their improvements and readjusting as necessary. I also believe it’s my job to inspire them and to lead by example.

CA: Do you have any advice for my readers about how they might be more successful with their own workouts?

Sure! Focus more on skill practice, movement quality, and intricacy than on how many reps or sets you can do. Each day, practice basic movement skills, such as side, back and forward bending, rotating, hanging, and locomoting on your hands (bear crawls, side ape or other animal traveling forms, or handstands). Carry heavy objects, rest in a primal squat and perform various single leg exercises, like lunges, single leg deadlifts or single leg squats. Find a way to have fun while training! Also, get enough sleep and eat the most natural, clean, and real (unprocessed and unrefined) food that you can find.

Nerijus Bagdonas, CSCS is a strength and conditioning coach, fitness model and the creator of the Train P3 Training Method. He teaches private, semi private and group training in Midtown Manhattan. He has 18 years of experience teaching fitness, numerous certifications and a degree in Kinesiology. Check out his training method at:

http://www.trainp3.com (The photos alone are worth the click!)
http://youtbube.com/trainp3
http://facebook.com/trainp3
http://twitter.com/trainp3
http://instagram.com/trainp3

Keep on Movin’
-CA

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