As some of you might know, in addition to studying nutrition I am also in the early stages of training to run the LA Marathon in the Spring! As I've started increasing my mileage and speed, I am feeling old dance/drummer injuries arise. I have always been athletic and a near constant mover and my problem area is my right side psoas muscle. This muscle is large and comes from a Greek word that means "loin region." It connects the lumbar vertebrae (lower back) to the femur (thigh bone) and so causes "feelings" to come up in the lower back and hips. I feel my psoas generally in my lower right abdomen where my right oblique lays and a bit lower into my hip flexor connection. When you run, you are strengthening this area, but also tightening it. Here are 3 great stretches for those of you who run and those of you who do not run... keeping this muscle strong and also long is important for support of the spine and lower trunk, so it's good for everyone.
1. side lower back twist:
lay on your back and draw one knee up into your chest and gently grab the outside of that thigh and bring it across your body, twisting and looking in the opposite direction of this knee. Open the opposite arm onto the floor as well and feel your lower back stretch. Now focus on your bottom leg and extend it onto the floor straight down under the hip. Allow this bottom leg to lengthen and feel heavy and relaxed into the floor. At the same time, also focus on lengthening the lower abdomen. Do the other side.
2. kneeling lunge stretch:
Put your right leg in front of you in a lunge and lower to the floor dropping the left knee down onto the floor behind you. Relax your toes, toenails on the floor and make sure your right knee is directly over your ankle and aligned with your middle toes. Place your right hand on top of your thigh and reach your left arm up over your head while gently arching your upper back, dropping your left hip towards the floor and stretching the front of your lower abdomen. Do the other side.
3. foam roller hip stretch:
Lay on your back and gently press your hips up into a bridge. Slide the foam roller under your pelvis and place it between your low back and tailbone comfortably. Draw one knee into the chest and allow the opposite leg to drop from the hip onto the floor. You might be surprised how tight this bottom leg hip is! Focus on breathing and allowing your bottom leg to be heavy into the floor, trying to keep it aligned and dropping through the hip flexor and front of the pelvis. Do the other side.
Remember, if any of this does not feel good, stop. At the end of every stretch, try to get into a child's pose if you do not have knee issues with weight bearing.
Through breath, you can actively visualize your muscles growing longer and releasing tension. Your inhale draws in strength, your exhale creates space.
NUTRITION TIP OF THE WEEK: SPICE AND HEAT ARE GOOD FOR YOUR MUSCLES!
I have been learning about a new theory that spicy foods and sauces like jalapeños, ginger and siracha can possibly help to alleviate muscle cramps. This theory is based on the idea that your muscles are cramping due to your nervous system being overloaded. The spice keeps the nervous system running smoothly and helps your muscle cramps to subside. Here is my favorite spicy thing to add to most anything: red pepper flakes. Try it on an avocado! Slice the avocado in half, spoon out, squeeze a tiny bit of lemon juice on top and shake as much red pepper flakes as you like onto it. You'll be surprised how much flavor is added to this delicious and nutritious snack.
Have a great week!!!
Happy Monday to you all!
Hopefully, the title of my blog today has piqued your curiosity...
I have a client I've been seeing for a little over a year now who had a stroke nearly 2 years ago. He is a general badass. Fit, stubborn, perfectionist. artist...this is not going to break him. It was a hard one, however, because he went unattended for several hours when it happened. It was also a rare one: his right side does not work quite like it should, though over this past year he has made remarkable improvements, due to the fact that he is, as I said, a badass. That and he has the most amazing family and support system...his wife is also a badass partner in crime for him.
The other day as we were waking up that right side and doing a very unique and untraditional form of movement and stretching, as I always do, he proclaimed, "Ginger, you should do barre for stroke survivors." I laughed, but I loved it. You see, this guy also has a dance background. Something that I believe helped get him back movement- wise to where he is now. Dancers are a special breed because they are usually much more in tune with their bodies than the average bear. I love that I can give movement cues to him that are based largely in dance, mostly in basic ballet barre and he can understand and utilize these cues to his advantage.
Here is a modified version of what I did for him that is for anyone who needs to sit for support and balance while they execute a side-bending stretch...
Sit in a sturdy chair that allows your feet to easily be flat and stable on the floor. Squeeze a medium sized, soft yet firm ball between your knees to keep your adductor (inner thigh) muscles engaged. I do this with my client to get his right adductor (the weaker side) working and to help keep his hips aligned. With both hips firmly planted on the chair, reach one arm up and arc it over your head, bending towards the opposite side. Allow your head to stay in line with your spine and try not to tense your shoulders, being careful to keep both glutes on the seat. The other arm should be reaching opposite, across your thighs. Then reverse to the other side. Now to get the legs involved, extend one leg out in front of you, flexing the foot and resting the heel on the floor and slowly bend forward in the chair over that leg. Again, both hips are firmly planted and now reach the opposite arm of leg towards the extended leg. Do the other side.
Remember, no matter your limitations, you CAN move your body and create a positive flow from body to mind to spirit. All you need is determination, courage, motivation and general baddassedness!
Here too is your nutrition tip for the week:
ANYTHING BROWN IS BETTER THAN WHITE. Translation: Brown rice, brown pasta, brown bread are better alternatives than white. If you are a carb lover and especially love these types of carbohydrates, try it in brown. My personal favorite is pumpernickel. I just got some amazing pumpernickel at my local farmers market! By the way, another important step towards eating more nutritiously is to buy food from your farmers markets. The bread is typically NOT processed as you might find it in your local supermarkets, but always read labels. AND you are supporting local farmers....another form of badassedness, yep, I'm coining this phrase.
Hello and Happy Friday!
As I study my nutrition textbook, I am learning about the importance of proper nutrition for people with scoliosis....something that hadn't really occurred to me until now. How wonderful it will be to also incorporate foods that will help others to have stronger curves. You see, one of my longtime clients has scoliosis, or a sideways curvature of her spine and we are continuously working to lengthen the side of her back that is overdeveloped while also strengthening the opposite side. It is important to work on the muscles in this opposing way so that the curve does not get worse over time. The curve that is visible in people with scoliosis looks like an S: a little roundness in the upper back and a slight sway in the lower back which causes one side of the back muscles to dominate. I have always felt that exercises designed to work on balancing this curve so that it does not become more pronounced help the individual to have better posture and in turn more confidence. Confidence within one's own body is created first by developing strong, lean muscles that support and align the bones in your spine. With this confidence comes an invincible attitude that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. Here is a great way to work on strengthening and toning your opposing muscles:
Stand with your feet parallel and hip width apart. Slightly bend your knees so they are not locked. In my client's case, her left lower back is weak and underdeveloped so I would have her twist her torso to her right, using her left arm to punch forward with a 1-3 pound weight, then return to center with her body and reach her right arm up over her head, stretching to her left in a side bend in order to lengthen her dominant right side. Repeating this action for 5-10 reps for 3 sets is a great way to attempt to "undo" that S curve. Here is a video illustrating this idea that I shot at Studio U in Marina Del Rey a few months ago... I added a single leg knee lift of the left leg to focus on the hip alignment and get the balance, coordination and core to engage.
Scoliosis and Nutrition Tip of the Week:
Aside from getting enough Vitamin D, found in milk, you can also just eat more fruits and vegetables. This sounds redundant, right? You might think, well EVERYONE should do that and that is correct, BUT people who have scoliosis need to keep their bones and bodies as strong as possible and eating balanced, healthy diets do aid in that endeavor. A great way to incorporate more veggies, especially if you do not particularly like eating veggies is to blend them into a food that you do like. I am choosing wild tuna since it has a great source of omega 3's which also helps your body to absorb more calcium... all you have to do is mix in some celery, onions, jalapeños, grated carrots, garlic and my favorite, broccolini and you are good to go! By the way, using a low fat greek yogurt as a mayonnaise substitute is shockingly good in tuna salad...just food for thought.
Have a great weekend!
Good afternoon and happy pre-4th of July weekend celebration!!
As I am feeling the heat of summer and the anticipation of fireworks for the weekend holiday, I am thinking about the importance of adding a little more cardiovascular work to your workout. Here are 2 very different examples of healthy cardio workouts I have created for 2 of my clients.
The first client is a nearly 80 year old woman. She has come a tremendously long way in a short amount of time. I have only been giving her sessions for about 9 months. In that time she went from being nearly totally sedentary because walking hurt her hips and low back, to now recently doing some low impact cardio on a recumbent bicycle! Now, I have taught her how to find her core muscles and how to strengthen and lengthen the muscles throughout her body over these many months and we have had a few setbacks, BUT she has allowed me to push her forward. She has also pushed herself forward... as her trust has grown in me, it has also grown within herself. Here is a tip for anyone over the age of 65 who has not been performing low-high impact workouts. KEEP IN MIND this is not so much about age, but rather current physical fitness level...I know a few over 65'ers who kickass:
Start slowly. Recumbent bicycles are best because cardio exercises on bikes are non weight bearing so they won't hurt your bones. Get on the bike and start pedaling. Depending on the bike model, you'll want to stay in manual mode and low tension, between a 1-3 on the pedal level. Keeping the bike going, pedal only as quickly as you can maintain. My client started out just pedaling for 10 minutes and we have built that up to 20 minutes within a 3 week period. Next week, I will also add intervals of speed and pedal tension for her. Remember, no one person is exactly like another. Work at your own pace, BUT don't be afraid to push yourself JUST A BIT.
The second client story I want to share is a 36 year old man. He works rigorously on his computer at his desk and as a result has developed weak/tight wrists, forward head, tight shoulders and tight hip flexors, piriformis and psoas muscles. He has been doing a fairly traditional Pilates reformer workout with me for a couple years. We have just started doing HiiT, high intensity interval training together and the increase in his cardio workout is inspiring and motivating him yet another step forward. Here is a tip for the average person between ages 30-50 who works at a desk most of the day and has just begun to add low-high impact cardio activity:
Start slowly. Sound familiar? There are a variety of exercises you can do to get your heart rate working faster, but you want to be able to maintain the work and build the momentum gradually each session. Interval training is fun, can be done outdoors and the alternating high to low intensity makes it very doable. An example of the beginning of this type of workout goes something like this:
Begin by jogging at a moderate speed for 1 minute around a track or a park (I LOVE THE OUTDOORS). After the first minute, hold a chair pose (you can see examples of this yoga pose if you look it up) for 30 seconds, then rest, then hold for 30 more seconds. Remember, this is the beginning stage of waking up your body. Repeat this jog/chair pose interval, but this time increase your speed on the jog AND depth of your chair pose.
Cardiovascular health is of great importance for life longevity and it will make you feel mentally, physically and spiritually strong in your unique self because of the endorphins you are building up and releasing from your being. Remember, fitness and nutrition go hand in hand, so here also is your
Nutrition Tip Of The Week:
If you are adding more strenuous types of activities to your workout repertoire I suggest adding in a bit more complex carbohydrates. The reason for this? An untrained athlete who is just starting to increase his/her physical activities uses up more glucose than a trained athlete. I know, everyone is on the latest fad diet that tells you carbohydrates are bad, but some carbs/cardio partnering is good for you. This would be a great example of a healthy pre workout snack and it's what I eat before I run:
1/2 a small banana and 1 TBSP almond butter. The banana (carbohydrate, yes fruits and veggies have carbs too) will help regulate your blood sugar level and give you energy while the almond butter serves as protein. The combination supplies energy for your workout without making you feel full and weighted down.
Happy Independence Day and have a safe weekend!!