Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pilates likes and dislikes

I absolutely love Pilates, but it's not because it's easy.  It's tough and soothing somehow at the same time.  One might think if they do the same moves each time they do Pilates, it would get boring, but somehow it never is.  Most Pilates dvds I've done (and I've probably done 40 or so) have at least a dozen exercises in common with some variety amidst them.

There are some moves that I always look forward to doing and others that I just dread.

Top 3 Likes:

Single Leg Circles:  This is such a simple basic move, but it always sends soothing messages (to steal a phrase from yoga instructor Baron Baptiste) through my mind when I do them.  It works my legs, but feels relaxing too.

The Mermaid:  I add this move to my yoga asanas all the time because it is a better stretch for my side than any other I've found.  When I'm doing a Pilates dvd, I often do twice as many on one side because I don't want to switch so early when the instructor does, then I'll skip back a move on the dvd and do it twice on the other side.  Just heavenly.

The Seal:  This is usually done at the end of a Pilates routine much like Rolling like a Ball is done towards the start.  The main difference is that you have your knees out to the side instead of together and you clap, clap, clap your feet together (like a seal) as you sit up and again as you roll back and your feet are over your head.  The feet clapping together is like a bonus massage (bonus because you're already getting a massage on your back).

I love many of the side leg series exercises too.  I'll focus on those another day.

Top 3 Dislikes:

Swimming:  I always feel awkward swimming on the floor.  I stop part way wondering if my legs are truly alternating with my arms and they always are.  I just don't feel that coordinated and it doesn't feel great to do them.  But I read an article in Pilates Style magazine about Romana, who is now the grand dame of Pilates and she said that she didn't enjoy this move either, but Joseph Pilates told her she must do it and she saw great benefits.  Didn't make me feel like a wimp if even Romana didn't like it.

Teasers:  The more I do these, the better I get, but they are always TOUGH!  My legs quiver, my core feels it, I struggle at the end of each move to stay balanced, and then know that I must go back down onto the floor and come up again.  As hard as it is to do and as much as I dread it when the instructor says it's time to do the teaser, I always feel that this exercise alone does more for my body than any other Pilates move, so I press on.  And I love seeing the progress my body does after even doing them 3x a week.

Neck Pull:  I've read that this is a basic move for some.  Not for me!  I have a long torso and maybe my center is lower than most so I have a bigger challenge getting my upper half up and over the center line.  I'm not sure.  All I know is this is one of the most challenging Pilates exercises for me.  When I've been doing Pilates for a few months, then I don't hate this one as much because I have built up the strength to do it.  But generally, my core isn't strong enough and I have to modify by putting my hands in front of my face with my elbows bent instead of behind my head for coming up and over, then I put my hands back behind my head to roll back down.  The other alternative (which works better, but hurts my feet a bit) is to put weights over each foot to give me that leverage so I can come up.  It just takes tons of core strength.  But I can work up to being able to do it again since I'm doing much more Pilates now.  Maybe I'll post a video when I can!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Revisiting Guilt for the New Year!

I keep evaluating guilt and it's place in my life.  I use it as a parent on my children and to myself in parenting.  Sometimes it's useful, other times it's a burden.  I just looked through my previous posts because I knew that I'd written about guilt before.  What did I find?  Not one post, not two, but quite a few where guilt was discussed!  So why write again?  Because I'm not finished thinking about it.  In fact, I think I've come to somewhat of a conclusion (which, yes, means that the pondering will continue).  Here's what I've learned though after doing that 8 week challenge in the fall:

When I did the 8 Weeks to a Better You challenge, I did it because:

a) I love health & fitness challenges
b) I needed to lose a little weight
c) we were about to move and I knew that the last time we moved, I really started eating poorly and lost my desire to exercise.

Did the challenge address my fitness and healthy eating ideals?  No, but I knew that it would keep me basically on the path.  I started out with a few extra goals of my own, but as time passed, I knew that I *could* eat this or that if I wanted or do a lighter work out if I wanted to.  I was still getting a perfect 70 points each week amidst not achieving what I might normally feel guilty about.  I found that the biggest benefit was that I was basically eating well and exercising consistently and I was guilt free!  For the first time in a long time, I wasn't going to bed each night, thinking "Now you CAN do better than that!"  I loved it.  That's how I feel when I eat all raw foods too because the rules are simple, my body feels great and there is no guilt involved with when I eat or how much.

I love eating without guilt.  I love doing yoga without wishing I'd done some super sweaty cardio workout instead.  I love feeling great about the choices I've made. 

Once I saw that I really wasn't achieving any weight loss goals, though it was a little discouraging (my pants were still not fitting!), but I still liked the guilt-free life.  Five weeks into it, I decided to not end this challenge without any weight loss and I went all raw.  I lost the weight, went down a size or two and felt fantastic!

Then the challenge ended.  We had moved, Thanksgiving was here (there) and all the Thanksgiving fare was before me.  It wasn't all that tempting, but I'd eat a bit of this or that (pumpkin cheesecake, for heaven's sake!) and I didn't like it.  The sugar was so rich and gave me the biggest headache.  But that led me on a path of "well, you can have this if you want" for a few days.  I think I thought that was another way to live guilt-free -- to not care if I ate something unhealthy.

My mom suggested we do our own little challenge (she had done fantastic on the 8 week challenge herself and felt like she needed that comradery to continue),  I had no desire to do that, but I didn't want her to fail.  I felt rebellious, not like following any plan at the moment.  But I agreed to help her.  I didn't do well at all and had all the guilt without any of the benefits.  The more I guilted myself, the less I cared.  It was a downward spiral.  I realized that the guilt was not playing any good role in my plans.  It was just getting in the way.

Now I'm doing my own little New Year's Challenge.  The 8 week group started up another challenge and I just couldn't do it.  Perhaps I was afraid of failing since I'd done so poorly on the one with my mom, but really I wanted to take what I'd learned from the fall challenge and apply it to my own goals. So I've simplified it to 5 goals instead of 10, have upped the expectations in eating, lowered the exercise a bit (well, I have a range and will hopefully get back to my 60+ minute workouts) and have added to the spiritual goals and left a few behind.  I'm hoping the focus on prayer will not only strengthen me, but also will help me to be more mindful and grateful with my eating.  I read an article in Yoga Journal once about the yoga of eating and learned much about really thinking about what we eat as we eat.  I hardly ever slow down with my eating.  Sitting at the table has become a rarity for me.  That's not necessarily the pattern I want to be in,.

Here is my plan:

1) High Raw/ All Whole Foods

2) Green Smoothie or Juice w/Greens + at least one other vegetable each day (hopefully many more)

3) Exercise 30-60 minutes/day  (start with 30, then have 30 be the exception)

4) Read Scriptures and/or other spiritual text at least 10 minutes/day (20-30minutes even better)

5) Pray with each meal + morning and night

The goals from the previous challenge that I've omitted are:

  • not eating after 8:00 (I'll most likely still do this, but won't fret about it)
  • 7 hours of sleep/night (I'll only need 5 or 6 once I get back to raw foods)
  • 2 fruits in addition to the veggies (I always eat more than 2 fruits)
  • 64 oz. water (This is second nature for me)
  • no soda, junk food/fast food (that's a rarity)
  • Write in journal daily (I'll blog here often, but if not daily, that's okay)
  • Do a kind deed or service each day (I will still do it, but not keep track of it).
I know this wasn't the subject of my initial post, but I somehow ended up sharing that with you and hope that I can do this new challenge without letting guilt get in the way.  I think I've always been afraid that if I don't feel guilty, then I'm not caring about it anymore.  I don't want to be apathetic.  That's where I was about exercise during the holidays.  That's not me at all and I didn't like it.  I'm ready to get going again with my workouts so I can start sharing some more of my favorites with you.  I've started out with yoga and Pilates this week and will hopefully get back to cardio pretty soon.  (I sprained or broke my toe mid-November and it's still giving me trouble).  I'll fit weights in a little later.

My strategies for removing guilt from this equation of healthy eating and exercise are to:
  1. not put too much pressure on myself amidst my goals
  2. focus on the fantastic aspects of having healthy habits instead of the habits themselves (such as having more energy, being in control, not getting sick, having more patience, requiring less sleep)
  3. pat myself on the back for all my successes (and there are many!)
  4. think back to how poorly I used to eat or how I used to detest exercise to realize how far I've come
  5. know that I'm human and am prone to a snag here and there -- progress, not perfection!
  6. realize that apathy amidst eating and exercise is just a cry for not having any guilt, but it's not the right way to avoid it
  7. realize that exercising self control is a much more productive way to live.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Mantra

I know, it's been forever since I've written.  We've moved once again and are pretty much settled, so I'm running out of excuses and am anxious to start writing MUCH more consistently.  We're hoping this move is a "for good" move and that we will be more stable than we've been in the past few years.  I'm certainly welcoming that idea!

I'm not sure if I ever wrote about some of our family struggles this past year -- mostly with my husband.  He had a serious back injury (herniated disc, compressed nerve), had 2 surgeries in June, then was hit by a errant driver in August and broke his back in 3 places.  Amidst our move and him starting a new job, it wasn't easy.  BUT as I've been evaluating the highs and lows of this past year,  the overwhelming idea "blessings, not burdens" filled my mind.  And I thought that was a fantastic mantra for me to keep in mind this next year.  I'm going to focus on the blessings in life, not the burdens.  I'm going to see the blessings and let the burdens go.  I really love this idea and am happy to have it.

Blessings, not burdens

I'll write some other time. I have much inside to say.  But for now, it's simply Happy New Year!  Hope you find some great idea to guide you this year too!