Monday, January 27, 2014

TFC Day 20 - Organic, not Mechanical


Do you consider your progress to be less than optimal if it isn’t moving upwards on a straight line? Are your ideals for movement goal focused, such as running faster each time or lifting increasingly heavier weights? Unfortunately, we are made organically, like cats, dogs, antelope, and octopi. Our energy and cycles are in tune with the Earth, we make progress and we reverse and then progress again.
 
Perhaps the most important part of the Therapeutic Fitness Challenge is learning to assess your own physical and energetic condition and using your mind to help your body heal and increase fitness. One of the best ways to do that is to make comparisons. Today, we will redo the range of motion assessments from Day 1. You may notice “improvements,” and you may not. The body adds strength and flexibility in a non-linear fashion. Learning to realize the ebb and flow of your body is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. After the assessments, there is a breathing practice and a scheduling assignment. Do them in any order you wish.
 
Range of Motion Audio #1 (13 minutes)


 
Range of Motion Audio #2 (17 minutes)


Range of Motion Audio #3 (9 minutes)



Breathing Practice: Observe your breath. Notice the length of your inhale and exhale and the spaces between. If it isn’t already, extend your exhale so it is at least as long as the inhale. Spend 5 minutes with your breath making it as smooth as possible. Make a note of what you notice and compare it to your breath on Day 1 of the challenge.

Third assignment: Make a schedule for yourself next week with activities that will continue the progress you have made in the TFC.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

TFC Day 19 - You've Got the Power


 Yesterday my husband and I took a walk through the woods. We ended up traversing a patch of logged forest and had to scramble over branches and logs for more than an hour.  Today we are quite sore all over and our energy is low. Because I put three day’s worth of exercise into yesterday afternoon, I am going to take a break today.

My primary goal in this Therapeutic Fitness Challenge is to empower you to reach a new level with your fitness. Improved awareness and energy management is the first step of getting fit without injury. I also hope that I’ve given you a new variety of activities to meet the goals of aerobics, flexibility, and strength. (On off-trail walk in the woods is a unique and fun activity . . . if you don't get lost or twist an ankle or get a Devil's Club stinger in your thumbs.)

On the second day of this challenge, you assessed your heart rate, leg strength, and flexibility. Today’s assignments repeat the tests so you can compare.

1. Sit comfortably with good posture breathe through your nose.  Keep your jaw relaxed but closed and breathe consciously for 5 minutes. If you feel anxious, try inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.

2. Keeping your heart healthy is one of the most important parts of fitness. Do your typical aerobic exercise and measure your heart rate 5 minutes into the exercise and at the height of your aerobic activity. Then stop exercising for 2 minutes and measure your heart rate again. Write down the numbers. From this webpage, determine: a) if you are exercising within your target range, and b) your Heart Rate Recovery. 

3. Time how long you can comfortably do a wall sit (instructions here) and write down the length of time you held the sit and the approximate angle of your thighs.  Keep your knees in line with your middle toes the entire time. “Comfortably” means that you aren’t wishing you were somewhere else, that you can breathe deeply, and that you can stand up again without groaning or hurting. (You can count seconds in your head, or you can use a stop watch.)

4. Stretch. 



5. Test your flexibility. It is important to do this test with no pain. Standing with slightly bent knees, bend forward to see if you can touch the ground. If so, notice if your fingers or palms touch.  If not, measure how far from the ground your finger tips are.  Bend your knees, stand up carefully, and write down your results.

6. Review the intentions you wrote. What progress are you making on them?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

TFC Day 18 - Put it Together


To stay fit requires being able to monitor your daily needs. What is the right amount of activity on any given day? That depends on what you’ve done in the days previous and your energetic and physical state. Today, you design your own practice. Here are some guidelines to help you.

1. Start with your breath and energy.  Notice if your energy is up or down, if your breath is even or irregular. Spend 5 minutes with a breath practice; choose one from the previous days or another that you like, one that supports an energetic state that you’d like to have.
2. With the support of improved energy choose your physical practice. How long has it been since you’ve brought your heart rate up? If more than a day, be sure to include at least 15 minutes of an aerobic-type activity. Include some flexibility as well, either undulations, stretches, or yoga. If your balance was not satisfactory yesterday, spend a minute or two working on that as well. If you aren't feeling strong, practice the core exercise video. Take the available time you have and divide it between the activities you need, choosing each one that is the best combination of safe and challenging.

3. For a mental practice, choose your favorite meditation or spend 5 minutes writing affirmations (day 3), watching your thoughts (day 4), or smiling at yourself in the mirror (day 12). It doesn’t matter if it’s dorky. It's effective.

Friday, January 24, 2014

TFC Day 17 - Balance

Today it’s all about balance. A balance between mind and body and spirit. A balance between work and home. Physical balance translates into life balance, and vice versa.

1. Breath practice: Square (or box) breath. There are four parts to the breath: 1) inhale, 2) the space between inhale and exhale, 3) exhale, and 4) the space between exhale and inhale. The inhale and space after it are the energizing parts; the exhale and space after are the relaxing parts. In a square breath, all the parts are equal in length so it is a balanced breath.
  • Start by noticing what parts of the breath are naturally long for you and what parts are short.
  • Then try to bring balance to them by shortening the longer parts and lengthening (or perhaps just adding) the short parts.
  • Try a breath with 2 counts for an inhale, 2 counts pause after the inhale, 2 counts for the exhale, and 2 counts hold before you inhale again. If this is comfortable for you, then increase each of the counts to 3.
  • Build your breath to a comfortable maximum with all parts even.
  • Then let go of the pauses before and after exhale.
  • Then let your breath return to its normal rhythm.
  • Notice your breath and energy, how they are different from when you began.

2. Physical practice: Improve your balance. Not only does good balance engage the core, but practicing balance poses will help you not fall down. Start with this easy balance practice by my teacher, Robin Rothenberg. She designed this for the MS program at Evergreen Hospital.

One you’ve mastered basic balance with the practice from the link above, try these variations of tree pose. Stay close to a wall until you are practiced, and please, do not put your foot on your standing leg’s knee.



3. Mind practice: Draw a picture of yourself as you’d like to feel. As you are drawing imagine yourself feeling that way.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

TFC Day 16 - Aerobics and Fun Breathing

Aerobic exercise is the cornerstone of a cardiovascular and mental health. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. That’s more than 45 minutes three times a week. Hopefully this Therapeutic Fitness Challenge has helped you create a habit of aerobic exercise that you can build on.

Assignments for today:

1. Choose one or more of the aerobics activities in this program (hike or walk, therapeutic aerobics, dance in your living room, or any other activity that gets your heart rate up safely) to create a 45-minute aerobic exercise for yourself today, and do it. Stay conscious of when you need to take a break. If 45 minutes is still too much to do at one time, do not push yourself, but make a note so you can include aerobic activities more frequently, perhaps 20 minutes every day instead.

2. Include your mental exercise with the aerobics. Stay conscious of your breathing as you exercise. See how long you can keep your focus on your breath without letting your mind stray. Please note that your breath is an indicator of the tension and strain in your body and mind. If your breath is labored beyond the target heart rate from Day 2 or becomes ragged, back off until your breath is smooth and even.

3. Try bhramari breathing, also called bee breath.  Inhale through your nose and exhale with closed lips as you hum. Feel the vibration in your lips.  Experiment with different pitches of humming. A higher pitch hum is typically more energetic and a low pitch hum is usually relaxing.  Either way, the humming slows down the exhale and engages the core.
 
Remember to drink plenty of water and keep track of what activities cause your symptoms to increase.