Can you believe there's only 5 days left in this wild ride of a year? Man, what a ride its been. Hoping you’ve been able to renew & refresh some before we ring in 2021.
Even though 2020 has been challenging, it’s important to take a moment and reflect before you move into the new year.
Here are 3 simple ways to prep for 2021:
Need help narrowing it down? Here’s the Mindful Athlete Goal Setting Worksheet to help you pick out your first fitness or wellness goal for 2021.
We know 2021 is going to be a BIG year of healing for all of us.
We look forward to sharing more about the healing power of rest & bodywork practices to help your body do its magic... to heal itself and get stronger so you feel, move, and perform better.
Wishing you more health, happiness, & healing in the new year!
Mollie & Ender
P.S. Ho. Ho. Ho. It’s time to Roll. Our favorite foam roller is 30% off this month. It’s like having a PT, Chiro, Massage Therapist in one and the closest we can get to sending our hands home with you. You can find it here*.
In our online program, HIP Camp™, we show you how to use the foam roller & more to help you reshape your body for better energy, mobility and posture. Learn more here.
*denotes affiliate link
If you’re feeling the anxiety creeping back up as the Rona wildfire spreads across the southern part of the U.S., here's a self-care practice that should help.
We had our dress rehearsal in April for this scenario. Cue the jazz hands, it’s SHOW TIME!
We know what to do to slow the spread: WASH (your hands), WATCH (your distance), WEAR (your mask).
We know outside (with social distancing) is safer than indoors.
It’s the perfect time to start a GROUNDING PRACTICE. And it’s super simple.
How To Start A Grounding Practice
Grounding 101: Lie on the ground outside for 5-10 minutes. You don’t have to do anything but let Mother Earth do her thing.
Spice it up: you can visualize growing roots from your body down into the earth as you breathe. Inhale all the healing energy of nature, then exhale anything you want to release from your mind or body through those roots down deep into the earth.
Benefits Of A Grounding Practice
A Grounding Practice can help you:
Other options when you can’t get safely on the ground and start to spiral with anxiety or fear:
Self Care Resources
Here are links to all the blogs for resources I’ve pulled together so far during the pandemic:
Self-care basics during COVID-19
Immune Boosting Breath Work
Pet Care: the latest CDC update is that humans can pass coronavirus to their pets (no evidence of them giving it to humans). Keep your pets away from anyone outside your household and anyone who has tested positive or is in quarantine.
If you don’t know Andy Slavitt, I recommend you follow him on twitter (@ASlavitt) or on his podcast (In The Bubble) for real time COVID-19 updates as hot spots develop around the country.
Stay Safe & Strong!
P.S. Want better sleep? Download this 5 minute rest meditation to take a quick time out, prep for a nap or to relax your body before sleep
I don’t know about you but I’m ready for a REST stop on the Rona Ride.
It’s starting to feel like a country song come to life…
Dad’s on lock down (at his assisted living).
Youngest brother’s on the front lines (ER doc in Virginia that loves infectious disease).
I’m on a see saw balancing between two new worlds (the wellness “rest” world from my yoga nidra training and the upside down medical world on the verge of burn out).
Ironically, my yoga nidra training started when the pandemic hit our area.
I'll be honest my Rona Ride stalled out at the end of April when my body screamed "time out" due to poor sleep from stress and the crazy pace of all the almost daily changes happening in the medical world.
I was exhausted mentally and physically.
So what did I do?
I busted open my rest-care tool box which helped me bounce back energy wise.
THE BEST MEDICINE IS REST
There has never been a better time to listen to your body and give it what it needs.
Right now besides your basic hygiene, social distancing and using the latest CDC safety precautions, I recommend using as much rest, laughter, and nature as medicine as possible.
I saw a post where someone mentioned they were making turns onto aisles at the grocery store like they were in a haunted house. I couldn’t help from LOL thinking of that even though it’s also sad. Hopefully we won’t feel like that forever.
Find the humor whenever you can right now. It's OK to laugh while you're anxious or sad. It's a #1 coping strategy in the healthcare world. Don’t feel guilty.
Focus on what you can control in your immediate environment. Your self-care comes first then everyone else. The wellness rules are the same as before, but we need to ramp up the calming strategies.
Remember to take advantage of the health benefits of movement and meditation each day. You don't have to go hard core. A little bit helps a lot.
Did you know doing something synchronized like singing with another person is right up there health wise? Our bodies intuitively know this. Think of all the TikTok videos or the clapping each day in NYC and Italy for health care workers.
Go ahead and bust out the karaoke or your favorite dance moves a few minutes a day. Sing and shake your body to keep the energy and emotions flowing.
I know you’ve got cabin fever. Go for a drive. Go outside and soak up some sun. Get near water or trees. Move your body. But then I still want you to REST, REST, REST.
This is a marathon not a sprint. Our bodies heal and get stronger at rest.
REST & RELAXATION SELF-CARE TOOLS
Here are some free rest and relaxation tools to help calm your body & brain:
Download this free 5 minute rest meditation for better sleep. Use it to take a quick break, prep for a nap or to relax your body before sleep.
Free Meditation Apps: Calm, Head Space
Tapping (EFT) is a combination of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology that sends calming signals to the brain. Here are some free resources:
The Tapping Solution free coronavirus stress and anxiety meditations: go here
The Tapping Solution has 6 months free membership for health care workers and first responders: learn more here
Tapping with Brad Yates on YouTube: Coronavirus
Rest is medicine!
P.S. Working from home for the first time? Don’t forget to take mini movement breaks for better focus & less stiff muscles. Download the Mini Moves Planner to help your body feel more energy, ease, and flow each day.
Need some immune boosting tips? Here’s the Healthy Traveler Packing List from an oldie but goldie blog post on nutrition and exercise resources to add to your self-care practices. They're good year-round not just for travel.
Find COVID-19 self-care basics & resources here.
If you’re worn out, burned out or in need of a time out, here’s my favorite tool to help you get re-energized.
I've used it daily for the past 2 years. It's been my #1 self-care practice as I continue to ride the emotional roller coaster of providing elder care for my dad.
I learned about it on a podcast that led me to a book that started me on a 40 day challenge with a simple rest tool called Yoga Nidra.
I was completely worn out from helping my dad through his 3rd cancer surgery in a year when the podcast caught my attention.
I'd heard the name many times from my Yoga Therapist colleagues, but didn’t really "hear" it until my body needed it the most.
My body was like “Yes, THAT is what you need to do when you get home.” Deep rest was exactly what my body was craving and I was the perfect candidate to test out the power of it.
I'll never forget my first yoga nidra nap and the way it refreshed and energized my worn-out body (and soul).
It’s the most relaxed I’ve gotten on my own without going to acupuncture or massage. I would even say it’s a deeper relaxation experience that energizes you versus having that post bodywork fog where you can barely drive home.
What is Yoga Nidra?
It’s basically meditation while you rest.
You lie down, listen to a guided meditation, and rest. It’s called “yogic sleep” and involves intense relaxation.
Doesn’t it sound fascinating and fun?
It’s my favorite rest tool for managing fatigue and stress.
If you’re a caregiver for little ones, old ones, even furry ones... it'll help you re-charge each day.
If you're in a healing profession... it's your burnout prevention tool.
If you’ve got a job that requires you to perform (athlete, speaker)… it’s your pre-game “find your flow” mindset tool.
A 15 minute yoga nidra nap will help you calm your nervous system so your body can repair and heal itself.
It has been such a powerful healing & recovery tool in my life. I know it can be in yours as well.
Getting Started With Yoga Nidra
BOOK AND CHALLENGE:
P.S. Check out your brain on Yoga Nidra. The research on brain scans during Yoga Nidra is remarkable. Your brain is asleep and awake at the same time. After you wake up, you're primed and ready to act: Brain scans
Did you know you have a superpower? Yep, it's true. We all have it no matter our age or ability. It’s neuroplasticity! Your brains ability to rewire and grow when challenged.
It’s the reason I can confidently say it’s never too late and anything is possible. You can grow, learn new skills, be active & agile at any age.
But, there's a catch. It only happens when you challenge yourself outside your comfort zone and do lots (and lots) of repetition to cement in that new healthy habit or skill.
As a physical therapist working in brain injury rehab these past 20+ years, this was my job. Provide tons and tons of opportunities that challenged the patient who had injured their brain to use their weak side so they could walk and function better.
It's called a "forced use approach" to regaining muscle function (motor control). You're trying to turn on the weak muscles and create new pathways in the brain to help the body move better.
My patients all learned the easy way to move on their own using their strong side. Sometimes on day 1 of their injury. It wasn’t efficient and it limited their ability to reach their full potential functionally, but it was easy for them to pick up on their own.
That’s what your brain will do if you don’t challenge it. It’ll find the easiest way for you to function but most likely will keep you small and limited. And if you don't use it, you LOSE it. This is true whether it's a goal to improve your physical, mental, or emotional health.
Typically, every new habit or goal you want to achieve is outside your comfort zone. It's not something you are used to doing. You've got to learn some new skills to accomplish it. Turn on some new brain cells (neurons) and make new pathways.
And as soon as you decide you’ve got a new goal, whether it’s from fitness to finances, you brain is going to resist with fear and sabotaging behaviors. We all experience this. We always will no matter how healthy, successful or happy we are.
The research shows not even a life-threatening diagnosis of say cancer or heart disease will encourage most people to change their diet or behaviors like smoking. I can’t tell you how many patient’s I saw pushing their IV pole outside of MD Anderson Cancer Center for a cigarette during a chemo break when I worked in the Houston Medical Center.
Your brain is just trying to protect you. Keep you safe (in your comfort zone.)
That’s why I love a good brain hack. It might be from the support of a coach or therapist, a shift in mindset, or adding a new mantra to your bag of tricks. The more tools you have to deal with resistance and limiting beliefs, the better.
It takes practice and repetition, but the good news is that IT IS POSSIBLE to rewire your brain to accomplish any skill, goal or healthy habit you desire.
I've got 3 brain hacks to help you snap out of it when you start sabotaging. #3 is brand new so be sure to test it out.
3 BRAIN HACKS TO HELP YOU PLAY BIG & TAP INTO YOUR SUPERPOWER
I had the most fascinating thing happen last month. I got a 12-minute treatment for dry eyes that my optometrist recommended and without changing my glasses prescription I was able to see SOOOOO much better.
Driving home, I felt like a kid at Disney World looking around in awe at all the details. Everything was so sharp and clear. Kind of like you feel after getting a new pair of glasses or contacts. Or it feels watching a 3-D movie.
And walking the dogs in the dark that night was dramatically better. The difference before and after treatment really blew me away!
Being in the brain injury rehab world, I had heard some info on dry eyes but now I really get it.
Besides going to the eye doctor each year and eating your carrots, people don’t talk much about what you can do for your eye health.
It’s more important than ever because we all have so much screen time.
Anytime you’re focusing on a screen (any screen), you’re blinking less among other things.
We’ve got some tiny oil glands in our eyelids that help keep the eye lubricated and love it when we blink. Apparently, they also love heat and massage.
The treatment I got a week ago was a heat and massage for my eyelids called LipiFlow. It helps unblock those tiny oil glands that get backed up for various reasons.
I didn’t realize all the things I could do to help them function better. Honestly, I didn’t really know they existed until this past month.
Here’s what I’ve learned you can do to counter screen time and help support the function of these tiny oil glands:
Not sure if you’ve got dry eyes? Here are some symptoms to look out for:
Burning, dryness, irritation, light sensitivity, vision fluctuations, contact lens intolerance, eye fatigue.
MINI MOVEMENT BREAKS
Just like our eyes need breaks when we spend too much time focusing, the body needs to MOVE to feel good and work well.
We preach & teach about mini movement breaks throughout the day because the research shows it all adds up to support your brain and body health whether it’s 3 breaths, 3 reps, or 3 minutes of movement.
Mini Moves, as we call them, done throughout the day can help your body feel more energy, ease and flow each day.
Your brain likes to move especially after long periods of sitting or focusing on a task.
When your brain slows down, or brain fog sets in, it’s time to MOVE.
Ignore these signals and you’ll likely get more easily frustrated, be less focused, and less productive.
Want to feel, move, and perform better?
We’ve got 16 mini moves for you to experiment with and see which ones work best for your body (including another eye massage exercise you can do). They take anywhere from 3 reps to 3 minutes to do.
Download the MINI MOVES Daily Planner & Cheat Sheet to help your body feel more energy, ease and flow each day.
Enjoy & don’t forget to blink!
P.S. Download this free daily planner to help you pick out a few self-care & mini moves each morning. Your body will love them!
Whenever you set a new fitness goal, its completely normal to get off track while it’s becoming a habit. You’ll most likely go too hard, too fast and burn yourself out. It’s human nature.
The research tells us this will happen to ALL of us. 80% of New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned in the first two weeks of January!
What’s more important is how fast you bounce back. How resilient you are. Not that you got off track.
You can build your resilience muscle. It just takes practice picking yourself up. In order to do that you have to become mindful of when you get off track. The faster you realize it, the faster you can start up again.
You’ve also got to learn to let go of the guilt of eating that cookie or not going to the gym. Before you go beating yourself up, focus on the fact you caught yourself or noticed that sneaky habit of procrastination and commit to starting over.
It’s OK if you over complicate it, overwhelm yourself, or get distracted by the new shiny object. We want it all NOW. New things excite us. They turn on our brain’s happy hormones. How many books have you started that you haven’t finished?
Whether it’s the holidays, a vacation, or a busy schedule that throws you off track, having the mindset of expecting to get distracted will make it much easier to get focused again on your goal.
Besides working on your mindset around goals, you can try these tips to help you stay and get back on track with them. Take 5-10 minute to reflect on the following when setting a new goal:
Download your Mindful Athlete Goal Setting Worksheet to help you avoid burning yourself out with your new fitness goal.
Keep in mind that fitness goals are really the steps that make up a larger lifestyle journey. It's about deep breaths and baby steps. It’s about progress not perfection. You're training for a marathon not a sprint. Building your resilience muscle will help you stay on course.
You’ve got this!
Mollie & Ender
P.S. Avoid burnout & overwhelm with the Mindful Athlete Goal Setting Worksheet - it's free! Download here.
Want to knock out some of those projects piling up on your to do list? You’ve got to try this time management tool/brain hack.
Your feel-good neurotransmitters, Serotonin and Dopamine, will be flowing to help you push past procrastination and avoid the burnout of trying to do too much at once.
I used it to go through our garage (in 100 degree summer heat) and 2 closets quickly without ending up exhausted or overwhelmed.
It’s called the Pomodoro Technique™. It’ll help you better estimate the time and energy it takes to do a task.
You can use it to:
Focusing your attention on ONE thing, breaking it down, and building in breaks allows you to keep going without getting over fatigued and to finish the task quickly.
The next time you look at your to do list with dread or feel the weight of an unfinished project, train yourself to say, “I’ve got this. I’m gonna do just one Pomodoro Round.”
You won’t believe how much you get done and how great you’ll feel. Want to dive deeper, go to www.pomodorotechnique.com to learn more.
Let me know what you got done using this technique in the comments.
P.S. Not sure what to do after a run or on your recovery day? Download and test out this 3 minute Active Recovery Yoga Routine for Runners.
The mind-body connection is powerful. Studies show our movements and thoughts impact our health significantly.
Did you know you can shift your mood or boost your immune system with something as simple as sitting up straight in a chair?
A study found that those who had good posture during a mock job interview reported less stress, more confidence and better moods versus those that slumped. Better posture equals better blood flow and less stress on the heart.
Most of us exercise regularly because of the known health benefits and for stress relief. When we can’t get to the gym, any guilt we feel over missing a workout can put extra stress on us.
It’s time to stop those self-sabotaging thoughts. There are many activities you do daily that give you the same health benefits of exercise that you may not be aware of.
Here are 4 ways to experience less stress and the benefits of a workout without breaking a sweat.
Research shows standing in a Power Pose for 2 minutes boosts your confidence and mood.
A Power Pose is when you have your arms and chest open such as in Wonder Woman pose (hands on hips and feet apart) or arms open in a Victory position like you just won a race.
Start doing power poses before you try something new, before your next big meeting, or just as a pick me up when you are feeling low energy.
You’ll feel more confident, focused, and energized similar to what you experience after a strength training workout.
POWER OF BELIEF
Do you believe you exercise enough? Studies show that if you believe you are exercising enough, your body will show the health benefits and vice versa.
A 4 week study found that when participants were told their work of cleaning hotel rooms was good exercise and met the requirement of an active lifestyle, they all showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index compared to the control group.
It’s the placebo effect in action as nothing else had changed except their belief that their work was a form of exercise.
If you believe you aren't exercising enough compared to others, then it creates mental stress which can impact your health and body mass index. The key is to think positively daily that you are and have done enough in terms of exercise and taking care of your body.
It helps to re-frame how you see exercise and realize your daily activities and work tasks do count as part of your daily exercise requirements. All movement counts. Shoot, I guess that means dusting counts as a workout.
POWER OF LAUGHTER
Laughing boosts your mood and your immune system but it also gives you some of the same health benefits of exercise. It increases blood flow to your tissue as well as increases your heart rate.
Everyone knows how a good belly laugh is a great abdominal workout. It can also help with pain.
Norman Cousins shared in his book, Anatomy of an Illness, that 10 minutes of watching a comedy gave him 2 hours of pain free sleep.
If you can’t get to the gym, watch a comedy or hang out with that friend who makes you laugh. You can also try a Laughter Yoga class. Yes, it exists.
POWER OF A SMILE
Smile more even if you have to fake it because the act of smiling improves your mood by producing endorphins like exercise.
You’re going for a smile that makes your eyes crinkle to get the most benefits. Smiling in the mirror is an even more powerful exercise.
Which one of these techniques are you going to try the next time you don’t have time for a traditional workout?
Shifting how you think about exercise can play a huge role in your overall health and how long you live.
You’re worth it!
P.S. Grab your FREE Download of the Head to Toe Posture Checklist to help you strike your best Power Pose!
I’ll admit it. I’m a Pilates snob. I’m picky about my instructors, the equipment I use, and the studio I go to.
It all traces back to how I started my Pilates journey in the bottom of an old Houston Firehouse at a time when you couldn’t use the word Pilates.
It wasn’t fancy but everyone in the studio was focused and dedicated to their workouts on these archaic looking machines. It was just before the trademark dispute settled in 2000.
Studios all over the country were teaching Pilates but couldn’t call it that from 1992-2000 because of a lawsuit over the name.
Once “Pilates” was freed up, it exploded. It was everywhere.
You know what that means. Overtime, the exercises start to get watered down or adapted. The Pilates Method wasn’t immune to this phenomenon.
With the craze of group fitness classes, it’s easy to miss out on the full benefits of Pilates if you didn’t learn it through private lessons in a fully equipped studio with an experienced instructor.
Done right, you’ll walk out of your Pilates session a different person than going in. You’ll feel taller, calmer, centered... EMPOWERED.
Pilates is an art form like martial arts or dance so knowing the history and purpose behind the exercises will help you experience the full benefits of it.
Just like dance, the more you practice Pilates, the more you perfect it.
The first step is learning the movement pattern for each exercise then you progress to focusing on your form from head to toe while executing each exercise.
The goal is to eventually become your own coach. You can’t do that without having a good instructor to help you learn how each exercise should feel on your body.
"Pilates is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace & skill that will unmistakably be reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work" - Joseph Pilates
Pilates is defined as a movement system that uses spring-driven machines as well as a series of floor exercises to increase strength, flexibility, stamina and concentration. Joseph H. Pilates was the German inventor of the Pilates exercise method that he originally called “Contrology.”
Joseph Pilates was a sickly child and he believed exercise could heal and keep us healthy. He created his exercise method by combining the mental focus and breath of Yoga with physicality of gymnastics and other sports as growing up he was a diver, skier, boxer and gymnast.
He perfected his method and designed his equipment working with injured German soldiers and eventually the NYC ballet. His wife Clara continued his training method at their NYC studio after he died in 1967.
“Be in control of your body and not at its mercy”- Joseph Pilates
BENEFITS OF PILATES
We all have muscle imbalances from being right or left handed, swinging a tennis racket, carrying a baby on one hip, or holding the phone to one ear that effect our posture, strength, flexibility and make us prone to injury as we age.
Pilate’s exercises are full body movements designed to improve posture, build a strong core, and improve balance and coordination without stressing our joints.
The more balanced your body, the more efficient your movement can be.
Pilates is not only a fun way to exercise but it can change your body overtime and can be adapted for injuries or sports training.
It will improve your performance for fitness, sports or life.
How is this possible? Most people think of Pilates as just a good core workout but it’s more complicated than that.
Pilates is mindful movement and each exercise involves 6 key principles: breath, concentration, control, centering, precision and flow.
1. Breath- you never want to hold your breath during Pilate’s exercises. Keep it flowing. Typically you inhale to prepare and exhale during the movement.
2. Concentration- As you master the exercises, you’ll become better at performing a mental checklist head to toe for your form noting what is correct and incorrect and fixing it as you move. A Pilates instructor’s cueing is critical when you’re first learning to help you become more aware of the feel for the correct positions and movements.
3. Control- you’re learning how to control your body with your mind which trains you for life or sports and decreases your risk for injury.
4. Centering- in Pilates, all movements flow from a strong center. Basically, you turn on your core first and then move arms and legs with each exercise.
This is probably the easiest principle for people to grasp but takes a lot of mental power to do it properly during the entire exercise or workout.
You’ll hear the cue “scoop your belly” (or something similar) in your Pilates class but do you really know what you are supposed to feel or do?
Let’s break this down since it’s so important.
Your core involves a complex series of muscles from arm pits to hips and helps keep the spine aligned during movement.
In Pilates, you’re targeting the stabilizer muscles of your core- Pelvic Floor, Transverse Abdominus, hip rotators, and low back (Multifidus).
The Transverse Abdominus muscles, your deepest abdominals, run across your lower abdomen from hip to hip and coordinates closely with your pelvic floor muscles.
During each Pilates exercise, you want to turn on your core by focusing first on contracting your pelvic floor muscles or doing the Kegel exercise. It’s an up, back and in motion.
The Kegel should help the rest of your core muscles fire properly. If I’ve lost you, refer to my blog post on how to do a Kegel. It’s key to building a strong foundation with Pilates exercises.
5. Precision- you’re focusing on perfecting each movement by being precise in your focus and form.
6. Flow- you concentrate on moving with ease and grace during each individual exercise as well as connecting each exercise together like a dance to improve balance and coordination. You avoid jerky motions, holding a position or stopping between exercises. Just like your breath should keep flowing so should your movement.
In order to master these 6 Pilates Principles and transform your body, you’ll need to find a good Pilates studio. I’ll share my tips for that in my next blog post.
Subscribe so you don’t miss out on my “Finding your Pilates Studio Checklist” then go practice your Kegel!
Mollie Miller, PT