Do you ever wish you had more energy to train?
Learning how to balance training with rest will not only boost your energy but improve your performance.
We grow at rest NOT by pushing harder. This includes growth in the areas of your strength, healing and energy both mentally and physically.
There are 3 easy steps to follow to make your own Recovery Training Plan that will increase your strength and energy while decreasing your overall stress level and your risk for injury.
If you missed our previous blog that shared the benefits of recovery plan, which types of recovery are best to improve performance, and how important it is to plan your training around a recovery day each week, you can find it here.
Which recovery techniques work best to help you recover faster from training? It depends!
You have to know your body, your sport, your work load, and emotional stress level to decide what’s most beneficial for you.
PRO TIP: The challenge is to feel good while getting stronger and more flexible!
Although there are a variety of tests used in research and some training facilities (i.e. jump test, blood tests- high levels of muscle enzyme creatinine kinase- delayed onset muscle soreness, questionnaires) to monitor recovery and post exercise fatigue, you don't need fancy tests or equipment to figure out what your body needs.
You just need to listen to your secret weapon- your body's signals- to help guide you.
We've created a Spring Training Recovery Guide (free download) to help walk you through a 3 step process to learn how to tune into the signals your body gives you each day to make your own recovery plan.
Take the pressure off of yourself and think of this as: a journey and an experiment. Fitness is about progress not perfection.
3 STEPS TO SET UP YOUR PERSONALIZED RECOVERY PLAN
*Get recommendations for managing symptoms in the free Recovery Guide and Planner.
3. TUNE IN:
BEFORE YOU BEGIN TESTING: GET TO KNOW YOUR BODY FIRST!
We recommend a Pre-Test to find your baselines for your resting heart rate, sleep, hydration, nutrition, fatigue and pain. This will give you something to compare to each day.
The Recovery Guide with Planner will walk you through getting your baselines. Once you’ve got your baselines, you can start testing recovery techniques.
WHERE SHOULD YOU START TESTING?
Sleep is #1 place for everyone to start no matter what sport, type of exercise you do, your age, or gender.
Sleep is when we produce the most growth hormone and when new information we’ve learned and memories are saved. It’s when we filter out the garbage as well.
Are you getting 7-9 hours of sleep consistently? If so, is it quality sleep? Do you feel rested when you wake up?
If not, this is where you should focus your energy initially.
PRO TIP: If you are experiencing frequent injuries or not making progress despite your best efforts, you may want to have your physician check your thyroid function. Also consider decreasing inflammation using recovery tools and diet modifications, increasing rest, and/or consulting with someone on your rehab/medical team.
OVER TO YOU:
Ready to get started? Download the Spring Training Recovery Guide with Planner and Daily Tracker to help you get stronger & have more energy without injury and overwhelm – it’s FREE!
Go Test, Train & Tune In!
Team Core Power
What would you say is the most important training day? Do you think it’s the day you push it to your max?
Nope. It’s the opposite- your recovery day.
Do you even have one?
You stretch after running. That counts right?
No, but close. You need a day of rest from your normal training activities each week.
This day will look different for everyone since work (job/school) and training activities (exercise/workouts) vary between people.
Does the icing or massage you do to get rid of and decrease your muscle soreness count?
It's a good start, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Having a day off from training each week is necessary to perform your best, learn new skills and to build strength or stamina.
Planning your training around your recovery day is ideal.
It’s normal for this to stir up some anxiety. Here’s the good news.
This doesn’t mean you have to lie around on the sofa unless you feel that’s what your body needs that day.
You can stay active on your recovery day by doing something different than your normal workouts or training. For example, the runner who does yoga on her rest day.
Finding a healthy balance between training and rest is important for both optimal brain function and to build muscle strength.
Your body needs to be in a relaxed state to self-repair. Workouts cause muscle damage. Whenever you’re training or learning a new skill/information, your brain and body need rest to grow.
An athlete who doesn’t make recovery part of their fitness plan is at high risk for burn out and even depression.
It’s no different than the workaholic that never takes a vacation. Stress is stress. It can be emotional, mental or physical in nature. Work is stress whether it’s for your job or training for your sport.
Your body needs a regular time out each week. Rest will re-build energy and re-balance your mind and body.
Rest can be done in short spurts throughout the day, post workout and by taking a recovery day off from training for your sport.
BENEFITS OF RECOVERY TECHNIQUES
RECOVERY TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES
Download and test out this free 3 minute Active Recovery Yoga Routine for Runners.
Here’s the tricky part to recovery:
There isn't a MIRACLE recovery technique for everyone or every sport.
Everybody is different. It’s not just what you are putting your body through physically during training. It’s also what is going on emotionally and mentally during training and in the rest of your life.
It’s also impacted by what you believe is helping you. What we believe is true for us. That applies to everything not just whether you believe that ice pack is helping your muscle soreness go away faster.
WHICH TECHNIQUES ARE BEST?
It depends. Some research shows that active recovery or ice baths boost performance for some athletes.
It’s usually a combo of techniques and is dependent on many factors: hormones, age, gender, stress level, your sport, your beliefs, etc. What works at age 25 may not work at 40.
If you’re female, your hormones change daily but on a monthly cycle. Every day is slightly different.
If you’re male, your hormones go through a daily cycle. Every day is more or less the same.
WHEN SHOULD YOU DO THEM?
It depends. Recovery can be done throughout the day, post workout and by taking a day off from training.
You have to know your body, your sport, your work load, and emotional stress level to decide what’s most beneficial for you.
It depends. :) You need to test different techniques by listening to your body before, during and after you train.-ultimately evaluating your overall performance.
It’s ideal to test new techniques between seasons or before competitions to see how your body responds.
WHERE DO I START?
It's complicated so...
In order to learn how to balance fitness and fatigue, you have to test, train, then tune in to your body to see how it responds.
Your body knows best!
Here are a few examples of how you can easily add rest and recovery to your training plan:
Want more help getting started?
Our next blog post will go through the 3 steps to help you make a recovery plan that increases your strength and energy while decreasing stress and risk for injury.
In the meantime, you can download and test out this 3 minute Active Recovery Yoga Routine for Runners.
It's just in time for Spring Training Season!
Your body knows best. What you believe matters. We grow when at rest. Not by pushing harder.
OVER TO YOU:
What's your favorite recovery tool? If you haven't tried any, which one are you going to test out this week? Tell us in the comments.
Team Core Power
A strong foundation or “core” helps decrease your risk for injury, promotes good posture, and improves coordination and power during sports. It’ll help you walk, run, bike, row, and move better.
There are 3 key exercises you can add before or after a run to help you build a strong core and turn on your hip muscles:
THE BRIDGE, FRONT PLANK AND SIDE PLANK
Runner’s Core Sequence
BRIDGE AND MARCH:
Lay on your back with feet in line with hips. Lift hips evenly off floor into a bridge position. Press hands into floor, pull belly up and in as you lift a foot a few inches off the floor. Shoulders and neck relaxed. Keep hips level as you alternate lifting one leg off floor into a table top position like you are marching. Do 5-10 reps each leg.
FRONT PLANK ON ELBOWS:
Press your forearms down into the floor as you lift your hips and knees off the floor until they are lined up with your spine. Slide shoulders down toward your hips. Pull belly up and in and tuck your booty. Gaze at floor slightly in front of your hands. Feet are in line with your hips. Hold 10 seconds and breathe or alternate bending knees slightly while keeping spine/hips steady.
Lay on your right side with left leg slightly in front of right leg and inner thighs squeezing together. Press down through right forearm as you lift hips off floor a few inches. Your head, shoulders, spine and hips should be lined up once you lift off floor. Place your left hand on your hip. Pull your belly up and in. Squeeze your inner thighs. Hold 10 seconds and breathe. Repeat other side.
REPEAT THE ENTIRE CORE SEQUENCE 2 MORE TIMES
New to these exercises? Remember to:
1. MODIFY AS NEEDED
Bridge: you can start by just lifting your hips up and down and progress to foot off then to marching.
Planks: you can start them on the floor with your knees down and progress to knees off.
You shouldn’t begin these exercises if you are pregnant and new to them or have a recent injury. Consult your health care provider for guidance.
2. FOCUS ON FORM
During all movements, you want to:
3. THE GOAL
Add these 3 core exercises before or after your Running workouts 3 days a week. Overtime build your endurance to holding planks 30 seconds and 15 reps of bridge for 3 sets.
Got a running or workout buddy you think would enjoy these exercises? Please share this blog post with them.
Get Stronger, Run Longer!
Team Core Power
P.S. GO PRO TIP: Add the runner’s lunge stretch to open up, activate and reset your hips before or after your run.
Do you stretch before or after you run? If not, is it because of time constraints or confusion over which stretches are best?
Since 53-90% of active runners get injured each year, it’s worth taking a moment to consider your running warm up and recovery routine.
Running is a contact sport. It’s a series of controlled falls with rotation and the force generated on your knee and foot can be 3-12 times your body weight.
Stretching with proper breathing prepares your nervous system for your next activity.
If you’re going to run, you need to turn on your nervous system. If you’re going to relax, you need to calm it down.
A boxer isn’t going to throw a punch in the ring without warming up on the mitts. If you run, you need to warm up your hips and prepare your legs for the contact.
How you spend your day effects your play.
Your connective tissue (“fascia”) takes the shape of what you do most. If you sit most of the day, your hips are going to be tight in the front (your hip flexors).
Are you going from sitting in a chair most of the day to running? How long do you sit in the car before you run?
What about after your typical run. Do you plop back into a chair or sofa as soon as you’re done?
Tight hip flexors can cause your gluteal (buttock) muscles to not fire properly. The glutes give you power, speed and stability when running. If they aren’t working properly, the hamstrings have to work harder which can lead to hamstring injuries or cramping.
Opening up the hips before you run will help turn on your gluteal muscles as well as improve your posture, speed and stride.
If you run/jog typically on flat surface long distance (versus a sprinter), we recommend you target the hip flexors (front of hip) before and after you run.
The runner’s lunge stretch will help activate, open up and reset your hips. In the video, Ender shows you how simple it is to modify it before and after you run.
When stretching always:
Runner’s stretch sequence (shown in the video):
PRO TIP: Stretch with a 2 to 1 ratio- start and end stretching on your tight side to give those areas a little more attention and create more balance in your body.
Stretching is one of the best ways to keep your tissue healthy and elastic - bungee cord like not rope like.
REMEMBER: Breath and stretch faster before you run. Breath and stretch slower after you run. Always stretch with control and good form. Never force your tissue to release.
Do you stretch before or after running? If so, leave a comment and let us know your favorite stretch.
Mollie & Ender
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!
You’ve done your research and found your Pilates studio and instructor. You're ready to take your first class but aren't sure which one to start with. Here are some things to consider before you sign up.
MAT OR EQUIPMENT CLASS?
Pilates exercises are performed on the mat and on equipment. The classical (“traditional”) exercises are divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced exercises.
There are traditionally 34 Pilates mat exercises but many ways to modify them for your fitness needs and body type.
There are also 100’s of variations for each piece of Pilates equipment (Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, Barrel or Spine Corrector as well as additional tools/props).
Keep in mind as you join classes that not every piece of equipment is appropriate for everyone all of the time.
Investing in an experienced instructor will not only help you build a strong foundation but teach you how to modify the exercises and guide you to the right equipment for your current fitness level.
When I started Pilates, I was rehabbing from a back injury so I spent a lot of time on the Barrel and Cadillac. As I healed, I added more exercises on the Reformer which requires more stability.
Ideally you'll learn both the mat and equipment exercises. Once you know the mat work, it can supplement your equipment workouts.
In order to prevent injury, you should always be encouraged to master beginner exercises before moving onto intermediate or advanced levels no matter your fitness level. Every exercise builds on itself.
Aim for 2-3 workouts a week when starting out.
You’re going to hear some common cues when you are taking a Pilates class. Let’s decode some of them.
Pilates Common Cues to Master
Stop and regroup if you lose your form during your workout. Watch that you’re moving symmetrically. Keep your hips and shoulders even. Make sure you’re not:
I know. It’s a lot to think about. That’s why Pilates is mind body exercise.
You have to be mindful while you do the movements otherwise you're just going through the motions and won’t see or feel changes in your body. The more you practice, the easier it is to focus on your form.
I recommend you learn to do a head to toe mental checklist while performing each exercise. I actually start at the feet and work my way up to the head during each movement to check that I’m in the correct position. Download this VIDEO to get the sequence I use.
Pilates is about quality not quantity. Low reps with good form and a variety of movements will make up a good workout session.
When you can coordinate your breath with the movement, you’ve most likely mastered that particular exercise. It’s the more challenging aspect of Pilates but also the most healing. The breath work is calming for your nervous system and gets your circulation going which helps keep your tissue healthy and release toxins.
In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference, and in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body- Joseph Pilates
Pilates is an excellent form of exercise to build a strong foundation and a more balanced body but what you do outside the studio can have a bigger impact on your overall posture and performance.
Want to truly transform your body and take Pilates concepts and cues into your day, gym workouts, or running?
Download this free video on the HEAD TO TOE POSTURE CHECKLIST that I made to help you reset your posture (and identify some of your tight spots) throughout your daily activities.
P.S. Don't forget to share the HEAD TO TOE POSTURE CHECKLIST video download with your exercise buddies.
OK, you’re ready to transform your body with Pilates but not sure how to find a good class. Learning Pilates is like learning a new language. It’s going to be much more effective and beneficial if you go to a great teacher.
Since anyone can call themselves a Pilates Instructor these days, it’s good to know what to look for.
How do you find one? Here’s a secret… they’re usually hanging out at great Pilates studios.
First, if you’ve never stepped foot in a Pilates studio, don’t panic. The equipment can be intimidating at first glance and remind you a bit of a torture chamber but I promise it won’t feel that way.
Pilates equipment has springs that provide proprioceptive feedback to your fascia, muscles, and joints that can help “turn on” more efficient movement patterns. Your body and brain will love it so let’s find the perfect studio for you.
8 step checklist to finding a great Pilates studio:
Be aware if you're allowed to jump into a group class without a private session.
Most Pilates studios require 1-3 private sessions for new clients before you can join a group class not only for safety reasons but to get you the best results. This will also include new clients who have taken Pilates before as every studio and instructor’s teaching style is different.
Investing in a private session with an experienced Pilates Instructor is totally worth it.
Great Pilates instructors typically go to private sessions with an experienced instructor to get regular tune ups. Even though they know the exercises, there’s nothing like having someone’s expert eyes on you while you go through the movements.
Your Pilates Instructor doesn’t have to look like a ballerina but they need to know the exercises and be passionate about teaching them.
Anyone can teach the exercises but a great instructor will have the ability to design and adapt a workout for you based on how you walk in the door each session. They can take one look and go “OK we need to work on your shoulders today or your hips look tight, let’s do some barrel work.”
The great ones also have the ability to speak and cue you in a way that makes sense to you. If their cues aren’t clicking with you, they should be able to give you a different one so you can execute the movement properly.
If you’ve ever taken dance classes with a choreographer, this is similar to how it should feel during a Pilates workout with a great instructor. They will guide you through the movements.
Your instructor’s cues will help you make corrections, modify the exercises, and progress them as you get stronger. You're always learning in Pilates so it’s important to find a teacher that’s the right fit for you.
8 step checklist for finding the perfect Pilates Instructor:
It’s not about the burn…
The goal of a Pilates workout isn’t sore or burning muscles, sweat soaked workout clothes, or vomiting like in a boot camp. It’s about getting in a state of flow, a moving meditation, where you engage your mind and body in a coordinated, graceful way.
Yes you’ll feel taller after class but your body should also be “turned on” because you’re more grounded, centered, present, calm yet empowered and energized!
The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power- Joseph Pilates
It’s powerful stuff for sure. Once you’ve found your studio and instructor, you need to start learning the language of Pilates or “cues” you’ll hear in a Pilates workout. I’ll decode some of the more common ones in my next blog post.
Subscribe so you don’t miss out on the “Head to Toe Mental Pilates Checklist” to help you not only improve your posture in your Pilates class but also when you're running or playing your sport.
P.S. You can download a summary of the 8 step checklist to finding a great Pilates studio and instructor here.
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!
Never underestimate the power of the human spirit. It’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout the years of working in brain injury rehab.
My motto while working on the brain injury unit at TIRR Hospital in Houston Medical Center was “you never know” what someone’s full recovery will look like. I always tried not to focus on the damage but instead on the strengths the patient had at the time I was meeting them and how to build on that.
The brain is able to rewire due to neuroplasticity with the right stimulation, rest, challenge and attitude.
When you go through something traumatic like a brain injury, it’s the things we take for granted that become important goals: walking, talking, eating, or spending time with your loved ones. In order to stay motivated to achieve those goals, it’s your attitude that plays a huge role in staying the course.
Working with and helping people is a two way street. I always learn a lesson or two (or three) from those I have the privilege to guide through their recovery as a Physical Therapist.
From Steve Lawton, I learned the power of positivity in the healing process. I was thrilled to hear in January that Steve was sharing his story of recovery from a ski accident through his new book, “Head First- a crash course in positivity”.
You CAN build your capacity to be positive just like you can build strength in a muscle.
Steve’s new book is a great way to learn how to strengthen your positivity muscle. His book launch at Book People happened to be the week prior to my dad’s colon cancer surgery.
Hearing Steve share his story reminded me to take one day at a time and focus on what I can control. My thoughts and attitude were really all I could control.
I’ve been through two cancer journeys with my mom and brother that showed me the difference between catching it early versus catching it late. Deep down I felt that we had found my dad’s cancer early but it’s so easy to get worked up about the what if’s when your waiting for a diagnosis. I didn’t want dad to spend the next several years battling this disease into his late 70’s.
I needed to trust the physician and nurses to do their best and that we could handle whatever they found during the surgery. I also chose to focus on all the things that had led up to us finding this tumor and the timing of it.
There is never a good time to go through a cancer diagnosis/treatment but if it had been a year ago, my dad wouldn’t have been a surgical candidate. And we wouldn’t have found it if he hadn’t been on blood thinners to decrease his risk for another stroke.
Ironically, I heard Steve speak again two weeks after my dad’s colon surgery. We’d gotten excellent news. We’d found the cancer early and no further treatment was needed.
That was a huge relief but due to my dad’s age he was recovering slowly from the anesthesia which meant a week in the hospital plus 10 days in inpatient rehab.
My goal after his surgery was to get him out of the hospital environment as fast as possible. The longer you’re in the medical system, the more medications you can end up on and the higher your risk for infection. It’s also stressful and disruptive to not only the patient but the family to be in that world.
It just wasn’t safe to bring dad home yet. He needed more time to heal.
This second time I heard Steve speak, I was struggling with balancing all the demands from my dad’s medical needs, the delay home and trying to get myself out of survival mode.
Steve’s message was perfectly timed as he shared with us how he shifted from survival to recovery mode during his amazing journey back to life. He emphasized the importance of making the shift from “why me” to “what now” to get out of overwhelm and victim mode after a traumatic event.
To make the shift, you can begin by looking at what went right, finding the gratitude for those things and refocusing on your next goal.
Even though I was very grateful for the good news from the surgeon and all the things that caused us to find my dad’s cancer early, the delay in getting my dad home was making it difficult to calm myself and my life back down.
I recognized I needed to take advantage and get myself back on track with my daily routines to be ready for the next phase in dad’s recovery.
I didn’t have total control of my time yet but I could focus on the small moments I did have available to do breathing exercises, make healthier food choices, do some type of exercise, spend time with my dogs and get outside as much as possible. I also made an acupuncture appointment to help reset my nervous system.
All of these choices added up to help me get out of feeling overwhelmed and refueled me just in time to help my dad transition home.
Another way to build your positivity muscle and ability to reset your attitude throughout the day is to have a daily practice from 10 minutes to an hour where you focus on things that calm, center and refocus you.
You have to find what works for you but doing some form of meditation, journaling, and/or exercise is usually a good place to start. Steve’s book has some practical tips on how to begin a morning routine as well.
I had been doing this kind of a practice most mornings prior to my dad’s surgery so I was able to tap back into the routines to help me get out of survival mode much faster than if I hadn't developed one.
Steve’s story of recovery is powerful- fighting for his life after hitting a tree head first while skiing at Breckenridge, CO in 2014 to writing and launching a book about it in 2017!
I encourage you to check out his book that covers 8 steps to increase your positivity, watch his Ted Talk and/or take the Positivity Quiz on his website: stevehlawton.com to learn more about building your positivity muscle. It’s been a great resource for me.
Remember -Anything is Possible!
Besides being hard to pronounce, do you really know what a Kegel is? It’s a strengthening exercise for your pelvic floor (PF) muscles which run from the basin between your pubic bone and tailbone.
If you think of the pelvis like a bowl, the muscles would cover the inside of the bowl (with some holes in the bottom depending on your gender). During a Kegel, you contract and relax those muscles. Even men can do them.
A lot of women believe it’s normal to leak as you get older when laughing, jumping, coughing, or running. That’s actually a sign of a weak pelvic floor.
And doing a 1000 crunches isn’t going to strengthen them!
Most likely your physician has told you to remember to do your Kegel’s at your annual visit. It’s common to have NO clue what you're supposed to feel. I've found that most of my clients are doing the Kegel wrong because they are pushing out during the exercise.
What does the PF do?
These important muscles form the base of your "core” and help with sphincter control, supporting the pelvic organs and are involved in sexual sensation.
What’s the big deal?
When they’re weak, you can have incontinence (leaking of urine or bowel), organ prolapse (bladder, uterus or rectum) and diminished sexual response. Again they form the base of a strong core.
Your core is your center from lower ribs to below your bottom. All movement begins here in the stabilizer muscles- Pelvic Floor, Transverse Abdominus, hip rotators, low back (Multifidus). The Transverse Abdominus (TA) muscles, your deepest abdominals that are so hard to workout, run across your lower abdomen from hip to hip and coordinates closely with your PF. When strengthening your core, you want to focus on PF first by doing the Kegel exercise.
Still not convinced it’s worth the effort?
Well how about if you knew it would help you have better sex (i.e. stronger orgasms) or to help flatten your belly? Besides those benefits, a strong core has been shown to decrease risk for injury in athletes.
Before I share how to do a proper Kegel and turn on your core, you need to know that:
Also ladies- you’ll notice that it’s easier to do them during the middle of your cycle and more difficult at the beginning of it due to hormone changes. Just keep at it!
How do you find your PF?
This exercise will help you feel the contraction of the PF muscles so you know when they are working:
What’s the proper way to strengthen your PF?
Most likely you were not breathing while you did the movement above. It would be embarrassing to pass out from a Kegel. So now we have to learn how to breathe while you do the contraction of the PF:
You can practice this exercise anytime- while driving, doing chores, lifting children, standing in line. You can do it while lifting weights or running. The more complicated the activity you are doing, the more challenging it will be to hold the Kegel and breathe. The more you do a few reps throughout the day, the stronger the PF and TA will become to help flatten your belly and increase your pelvic support as well as strengthen sensations during sex (i.e. stronger orgasms).
7 bonus resources for having or maintaining a healthy PF:
4. Unlock your hip muscles prior to doing Core exercises. Target the Psoas (hip flexors) and glut muscles with trigger point massage tools and stretching for example Pigeon Pose.
5. Want to challenge your core (and your injury free)? Find a Pilates or Pure Barre studio near you to strengthen your body at least 2 times a week.
6. Check out the Squatty Potty™- a toilet stool that puts your body in the best posture for pooping which will take pressure off your PF especially if you struggle with constipation.
7. Lastly, most women could use more pleasure and fun in their life. Right? Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts is a great resource for helping you get back in touch with your feminine (pleasure) side.
Mollie Miller, PT